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Seven Nines and Tens- Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers (2022 Willowtip Records)

It’s a new year of pandemic antics, and if there’s anything that I for one need during these uncertain times it is comfort. I am definitely not alone in this respect. People allover the world are looking for their comfort in things like food, booze, or drugs, or even in hooking up with other people online. I am glad I can also find it in music, and the new album Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers by Vancouver trio Seven Nines And Tens could therefore not have been released at a better time.

The new album, released on revered extreme metal record label Willowtip, is comfort food made sound to me. The self-described “warm wall of sound” consists of parts shoegaze, parts progressive metal, with nods to quite a varied bunch of influences ranging from Jesu to Intronaut, to Cave In, and Alcest. It is a gigantic and bass heavy sound, with at times thundering drums and guitars, but the beautifully layered clean vocal choirs take the aggressive edge off it, and in stead fill your heart with a melancholic sense of comfort that you are not alone in this world, no matter how turbulent the times.

I talked to main songwriter and guitarist Dave Cotton about the album, and an album we both agreed loving is Habitual Levitations by Intronaut. And while “Over Opiated” stays far away from being a carbon copy, one can definitely hear echoes of that gigantic progressive sludge sound for example in the proggy (fretless?) basslines and in the way their vocal harmonies carry the music.

Seven Nines And Tens have delivered a beautiful first sound of 2022 with their new album. It’s a piece of art I reckon much more people need at this time, sending out a message of comfort while sharing their own hardships through music. It is that universal message that is so incredibly important: we are not alone.

Interview with Dave Cotton who loved to introduce and talk about the why and who of his band:

How have you been these past pandemic years? Can you take us through your doings from the outbreak til now?

Since the live music community is all but non-existent in our home of Vancouver, we haven’t been able to schedule performances of any kind.  On the other hand, I write music daily so I’ve just taken this time to work on our 4th record.

How has corona affected your new album with Seven Nines and Tens?

We signed to Willowtip records in February 2020,  Pandemic restrictions started March 2020.  We took a long time to sign the contract with them and then recorded two brand new songs to complete the album which took over a year.  We take our time with everything so it was business as usual for us.  I’ve been to one concert since then (Quicksand in October 2021, it was incredible)

Can you introduce your band? What would a SNAT elevator pitch sound like? And where does that enigmatic band name originate from?

Alexander Glassford is our drummer/vocalist, and Maximillian Madrus is the bassist/vocalist.  My name is Dave and I founded the band in 2008 and write 95% of the music.  In the past I’ve referred to our music as a “warm wall of sound” or “that I blend all styles of guitar rock into one.”  

The band name is an equation.  If you multiply the numbers together, you get the exact depth in nautical miles from the surface of the ocean to the bottom of Marianas Trench.  The Trench was at least at one point, considered the deepest known place on Earth.

You have signed with Willowtip Records, on which roster you guys are rather an “odd duck”, can you take us through the motions of that decision?

The first tune mixed and mastered for our record was “Popular Delusions.”  The guys and myself did a year of pre-production for the first 5 songs we did for the record.  We recorded the songs over and over at our rehearsal space to get them as perfect as humanly possible before our “formal” recording session.  Once we heard the rough mixes, the confidence that we had slowly been building from being meticulous in the production of the songs really started to manifest.  This confidence coupled with how well the vocals turned out gave me a lot of energy to try and shop the record to anyone and everyone that would hear it.  It helped having a decent sized discography to begin with and a track record of playing with some pretty heavyweight bands.  I sent the mix of Popular Delusions to over 200 labels.   Overall I heard back from 10 labels, one of which was Willowtip.  Discussions over months and sending freshly mastered songs to them led us to believe it would be a good fit..  The response I initially got from Willowtip was “I love the song you sent me, I’ve listened to it 25 times already, do you have anything more?”  That got the ball rolling for sure.

In terms of style I really love the band Pyrrhon from New York city and they are signed to Willowtip.  Them and another Willowtip band, Slugdge, gave me a huge amount of interest in contacting the label to see what they thought.  Pyrrhon is a death metal band which is stylistically unlike us, but similar to us, they blend a ton of different flavors into their sound (in their case Noise Metal, Psych Metal, and Sludge, among others) which gave me the inclination that Willowtip would at least be open to hearing our music.  

Much like you alluded to, there isn’t another band on the label that sounds anything like us, and I consider that a point of pride.  We’re the band they first put up on the block in their 20 year career to signify a stylistic change.  Our record is on the same release schedule as legendary American Grindcore band Discordance Axis which in itself is fucking nuts.  (our record comes out the first week of January 2022 and theirs the third week.)  Discordance Axis are so revered and championed in the underground, and then you have my tiny band that no one really knows outside of Vancouver.  I’m perfectly happy being a “gateway” band that could potentially expose fans of bands on Willowtip’s roster to stuff that influences us like Mylene Sheath or Hydra Head records discographies. 

What is it like to be in an underground metal band these days? How do you keep your head up, what role do you see for social media in this?

Despite the pandemic and the inability to play live, underground metal to me is pretty much the same.  A band’s success is largely determined by how much work they are willing to put into the project.  Social media is important for announcing releases and keeping fans aware, but at the same time it’s painfully corny at times.  Too much oversharing/irrelevant information, Rock and Roll used to have mystique.  

On to the new album: Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers; sounds very drug-inspired…was that intentional? Can you describe the writing process?

