Interview with Robert Bloomfield of MyChildren MyBride

Photo: Jeremy Saffer

A few days from now, MyChildren MyBride will release their new self-titled album. Inspired by the expressive nature of movie soundtracks, the band was more concerned with focusing their energy on creating songs with emotional vehemence than writing about trivial matters. In doing so, they’ve brought themselves to a slightly different musical plateau: one with greater possibilities. Now, that’s not to say that the group have coined something completely neoteric; even guitarist Robert Bloomfield admits in our interview below that “everything’s been done. It’s all about putting your spin on it…” With the help of producer Chris “Zeuss” Harris, MyChildren MyBride simply took their sound and embellished it with finely tuned effects, still delivering an aural assault like on past material, but this time more calculated. With all that said, if you’re already a fan of the quintet, you know what you’re mostly in for — melodic riffing, breakdowns, blast beats, gruff vocals — and it’s up to you whether or not you choose to embrace their betterment beyond just that.

Last time we spoke, which was about a year ago, you said that you listen to a lot of different music, which is what helps you write. What music helped you this time around?

On this new record?

Yep.

It’s funny, because it’s nothing of metal. I was listening to a lot of movie soundtracks and scores and a couple of bands that are a little more atmospheric. I was just getting the vibe that a record nowadays makes so much more sense if you can feel it, rather than just listen to it and say, “Oh, this song’s awesome because I can relate to the lyrics.” To me, as a musician, I do relate to lyrics, but I’m not the one writing them, so I try to do the best I can to feel through the music itself. So I started listening to movie scores and soundtracks because those are all instrumental, especially the soundtrack scores, because they’re meant for you to feel through the beats and ominous sounds. I tried to translate that stuff to metal. You can kind of tell on the last record, ‘Lost Boy,’ that we dabbled in that on one track, which started it all, I guess. As soon as I started doing that, everyone in the band was like, “Hey, this is cool!” It’s something that we didn’t do before. On this record, we ran with it as far as we could.

Very interesting. Is this a more emotional record as a result of you guys trying to capture that movie soundtrack vibe?

Absolutely. On the last records, there were a couple of songs in there about girl problems. On this record, it’s more about how we dealt with death and the loss of friends, as well as what we feel about the music industry. We have a song on the record called “No One Listens, No One Cares,” and it’s strictly about the music industry. It’s about how we’re on the road wasting — well, not wasting — but our lives go by in months and someone’s life at home goes by in a day. This time around, it was more about dealing with serious problems. We’re older now and we have bills to pay, rent to pay, and things like that. It’s not like it used to be, where you could write a song about whatever as long as it’s heavy and fun. Now, we have all these real life issues, such as losing people in our lives, and we don’t have as many friends as we used to because we tour so much. We just threw all of that stuff on the record. It’s a very love-hate record. We put so much thought into every aspect of it, so that’s why we’re so proud of it.

Nice. Is it common that you’ll be listening to a song by another band, hear something that you really like, and say to yourself, “Wow, we should definitely steal that idea”?

Yes and no. That goes along with the whole growing up thing, I suppose. On our old records, we did that. We’d be like, “Dude, Cradle of Filth did this sweet part. We need to sound like that!” Then, we’d try to redo it and recreate it without copying it. On this record, it was more like, “That effect sounds really cool. I need to make a song with that effect.” That’s what I did. We’ve dabbled in effects before, but not this heavily. I tried to learn how different sounds were created. I would start mixing different [guitar] pedals — it’s called layering pedals and stacking pedals — to get an effect that you can’t normally get from just one pedal. For a few parts of the record, my friends were like, “How did you do that?” Sometimes everything sounds totally warped. I would explain, “Well, it’s this pedal and this pedal while divebombing.” And they’d be like, “What?!” We tried to be experimental, I suppose. If you use an effect that another band uses, then you’re kind of trying to sound like that band. We were trying to avoid that. We didn’t want people to say, “Oh, I see what you guys are trying to do — you’re trying to be more like these guys.” Really, we just wanted different sounds. And, like I said before, we wanted the emotion to come through the music versus the lyrics.

