"Figuring myself out turned out to be a pretty good recipe for a record I could be proud of"
ERRA are set to release their new Self-Titled album this Friday (March 19) via UNFD.
A sprawling and savage journey into the heart of metalcore via some expansive world-building and incredible musicianship, it's a record that brings together everything that had propelled the band over the last few years and kicks it all up another notch. It's open, honest and utterly compelling from bludgeoning beginning to anthemic end.
We spoke to guitarist Jesse Cash all about putting the album together, the circumstance within which he was writing it and what it is that makes it such a special record in the band's discography...
Where did this record first start taking shape? When did you know what you wanted it to feel like?
“I think that the record benefitted from us not giving too much thought about what we wanted it to be. I’m certainly someone who overthinks everything, so in the past when I start to write a record it’s those sorts of questions that I’m always asking. I think they are valid questions to ask and it’s good to have a solid sense of direction, but at the same time, my ultimate goal is to be free with the writing. Sometimes I feel limited and weighed down by just how much I overthink.
“This time I found freedom just within the sake of writing the songs and actually enjoying the process. I was giving myself a lot of time too, patching up things within my personal life and everything like that. I was living alone and trying to get into a healthy routine whilst recordings. Just waking up every morning, walking a couple of blocks to my favourite coffee shop, reading in there for a couple of hours and taking it easy before even considering thinking about work made it so much more of a pure process. I felt as though it was the best state of mind for me to put myself in to write a record.
“So almost by accident, that became the theme of my writing if there is a theme at all. Living each day very present and taking it easy, because that’s not always been an easy thing for me to do. I relaxed a little bit and didn’t think about pre-conceived notions of what ERRA should be. This is our fifth record and it’s easy to imagine expectations that may not even be there. Ultimately fans want to hear you being uninhibited and not thinking too hard about it. The ones who are really deeply connected, especially the ones who are musicians, know that if you get too caught up in expectation then the music will suffer.”
The only person who has put boundaries or walls up on what your art can be is always you, and you have the power to destroy those boundaries and walls. Though it’s easy to forget that…
“When a band is writing their first record, it’s a very pure process simply because there is no expectation. No one knows who you are because you haven’t released anything yet. At this point right now, I can’t even imagine what it felt like to be writing that first record with no expectation whatsoever. Ever since then, slowly but surely, and almost unconsciously, the goal has been about getting back to that purity.”
So after those initial bits of writing, what were the things that were really coming to the forefront for you?
"I think that most of it came from the personal stuff that was in there. That’s usually what it is. With me living alone and being in a neighbourhood and a space that I really enjoy, the catch was that I didn’t really have a lot of friends around there. I was living in Nashville and it was a new city for me. I have friends there but I had never really clicked with any particular friend group. It wasn’t anything like what I had with my band or the friends that I have made through touring. When you play in a band as your job for ten years, you get really comfortable within that space and it becomes really difficult to connect with people outside of that on a level where you feel fully understood. I think a lot of people may admire what we do, they also struggle to understand how or why we do it. So mix that with being an introvert, being in a new city was really tough for me. I never got my feet off the ground. The result of that was I was extremely lonely and I felt isolated. That became a pretty constant struggle over the course of those two years that I was alone, but that isolation is what led me to want to get better too.
So working through that and for the first time having to stand up for myself and then also simultaneously write a record became quite the combination. It’s written a record from what was probably the worst place of my life, which was ‘Neon’, and that was not ideal. When you’re really doing bad, it’s hard to function creatively and at your best. You’re very distracted by your own problems. This time around I wasn’t distracted. I was encouraged. Figuring myself out turned out to be a pretty good recipe for a record I could be proud of.
I can hear that in the record now, both instrumentally and lyrically. I can hear the time that has been put in and also I did the things around the record within my personal life that needed to be done for me to function at my best creatively."
What were your initial feelings at the moment you realised that the record was finished?
“Usually it takes a little while for me to really know how I feel. It’s usually recorded and mixed and approaching release day before I really feel like I’ve got an idea of how strong or weak it is. For this one, while I was writing I had a really good feeling about it. I was more careful this time. I didn’t want to do the thing that everybody in a band does and assume that your next release is going to be the best release. I try to steer clear of that sneaky vanity as much as possible. I could tell I was trying new things though, like with ‘House Of Glass’ and ‘Shadow Autonomous’ and ‘Vanish Canvas’.
“I also had a feeling it was special whilst we were actually recording it. When we were recording ‘Neon’, tensions were kind of high. JT [Cavey, Vocalist] and I were struggling with little spurts of writer’s block here and there and couldn’t get on the same page and that created a lot of stress between us. We react very differently to that too. This record was very fun to make in comparison. We had conversations with each other if those tensions started to creep in and we would cut them off before they managed to peek their head out of the hole. It was just communicating.
“Once all the songs were done and on our last day in the studio, which also was a day that a state of emergency for the pandemic was declared, we finished up and I got in my car and I drove all the way back home to Nashville. That’s like a 15-hour drive. On that drive, I listened to the record and I had a feeling that we nailed it. But when I really knew was over the next few months when we were mixing it. Something happened in which I didn’t get sick of listening to it. I am the first person who washes my hands of new music usually. I don’t really feel a huge sense of reward, it’s very short-lived I hate to say. It’s a very quick high. I don’t collect any of our band’s stuff or memorabilia. I walk into my friend’s houses and they have records and cases up in their houses. I struggle with that sometimes and feel like my brain is broken. Like, why don’t I care about this stuff? I just don’t seem to hold onto those things even when I wish that I could. But I haven’t moved on from this record yet. I want the vinyl for this one. I want the little souvenirs of it. For whatever reason, I feel different about this one. There’s a kind of soul within this album that we haven’t touched on in the past. That’s why we called it ‘ERRA’. It felt powerful enough to be the self-titled record.”
How has your own relationship with ERRA being such a huge part of your life adapted over the years? Where do you feel as though this album fits into that?
"I feel like I have stayed very persistent from leaving high school and joining a band that this is what I wanted to do as a career. I can’t imagine not having it in my life. I’ve been doing it for so long that I don’t know what my life looks like if you take music as my job out of the equation. It doesn’t often scare me, but at times like this I’m not ashamed to admit that, in the middle of a pandemic, it has. Your brain goes to those places when you’re stuck inside. You think, ‘This isn’t what I’ve been doing for the last ten years’. Right now is the most I have been at home this decade. Yet I’ve always known that the main thing to keep in mind is that if I’m happy doing this and feel fulfilled doing it, that is the most important part."