I’ve lived in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver for 15 years now.  For those unaware, it’s one of the largest open air drug markets on earth.  It’s essentially a living hub for people who are homeless, mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or a combination of all three.  A major social issue is that the drug supply has become poisoned with the introduction of Fentynl and Carfentinal which are opiates that are many, many times stronger than Heroin or any other opioid.  This increased strength of toxicity has created an epidemic in terms of overdose deaths.  My dayjob is supporting drug addicts in trying to lessen harm from use and helping them access services that they may have barriers accessing.  This gives me a front line view of the epidemic and as a result I have a ton of empathy for addicts.  People don’t consider that 99.9% of addicts are victims of trauma whether it be their parents, partners, abuse, loss, grief, marginalization, the list goes on.  The album title is a couple of references to song lyrics that I will save for another time.

My job has given me a ton of insight and respect for less privileged, vulnerable people.  I’m the middle child from a middle class white family.  Both my parents are educated.  Though my older brother, younger sister, and I, all had pretty serious health issues as children, my upbringing was pretty idyllic.  As a result I had little to no exposure or understanding as to what it’s like to be traumatized, marginalized, abused, victimized, exploited, discriminated against, or pre-judged.  My day job has shown me the other side of life that a middle class, privileged upbringing wouldn’t necessarily.

I feel like my work is important but it doesn’t by association make me a good person.  Being understanding, having self awareness, being mindful of my emotions, and trying to exhibit an ounce of selflessness and not being a total meta/twitter/reactive knob, finger pointing, shithead, does.  

The lyrics sound rather sarcastic; Throwing Rocks At Mediocrity, Edutainment, Fight For Your Right To Partial Relevance…whereas the music sounds completely sincere and serious.Can you explain that balancing act?

Very, very nice observation!  It is a balancing act in terms of taking the composition, execution, and production of the music as serious as a heart attack, but also having fun with it, and not taking yourself too seriously.  The song titles are very much meant to be cheeky but myself and the guys have a quiet confidence in the music we play.  We did the leg work in terms of pre-producing the songs as close to perfection as we can humanely get.  Doing the work is the groundwork for this confidence. At the end of the day, the experience of playing in a band has to be enjoyable, creative drive and ambition can only take you so far. 

Seven Nines And Tens is your first album releasing band, is that right? Can you tell me about your musical experiences that lead up to it? 

I’ve been musical from a very, very young age.  My Mom and Grandmother had me singing solo at a notable Canadian music program, the Kiwanis festival, when I was 5 years old.  I’ve taken lessons in Violin, Guitar, and Piano.  My parents gave me the platform to play and my total obsession with music just ran with it.  

When I was 14 and cutting my teeth in terms of learning the electric guitar, 2 brothers that lived down the street from me were just learning the Bass and Drums respectively.  I’m still friends with them to this day.  We used to spend hours in their parents basement jamming, learning songs, smoking grass, and just being kids.  That was hugely important in terms of learning how to play in a band context for me.

We are Facebook friends, and so I noticed you have a very varied musical taste 🙂 What would you say are the biggest influences on your band’s sound? 

Very cool observation, man.  I’ve never told this story in the context of my work with this project.  I worked at a record store from the ages of 21 to 25 and that just opened my mind to a ton of music I would never have otherwise heard.  This really made an impact on my music taste.  I ended up sharing an apartment with some of my co workers and it was music nerd fest 101, there was always a record on the turntable and never was it just one genre or style.  True story:  I had to get a 2nd job at Chapters to pay for all the records I was buying at the record store.  

I started the band because I loved Boston band Cave In and wanted to sound just like them.  I still love them and can hear their influence in anything I do, but over the years there have been other styles that supplement that foundational style.  When I first started it was Cave In, San Diego bands No Knife and Drive Like Jehu, Oxford band Swervedriver, Jesu aka Justin Broadrick from Godflesh, stuff like that.  Very guitar driven material.  I’ve been looking at best “Metal” lists of 2021 and I barely recognize half the bands anymore.  I used to blog for American sites American Aftermath, and then their sister page Svbterreanen and during that era I was as dialed into new releases in terms of heavy music as one could possibly get.  Lately, I think I don’t pay as much attention to the metal community simply because I’m obsessed with the Golden Age of Rap from New York City.  At first I was really into the years  1990 to 93 but I’m so obsessed with it it’s more anything 1987 to 1996ish, even if it’s bad, I’ll still give it a spin.  I listen to so much New York rap that I’ve started to try and get into New Rap.  People don’t realize it’s just a slower rhyme flow delivered in a lower voice.  That is all it is.  Producers like the Alchemist are pioneers of the music side of things in terms of contemporary rap music as the beats are rarely simple kick/snare patterns anymore.  He pioneered an almost psychedelic production style by using unconventional soundbytes.  

What would be your dream tour package? And where would you go?

Oh fuck, we’ve been lucky to play with a handful of legendary bands over the years.  There is a really good American band called SOM that I love.  Their main songwriter also helmed the band Constants.  SOM were supposed to tour with Katatonia but it was postponed due to the pandemic.  It would’ve been cool to add us to the bill, Katatonia/Som/Seven Nines and Tens.  Another would be a Boston Cream Special (both bands are from Boston):  Cave In/Junius/ and Seven Nines and Tens.  I’ve always wanted to tour Europe and Australia, so we could do a run of shows there.  I could go on and on.  Touring Europe with Alcest or Enslaved would be incredible!  I bloody love the band Enslaved, I would love to have a long career like them.  Oh man, opening for My Bloody Valentine on an Australian tour would be unreal.  My Bloody is easily one of my favorite bands of all time.  I’ll stop now.  

If there is one thing that you would have liked to achieve in five years, what would it be?

A long time goal of mine is to get a Juno nomination.  The Juno’s are the Canadian version of the Grammys.  When I started the band in 2008 that was a goal and it still very much is.  

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after this interview?

Read a book, that shit is important!  After that, listen to the new Seven Nines and Tens album “Over Opiated in a Forest of Whispering Speakers.” 

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