I like that. As you know, it’s very different being a kid in high school and being in a metal band. How do you guys stay relevant and how do you make sure kids are still able to connect with you when you’re leading very different lifestyles? Is it something you even think about?

It’s difficult to say. It’s obviously in our minds. We get older, but the fanbase doesn’t. That’s just how it works in this industry. It’s difficult for us, but if you’re a super-metal band, your fans are older. It’s weird. We do think about it, but we don’t at the same time. As a writer, I don’t necessarily think about it as much, but when the other guys in the band hear my songs or ideas, they might say, “This sounds too old school.” Growing up, we listened to old school bands. We were influenced by all kinds of old metal, such as Pantera and things of that sort. Nowadays, those ideas sound very generic, very simple, and it’s too easy for someone to comprehend, so it sounds boring and outdated. That’s where the rest of the guys come in and say, “That sounds like it was made in 2001. You can’t use that.” What’s interesting and energetic to us is what we translate to what’s relevant today. We wrote this new record together as a band in the studio, so when it got boring to all of us, we would just move on to the next thing. We thought, “If the songs aren’t fun to listen to on the spot, that’s not good enough.” Nowadays, if someone hears the record and they don’t like it that first time through, they’re going to toss it and move on to the next thing. Our idea on how to stay relevant was to make up things that sounded really cool to us, because that’s hopefully going to be the first thought in someone else’s mind.

And, of course, it’s not that old school metal is bad, it’s just been repeated by different bands so many times that it has now become a little boring sounding. Obviously, that’s what happens with music.

Right. Bands regurgitate things. There are no more groundbreakers; it’s already been done. It’s very difficult to become that band that’s doing something that no one has ever heard before. Metal’s been going on for so long now that everything is just regurgitated: distortion, the breakdowns, the off-time breakdowns that Meshuggah started doing really well, etc. Everything’s been done. It’s all about putting your spin on it, which can make it cool. If you steal someone else’s spin, everyone is going to notice it. The hardest part when trying to write music is putting your own spin on someone else’s sound, I guess.

[chuckles] Right. On the topic of connecting with fans, the most popular way of doing so is through Twitter, Facebook, or seeing them in person. Twitter is very fast; Facebook is great for reaching a lot of fans at once; and meeting fans in person can be time-consuming. I’m interested to hear which way you prefer going about connecting with your fans.

Photo: Jeremy Saffer

I don’t know. In the band, I take care of more of the business side of things. I’ll be on the phone with our managers a lot, and I’m the go-to guy for tour issues. I think the other guys are a little more into the Internet thing than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a Twitter, but I was late to the game. I used to use the band Twitter. I started the band Twitter and ran that while everyone else had their personal Twitter accounts. Eventually, I started getting a bunch of crap from the band because I was saying some things on the band’s Twitter page that only I would say and not necessarily the band would say. [chuckles] So, I got my own. I update it every now and then, and I’m on Facebook, but I try to be online and I try not to be online at the same time.

It’s so time-consuming. You could sit on the computer all day rather than be outside and interacting . I’m in California, and the weather right now is 75 degrees. Why would I want to be inside on the computer all day? Again, I do have to make time for it because our new record is coming out, and nowadays, it’s all about Internet marketing. I have to plug our record, I have to be on Twitter to let people know about the pre-orders, etc. It’s just where everyone’s at today. Everyone gets up and the first thing they do is check the Internet. They check their website, they check their Twitter, they check their Tumblr, and then they post a picture of what they look like before they go out. If you’re not keen on that, you won’t get noticed. I wish it was how it used to be where you find out about a band in a magazine. But, it’s all about the Internet now. Magazines are dying out; everything’s dying out.

I, for one, never watch the news on TV. Why would you want to do that? I can find out about everything online.

