CONTRA

I don’t know what it is with the Mid West but there gotta be something in the air that produces band like CONTRA. Anders Ekdahl ©2017

Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
Chris: We started a few years ago. At first it was just Aaron and I – drums and guitar. I was playing in another band with him and I got kicked out for something I said. It was kind of funny because as soon as I was kicked out (which I’ve never been expelled from a band before) I texted Aaron and was like “Hey man – Can I move my stuff to your place?”. Then that was that. I moved my equipment from point A to point B. Then CONTRA began.
We played a lot of shoegazing type of music in the last band called “The Rats are Coming, The Werewolves are Here”. Aaron and I come from more of a sludge / metal background. He was in Fistula and Rue. I was in Sofa King Killer. This was way back in 2000’s. We played many shows together, we toured together. Once we started CONTRA we knew the break up of Rats was more of a blessing in disguise.
The first song we wrote was Humanoid Therapy. It’s more riff oriented. The first practice we wrote about ½ of the song. Then we wrote Bottom Feeder. We wanted to experiment with a lower tuning. It was really trying different things which still is what we do today. Adam joined the band and our sound got twice as heavy. He offered a low end and a lot of great ideas. That’s when we started cranking out our album.
Larry: I’ve been friends with Chris and Aaron for well over ten 10 years, but had not played in a band with either of them. CONTRA was already a fully functioning entity when I was asked to join, so I really had no expectations on way or the other. I just thought that it would be fun and so far it has been.
Aaron: Playing and recording heavy music with some cool people…pretty much

How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
Chris: I am more than happy with this latest recording. Our friend Big Metal did a great job recording us. I was able to record all my solos on my own in a spare bedroom. I then forwarded those files to him and he really made them sound great. Everything came out exactly the way I wanted to.
Larry: The rest of the band had the recording done long before I joined, so I was able to come into it with a different perspective. I think it sounds great. Dave (Big Metal) is a really old friend and very, very good at what he does.
Aaron: Yes, Dave does a killer job when it comes to recording.

Do you feel that you by now have found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it?
Chris: We have a sound and we like trying new things as well. I write a lot of riffs on my own time and record them on my phone or some kind of device. I upload them to dropbox and share them with the rest of the band members. A lot of the time when we practice we start playing random riffs that come into our heads. On top of that I have all these riffs saved on my dropbox account. It’s actually pretty nice because 10 years ago you didn’t have that luxury.
Larry: Sure. I have not been in a band quite like this one. I’ve spent most of the past 20 plus years in hardcore punk bands so this is a new experience for me. My old bands weren’t nearly as “riff” oriented as CONTRA, which makes writing lyrics a much different process than it was for me in the past. But, Chris, Adam and Aaron are pretty good at putting songs together that have a familiarity, but build upon certain musical themes that have existed in CONTRA long before I joined.
Aaron: We for sure have found our sound. Maybe some variations but the riffs will be heavy
4. Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
Chris: It seems that Larry doesn’t really want anyone to know what he is yelling about, but it sounds like he’s pretty pissed about something. All the song names have nothing to do with what he is singing, that I can tell you. For example – The Gorgon, I named that after a movie. Snake Goat – Aaron was thinking it sounded like Goat Snake but we just mixed up the words. Dr. Goldfoot which is really Dr. Goldfoot and The Bikini Machine, another movie from way back. The lyrics do hold a meaning and Larry has been yelling since the early 90’s so he’s got something to say.
Larry: No. There are themes and ideas that are represented in the lyrics, but it is not important for me to “communicate” anything to the listener. The lyrics are personal and thematically only meaningful to me. If you get anything out of them – great, but if not, that is perfectly fine as well. My only concern is making certain that the vocals fit aesthetically with the music.
Aaron: I hear phrases from Larry and apply them to meaning in my life. As I do with most other lyrics from bands that I like. Music is a great way to vent your frustrations and anger

