Regardless if you’re a fan or not, you must have respect for After the Burial’s past year. Their fifth album, Dig Deep, was released in February after the wake of the passing of their rhythm guitarist, Justin Lowe. We spoke to vocalist Anthony Notarmaso about Sumerian Records, the recent album, and Justin. I could hear in his voice that the subject is still touchy, but it was really pleasant to see the optimism within the band. You can check out the full interview below.
I wanted to start by praising your recent live shows. I saw you guys at the SOMA venue both on the Sumerian tour and with The Faceless last year.
I really appreciate it. Those were both good tours and it was nice to be back with The Faceless. And this recent tour with Born of Osiris was just refreshing and gave us motivation.
You’re currently on the Sumerian Records 10th anniversary tour, a label you’ve been with since the Rareform album. Although bands aren’t always considered to have completely amicable relationships with their record label, what would you say are the most impactful or positive aspects of your continued relationship with Sumerian?
It is a business relationship between a label and a band, but we have a friendship with those guys. It has never felt like a boss and employee relationship between us. We have a mutual respect for each other. They’ve always treated us extremely well. And as far as I know, all the other bands on the label feel the same. I don’t know what it is like to on another record and I don’t care to find out.
A good amount of bands close to your guys’ genre tend to eventually make a bold shift in their career such as clean vocals. Do you ever imagine or have interest in making a shift towards clean vocals or any other stylistic change of the sort?
When the band first started, they self-released Forging a Future Self and there was some clean singing on that record. We did it a little on In Dreams, but I think that was because that was an experimental album. We’re just not one of the bands to make a decision to have clean singing without a purpose. The biggest priority for me is to stay true to ourselves. We’re not going to chase the latest trend or sound because the only sound that we’re after is our own.
Dig Deep is your first album that isn’t self-produced. Can you talk about Will Putney’s contributions?
Well, we were also in their doing a lot of the production side as well. But yeah, this is the first time we’ve worked with someone on producing. I stayed out of it for the most part. Trent [Hafdahl] and Will [Putney] have a great ear. I just let them take over and I trust them 100% when it comes to sound. I knew they would make it sound good and they did; they killed it.
I just wanted your permission before hand if I could ask a couple questions in regards to Justin?
Yeah, it’s fine. I know it’s something that’s going to come up in interviews.
Since I don’t believe there is much public knowledge on the topic, can you discuss how much of Justin’s material is on the album?
We all have a dropbox that everyone in the band has access to. There’s hundreds of riffs in there and I’m not even kidding, like a wall of riffs. There’s stuff in there that Justin and Trent wrote. They’ll have an idea, upload it, and it’ll just stay in there. Unfortunately, Justin got sick right before we were going to start tracking. He was home and just wasn’t feeling right, so he didn’t get to track on the actual record, but his riffs did make the record.
A lot of fans may say things like “oh, this song is a tribute to Justin” and such things along those lines. Is there a song to either yourself or the band that best represents that notion?
When we were tracking songs, Justin was still in Minnesota. So, we were under the impression that he was dealing with something stressful, but we had no idea what was going on. We knew something was wrong and that shit had hit the fan. We were in the midst of all that while we tracked and wrote the record. If anything, the song that has one of Justin’s main riffs is “Laurentian Ghosts.” I have a hard time listening to the song because it reminds me of him. I think it’s one of the most powerful songs on the record. It just has so much emotion and honesty. The song is a big ode to Minnesota.
Since you guys had to deal with it and handled it very bravely, do you have any advice for those dealing with someone mentally ill or who has passed away because of some form of mental illness?
I would just talk to them. Whether it be schizophrenia or even depression, just talk to someone. There’s a lot you can do and there’s a lot you can say. People are there for you. You’d be blown away by how much people care and will sit and listen and be there for you. I think people hold things in too much and that’s really unhealthy. As far as losing someone, that’s such a hard thing whether it be mental illness or old age. When you lose someone, it’s brutal. I like to live by what my dad told me when my mom passed away. He said, “it’ll never get better, but it will get easier.” You’re still going to miss them and you won’t be able to talk to them, but it will get easier over time. If people only focus on the negative stuff, life can get really tough. And that’s the whole basis of Dig Deep, to just keep going, keep trying, keep pushing, and keep looking for something.
While you guys have released an album after the passing of Justin, which is just amazing of you, do you feel there’s a shift in focus at all or do you still picture more albums in the future?
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I feel like we went through such a tragic thing and there is a peace within the band. There’s this unity and togetherness that we have, more so than before. It’s like how when my dad and I didn’t get along very well. I was a shithead of a kid and my dad was still trying to figure out how to be a dad. After my mom passed, we became really close and we talk all the time. When I had the opportunity to join this band, he was the one who told me that I had to go do it. But yeah, right now the band feels very calm. Right now, we’re playing it by ear and living life the best that we can.
Anything else coming up for the band?
Not that we know of yet. Right now, it’s just the second run of the Sumerian Records 10th Anniversary tour and then we should be hearing something soon hopefully for the summer. We’re just waiting for things to solidify.