Yeah. When we’re on tour, we use the Internet more, obviously, because we’re in a van and we can’t just get out and hang out with people unless it’s at the show. From the morning until the show, we’re either in a hotel room trying to update people back home or on our phones all the time. When we’re home, like during these past two months, I’m barely on my computer because I have to work so that I can pay some bills. Now, I get up like a normal person and spend my days outside, and once I started doing that, I started forgetting about the Internet. That’s why I’ve been thinking, “Crap, I’ve got to update stuff because our record is coming out in two weeks.” When ‘Unbreakable’ came out, we were so ready to get out there and make everyone aware of our record. Now, it’s like, “Crap, we need to start promoting this more!” [laughs] When you get older, everything else gets in the way of it. We need to work, pay bills, and get ready for the upcoming tour. It’s all very different when I’m on tour and when I’m off tour.

Interesting. Back to the new album, did you guys decide to self-title it because, as you mentioned in a press release, you believe the band’s really found its sound?

Yeah. It’s a sound that we’re comfortable with; we didn’t feel like we had to create something that people are going to like. We’ve already gotten a bunch of crap for it. Some people say we’re trying to ride the success of “On Wings of Integrity.” Yes and no. We named the song “On Wings of Integrity Pt. II,” but it sounds nothing like the first one. It’s still hardcore-driven and it still has our sound, but there are other things going on in it. Being that we’re older and have different members, this is what we created, and we didn’t think we had to make it sound like something specific or our old fans aren’t going to like it — we just wrote music. Like I said before, we sat in a room, and whatever we thought was cool was kept. We didn’t have limitations to what we were trying to create this time, and that’s why some of us wanted to self-title it. Some of the other guys were like, “I don’t know if we should self-title it, because an album name is the key point for an album.” My argument was: “Look at every single band that’s stood the test of time; they have a self-titled album that was released at the point in their career when they changed their sound and maintained it.” I started naming bands. I mean, look at Metallica and Black Sabbath and all these bands. Their biggest records, and the staple in that music scene, was their self-titled album. When you look back, The Black Album was the album. We figured, this is our sound, it’s what we’re most likely going to sound like on the next record, it’s what we’re most comfortable with writing, it came out naturally, and this is what we are now, so let’s self-title it.

Yeah, why not? So, I’m looking at the album artwork now. There are these ghostly women, who also sort of look like they’re made of ice, which is cool. The cover for ‘Lost Boy’ almost seems like the exact opposite — it has cloaked men with torches at night. Was that something you did on purpose, or did it just come out that way?

It’s weird that you say that because I was afraid it was going to look too much like ‘Lost Boy.’ [chuckles] We like the visual aspect and making things look intriguing to people, which is why we didn’t put our name on the record.

Right, I noticed that.

It’s just the acronym MCMB in a pagan-looking font. We wanted people to be like, “What is this?” That was a key point. We started thinking about this girl in the forest, but then I was like, “Wait a second, that sounds like our last record, so let’s not do that.” But, when the photos were done for it, I was like, “Wow, this is awesome!” It’s one woman, actually. The shutter speed is very slow, and that’s why it’s blurry and ghostly. We were going for a very cult-like image. We wanted it to raise — I don’t know — not controversy, but we wanted people to be like, “What’s going on with this band?” We’ve always been pushing the limits as far as, you know, we’re on Solid State, we’re a christian band still and we have no intention of changing that, but we like pushing the envelope and making people think. People sometimes say, “Are you guys even a christian band still?” We released that song “God of Nothing” and people are like, “What does this song even mean? You’re talking about Lucifer!” People misconstrue things all the time — they hear that word and they’re like, “What?!” Or, they hear the word Hell and they’re like, “What are you talking about Hell for?” Listen to the entire thing; you’re just hearing the one word — the nastiest words are the ones that everyone pays attention to. Subconsciously, I guess that’s why we made this record cult-like. The nastiest thing is what everyone’s going to be talking about. What’s going to be the most relevant today is going to be nasty and gritty and dirty. We almost subconsciously did that so that people would be like, “What’s going on with this band? They used to be Christians, but they’re probably not anymore.”

It sounds like you almost want fans to over-analyze everything about you, whereas most bands would say, “Ugh, I wish they wouldn’t look into it that much.”

