Cymbals Eat Guitars: Innocence Lost Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Cymbals Eat Guitars

Innocence Lost

Dec 10, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J
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In the Kübler-Ross model of grieving, a crucial step for the individual is moving on from depression to acceptance after a life-altering loss. It’s an oversimplification, but one that often holds true. For Cymbals Eat Guitars’ frontman Joseph D’Agostino, the depression he suffered from the sudden death of his best friend and musical collaborator Benjamin High in 2007 has been understandably protracted. D’Agostino sublimated his own personal emotional minefield by crafting two Cymbals albums that cloaked his mourning in metaphor and Byzantine language: 2009’s debut Why There are Mountains and 2011’s Lenses Alien. On the band’s newest, LOSE, D’Agostino comes clean with his grief, articulating seemingly ineffable feelings with disarming clarity.

“I wasn’t ready to be so direct. I wasn’t old enough,” says the now 25-year-old D’Agostino. “I was clouding my feelings with drugs everyday.”

D’Agostino is adamant that he isn’t using his friend’s death as the basis for a press angle, but is speaking out about it now because it provides a necessary context for understanding the album. And it would be unfortunate if the tragic undercurrent overshadowed a minor masterpiece, one suffused with a keen awareness of the wonder of life itself.

The band, rounded out by bassist Matt Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andrew Dole, bristle with a kinetic verve throughout LOSE. And while tracks such as “XR” and “Warning” may have plodded slightly on prior Cymbals efforts, here they cut straight to the bone marrow, replete with teeth gnashing choruses, D’Agostino’s trademark blood-curdling howl, and a spitfire rhythmic vigor courtesy of Dole, all the while maintaining the act’s innate melodic instincts.

And LOSE doesn’t pander in the least. This is nothing if not a natural progression in the evolution of Cymbals. “The fact that the song structures are more streamlined than Lenses’ isn’t a concession that was made to win more fans or some bullshit, we just got tired of playing mathy, ponderous songs every night,” says D’Agostino.

The record also eschews many of the ‘90s American indie touchstones that have incessantly dogged the band in the press. It cuts a vast swath stylistically, with few nods to the Cymbals of yore. “Ride in 1994? Sure. The Smiths? Sure,” laughs D’Agostino. “And more muscle. More raw power.”

After Lenses Alien‘s slightly disappointing commercial performance, D’Agostino and co. sound like a band with something to prove, and no matter the outcome, it’s obvious that the band are proud of what they feel is indisputably their finest moment. But that alone isn’t enough for D’Agostino, although he isn’t avaricious in the least. He’s just flat-out ambitious, and wears it well. “I’ve always been a pretty goal-based person,” he says. “People say you should just make art to make art and please yourself. But I have things I want to accomplish, that I need to accomplish. I need to see all the parts of this world I haven’t seen before it goes completely down the shitter, and music happens to be my vehicle. I can say that unashamedly. Our music by nature is striving, ambitious, and searching. It reaches and reaches. That’s me, man.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s September/October print issue (Issue 51).]


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