This Moment in Black History finds its poppier side
Since forming during an impromptu jam, This Moment in Black History has evolved into one of Cleveland, Ohio’s most durable post-punk bands. Its newest album, Higher Deffer, features plenty of noisy tunes. But it also gets into the groove with tracks such as “Braxton Teeth” and “Can I Ask You a Personal Question.” We recently met up with bassist Lawrence Daniel Caswell to discuss the new album for a feature we’re writing for a weekly paper. Here’s what he had to say.
The Cleveland music landscape seemingly changes with the seasons. What’s been the key to keeping the band together?
Technically, it was ten years in June or August. I’ve been in the band for seven or eight. We’re all nuts, like any other band. When we get together, we like what we do. We’ve never struggled with writing songs. That’s never been difficult. When the fours of us get together and have a practice, we write some songs. It’s like that. With no effort. Most of the time, we’re plugging in our instruments and getting tuned. Buddy plays a riff and I hear that riff and do something off that. He forgets what he played and then [drummer] Bim plays something and Chris comes up with lyrics and the song is done. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened. At this point, we’ve been doing it for so long and it works so well, why stop? Chris is in New York right now, but we just keep doing what we’ve been doing.
When did you start the recording process for this album and what were those sessions like?
We started in May of last year at Suma Recording Studio in Painesville. We had mastered there, but never recorded there. It was great recording there. [Suma owner] Paul is a great guy. He has what you need. I always have difficulty with mics, but he had great old-school condenser tube mics that sounded perfect. It’s set up right. He knows what he’s doing.
I love the title. I thought that Rick Rubin had killed off any use of the word “def.” What made you want to bring it back?
I think we came up with that just sitting around joking. I think at some point we had played a show at the Happy Dog. Chris ran behind the bar and grabbed an empty bottle of wine and gave it to somebody else. They banned us. We were joking that were banned in HD. “HD” became “higher and deffer.” We were joking about it and it just stuck.
It’s hard to describe us —not because we are really unique — but just because not a lot of bands sound like us.
What kind of genre does the band fit into?
I kinda don’t care. We’re playing punk rock music but we listen to different things. I also feel like it matters less now than ever before. To find a band, you don’t have to know a genre. It’s just a title and Google. That’s good for us because you can describe what the band sounds like and it doesn’t tell you what the band is going to sound like when you come to the show. It’s hard to describe us —not because we are really unique — but just because not a lot of bands sound like us.
“Braxton Teeth” sounds like something different. Are those horns on that song?
There are some songs with backing vocals. At Suma, we had a Hammond B-3, and we used Chris’s Moog and did things we couldn’t have done.
I think the guitar work is great, especially in songs such as “PhD’s Not DT’s,” which could pass as funk, and “Can I Ask You a Personal Question.” Do you think Buddy has benefited from playing from Rocket from the Tombs?
I think Rocket has benefit from playing with Buddy. One of my favorite reviews from the last record simply said that the guitar player is “just fantastic.” I totally agree with that. He’s amazing. We haven’t played that much together since he joined Rocket so it hasn’t had an effect on us, but I’m pretty sure he had an effect on them.
Talk a bit about the label you guys have through Smog Veil.
A lot of the releases and even the stuff from Smog Veil has come out through Snax. We finally set up a Bandcamp account. It’s just our label. It has more potential than actually exists now. A lot of our friends are like, “Can you put this out?” Smog Veil puts it out and this is the first LP that has come out on the same label. They’re happy with us and we’re happy with them.
How much touring do you plan to do behind this album?
Logistics are the funny part. Chris is in New York. Everybody in the band but Chris has a daughter. We’ll tour probably in the spring. We’re not trying to put out a record and not play shows. I like Oneida’s model. I’ve been talking about those guys for years as a good example. They don’t live in the same city. They put out a record and tour for maybe two weeks. They’ve been doing that for 15 years. I feel like that’s our future if not our present. You do need to tour right now but it’s not like the only way to get heard.
What stands out about his album?
In terms of planning, I’d say it’s not much different. It’s not that the record is poppy but it feels a bit more poppy. I don’t want to say the “a” word. It’s shocking. We recorded that record between me having a daughter and Buddy having a daughter. I think some people might actually like it. The four of us having been playing together for a long time and I think that’s a factor but it’s not conscious that we’ve gotten better or poppier or anything.