Absolutely. It’s all about making people think. As soon as people are comfortable, that’s when they have this image in their mind of how their life is going to be or how life is, and then when it’s not that way, everything comes crashing down. I think that’s the whole point. If you’re not constantly on your toes wondering what’s going on and having almost like a doubt, then you’re not doing it right. That’s my aspect on it, especially. When we started out as a band, we thought we were going to be huge — the metal band that takes over! But, then you don’t become that, and you’re like, “Wow, we just fell off [the map]; no one likes us anymore. Now what do we do, quit or break up?” That thought is always in our minds every time we put a record out. If you’re not trying to change, I feel like you’re doing something wrong. It’s almost like we want people to talk — not necessarily talk dirt on our band — because then we feel like we did something right. So far, people are talking about it, and we have gotten some hate on this record already, which is funny to me. Everybody wants you to write your first record a thousand times, you know? It’s almost annoying that people are still waiting for us to do that. If you’re waiting for that and you keep listening to our new records until we create that, then I don’t care if you don’t like our new stuff or stop listening to us, because this is who we are now, and this is what we’re going to keep creating. We appreciate our old fans, because they propelled us to where we are, but I just think that the worst thing about being in a band is your fans expecting you to stay the same.

I definitely agree. I always say that fans think they want that first album again, but if you were to really put that record out again, they would say, “This sounds too much like the first album! What are you guys doing? This is the same thing.”

Photo: Jeremy Saffer

Absolutely. It’s the biggest catch-22 in a musician’s life. They basically want you to be stuck in time when you wrote that first record, as if you wrote a hundred songs during that time and then put out the first ten and your next record should be the next ten that you wrote at that time and just keep doing that. That sounds like a manufactured band to me — you’re stuck in one time period. Come on. So, you’re not going to like us anymore because we’ve progressed as a band?

And everyone’s a critic. Everyone has something to say about everything. With ‘Lost Boy,’ some people said the record wasn’t as good as the first one. Okay, that’s an opinion to be made, but when we wrote that record, our intention was to dumb down all the riffs. We didn’t want it to be so complicated, because that’s what our first record was. We wanted it to be more on the poppy side of metal and appeal to more people and not just the kids who like super fast metal. So, look at it, it’s poppier. There are some songs that are super metal and some that have big choruses. People think that we didn’t realize that, but that was our plan. We wanted to write a record that was easy to understand. Our old fans were thinking, “Oh, they got worse. They don’t know how to write music anymore. Everything’s boring.” Every time you put out a new record, you’re either going to please your old fans and not get too many new fans, or you’re going to disappoint a lot of your old fans and get a lot more new fans. I think that’s what ‘Lost Boy’ did for us. Everyone told us, “When you put out your second record, it’s called the curse.” Your second record is the curse in your career. I suppose we kind of got that on that record.

In what ways did you want to progress with this new album, and how did Zeuss help you achieve your goal?

What’s weird about this record is that we knew what we wanted, but we didn’t know how to create it. That seems to be the biggest issue with our band. We always have a vision for what we want, but we have a difficult time getting what we want out on a record. We had multiple meetings as a band. When we were in Mexico, we went out to dinner and tried to figure out what we were going to do on the record. We started throwing ideas around, and soon I started writing some stuff, and Mathis [Arnell], our drummer, started writing. We agreed that we wanted something cinematic. We wanted the record to be a soundtrack, more than anything else. We thought, “Okay, who knows how to do that?” I’ve never written a soundtrack before. I know how to make metal and maybe some punk, but what else? We wanted to do this, but it was so far of a reach for us. We didn’t know what to do. We just started trying and trying and I spent hours writing. Then, my computer got stolen on tour with all our material on it. This was around last summer. I had about twenty ideas and songs written. When we were in Montreal, both my laptop and hard drive were stolen, so we had to start over again. Eventually, when we got to the studio and showed Zeuss, he was like, “These aren’t good.” These songs aren’t going to make it is what he basically told us. We kind of knew that because we didn’t really know how to get the sound we wanted. So, we were like, “What do we do?” Zeuss was like, “You guys need to get down in the live room and start writing songs.” “We’ve never done that. How do we do that?” He was like, “Just jam.” But we told him, “We don’t jam! We just write music and send it to each other on the computer.” [chuckles] He pretty much said, “Well, you’re going to learn.”