How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
Chris: You know, I have always wanted a cover that looks like what we have now. I wanted a really cool illustrative cartoon like cover. After all our band name is named after a video game. I asked all the guys in the band for ideas and pretty much sent those words over to Filipp and Victor drew it up. He is really a great artist with a whole lot of talent. The cover is definitely something I would look at twice and wonder what the band sounds like. In a way, I don’t really think that much about the visuals selling more albums, I just want to be happy with it personally. With digital downloads, I don’t really think it matters that much when it comes to album covers because a lot of my digital downloads don’t have any images associated with the album. It’s always cool to be able to put an image with the music. But really, the album cover Victor did is awesome. It’s everything I was wanting it to be.
Larry: The art only needs to fit with the music contained on the record. It is difficult for me to articulate how I think cover art should work with the record specifically – because I am not an artist, but I know whether something works when I see it. I really like the work Victor came up with for the record. He’s a very talented guy.
Aaron: Don’t know that I’ve ever bought an album based on the artwork but some can be very memorable. I’m stoked about the artwork Victor did for the cover

Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve?
Chris: Success to me is writing something to the best of my ability and being happy with it in the end. Having something pressed is an achievement. But also being able to play shows and see people enjoying what we do is equally rewarding in itself. Something that would really make my day is playing some festivals. That would be great to tour Europe. I’ve never been there but always wanted to go.
Larry: As long as I am able to be in a band that is self-sufficient, I am happy. I’m not really concerned with success except for how it relates to my ability to continue to play shows and record once in a while. I couldn’t begin to explain why it is hard for other bands from anywhere to break to a wider audience because I haven’t put a lot of thought or effort into it. I’m not against breaking new ground and opening up to new listeners – it’s just never been a concern of mine.
Aaron: We’ve set goals to write, record, and play our music live and accomplished that. Next we would like to expand our reach by playing more shows and introducing our music to as many fans possible

Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
Chris: I listen to a lot of obscure rock bands. Say for example Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust or Captain Beyond. There are barely no images of them on the internet. You just cannot find much information about those bands at all, or maybe that’s just me looking in the wrong places? I just play the music and rock out to it. That’s all I really care about.
Larry: I’m with Chris. I just worry about playing music that I enjoy and I don’t worry about trying to stand out. People will find you if they are really looking. I don’t mess with digital platforms except when we are sharing files for writing. In fact, I don’t even own very many CDs. I’ve been buying records for 30 years – trends come an go – and I imagine I’ll be listening to records 30 years from now.
Aaron: There is a good variety of bands and venues in the Cleveland area. We’ve got everything theaters to DIY venues.

What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
Chris: We are from Cleveland – the birthplace of rock and roll. Ha – A lot of bands try to avoid Cleveland though. Sometimes it’s just hard to get a few people to come out to a show to see a good band that few people know about. It also depends on which day and what neighborhood or venue they are playing at. We play in Akron as well. There are quite a few bands around here which are pretty heavy. Local bands like Sweaty Mammoth, Pillars, Supercorrupter, Salem’s Eye, Pale Grey Lore make some great tunes and have a lot of talent. Going international as in touring Europe is pretty much my goal in life, hah. That or playing psycho fest.
Larry: The other guys have their ear to the street much more than I do, especially when it comes to metal. I love metal, but I really cut my teeth on hardcore bands like Negative Approach, SS Decontrol, Die Kreuzen, Discharge etc. so I am not as in tune with other local metal bands. Other than the bands that Chris mentioned, there are a few other locals that I enjoy – Deathcrawl, gOOsed, and FYPM (Fuck You Pay Me) – that stand out. Again, I’m not as concerned about breaking out on a national level, but I wouldn’t mind a trip to Europe either.
Aaron: There is a good variety of bands and venues in the Cleveland area. We’ve got everything theaters to DIY venues.

Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the Stone Age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
Chris: Metal is a big thing in Cleveland. There’s a pretty large community of head bangers out here. Depending on what genre of metal is being played you generally have a different group of people coming out to those shows. Then you have the true metal heads coming out to every metal show in every genre like our friend Mark “Stoner Rock Guy” who recently passed away. It always sucks when you see a real metal fan like that leave the scene! RIP
Larry: Chris is better qualified to answer that than I am, but from my experience, Cleveland has never had a lack of good bands.
Aaron: I grew up on metal and punk. There have always been plenty of both in Cleveland

https://contracleveland.bandcamp.com/releases

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