It was weird, and it took a long time. We did 12-hour days, which was mentally exhausting. We might write three or four songs a day. The main thing he told us was that we needed a foundation; we needed skeletons for the songs, and then the things that we wanted come last. He was saying that we needed to write a song first and then add what we called “candy.” The leads and all the other sounds were called “candy.” That’s what we didn’t know. You still have to have bass, guitar, drums, and vocals before you add the soundtrack sounds. That’s where it all came together. First, we focused on writing the songs, then we added the bells and whistles. We needed the direction, and that’s what Zeuss did for us. He showed us the proper steps to get that finished product that we needed. It wasn’t like we went to a producer that did it all for us. He basically said, “First, you guys need to get down there and write music.” So, we wrote songs. Then he said, “Now you need to record them. Get them down and figure out the structure. Then, record the vocals.” The last week of it all is when everything came together. The songs then became everything we were thinking of but couldn’t create. He just made us do everything step by step. He definitely pushed us as musicians and made us learn. I think I learned more in those six weeks with Zeuss than I have ever learned being in a studio. A lot of the time, [producers] don’t tell you what’s going on, they just do it. There are time constraints, so they’re sometimes like, “We need to get this done; I’ll play the part.” Instead, Zeuss made us do things step by step. I would sit there with guitar pedals and stack pedals to get new sounds. It came out to be like everything we were trying to figure out. I don’t think the record would have turned out the way it is without Zeuss, because he showed us how to do it versus him saying, “Oh, you want to sound like this?” and him creating what you’re thinking, and you know that never works out. As an artist, you have this image in your brain, and unless you’re drawing it or trying to do it, no one else is going to get the exact same thing

Definitely. And now that you’ve done things this way, I assume you won’t be going back to the old way of writing, correct?

Right. We basically sound our best writing as a band. With our next record, we’re just going to jam as a band. We’ll sit there and be like, “Hey, you got an idea?” We can do it like it used to be done in the old days — sitting in a garage. All along, that’s all we had to do and we never knew it and we never tried it. However, it is a little difficult to jam on metal, because it’s not just like four chords. But, Zeuss basically forced us to do it, and now we’re like, “Wow, we now know our best way of getting material together.” We’ve already started to think of new ideas so that we can be ready to go on the next record.

Cool, man. Before we wrap this up, I want to talk a little about touring. In early March, you guys will be going out on the Fight the Silence Tour with For Today, A Skylit Drive, Stick to Your Guns, and Make Me Famous. After spending so much time in the studio, is going out on tour going to be liberating?

Yes and no. Well, right out of the studio we actually went on a headliner. Since the middle of December, we’ve been at home, though. This is the longest time we’ve been home since 2006. We’re ready to get on tour and play shows on one side of it, but I’m also kind of comfortable, you know? I work, I make money, which is new to me. [chuckles] I can actually pay my bills. But, at the same time, we’re reenergized, we have the new record, we’re not burnt out on tour playing the new songs, so we’re going to be refreshed when hitting the road. I think it’s going to be awesome because we have a new stage show, and we’re going to be really focusing on the visual aspect of it. We want people to see a whole new side to us that we were either scared to do or never thought that we should do. Now, whatever we want to do, we’re gonna do it, regardless of what people think. This is how we feel, so we’re gonna let it all pour out, basically.

That sounds like a good plan. If touring wasn’t an essential part of being in a band, would you stay at home and keep releasing new music, or would you go out there anyway and still tour?

I don’t know. It’s weird to think that. I mean, it’s crossed my mind. Not all bands can stay doing it. Most bands kind of slow down and only do a couple of tours but continue to put out records. I don’t know. I think we’d put a couple of records out and then do a tour here and there if it made sense to us. As soon as you stop doing the tour life, you have to become normal again — you’ll probably have to get a job, and you can’t just leave your job for months at a time. There are all kinds of things that play into it. Who knows? Maybe it’s something in the future that we do, but hopefully we just keep touring and doing what we’re used to until something happens, or we can’t do it anymore, or who knows? We’re all getting older, so there are so many possibilities, but for now we’re just going to keep doing things the way we do them.

Pick up MyChildren MyBride’s new album, MyChildren MyBride.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.