While New Jersey’s Toothgrinder is relatively new to the metal scene, they’re making a lot of ears perk up with their debut full length, Nocturnal Masquerade. Last year’s EP was the world’s introduction to them, but the full length delivers. We caught up with the band’s vocalist, Justin Matthews, to talk about the differences between the EP and the full length, who they’d most like to collaborate and tour with, and what other music they’re looking forward to this year.
I wanted to start by saying I’ve had the pleasure to hear the whole album and you guys killed it from front to back, so major props. But yeah, let’s talk about the record. Can you delve into the writing and recording process a bit compared to the last EP?
The writing for this record was definitely a lot more grueling. We went into the studio with about 18 – 21 songs and chose which of those we wanted on the full length from there. Even further, we decided to take a couple songs from our EP and put them on the LP just because we thought they fit. We reworked them a bit, recorded them in a different key, just to give them a Nocturnal Masquerade vibe. Prior to that, it was about six months in our practice space. For me personally, it was a lot of hours by myself, testing out different vocal styles to see what works best.
Would you say this album is more melodic than the EP?
Yeah, it’s funny because we think we’ve always been a melodic band, but the way the EP was formatted, it showed our heaviest songs. Once we started to write the full-length, we brought out more of the melodic material. It’s always been in our DNA, just didn’t show as much in our EP.
Were there any specific bands that inspired this melodic side of Toothgrinder?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve always been a fan of early 90’s grunge and metal stuff like Faith No More or Melvins. Even bands like early Incubus. I’ve always had that melodic feel in my blood. As a whole, I think we all enjoy groups such as Baroness and Between the Buried and Me.
Was there was a lyrical or musical theme you guys were hoping to convey for the album?
I think I was aiming more for a feel than a theme or concept. Nocturnal Masquerade is supposed to be this midnight dream sequence/party, where you delve into different areas of the dream and experience each aspect. I always try to explain it as Phantom of the Opera meets Eyes Wide Shut.
A cool aspect was Spencer from Periphery adding vocals to “Diamonds for Gold.” Could you discuss having him onboard for that track?
Oh yeah, that was awesome. He came into the studio and helped produce the album as well, so it really worked out. We were working on “Diamonds for Gold,” which is one of the more melodic songs, and he wanted to do a verse. It just went really fast and efficiently with him on board.
For future material, are there any other artists you’d be interesting in collaborating with?
I would love to work with Greg Puciato and Ben Weinman from The Dillinger Escape Plan to do either musical collaboration or production work. My fantasy would be working with Mike Patton. It’d also be cool with Tommy Giles from Between the Buried and Me or Daryl Palumbo from Glassjaw.
I also got the chance to catch you guys live last year during The Faceless tour. Are there plans for any similar major US tours this year?
We’re trying, we don’t have anything booked at the moment. We are in the bid for some tours and are really pushing for them. I can’t name who, but it looks like it’s going really well.
And just for clarification, what has been your touring history so far?
We’ve toured with The Contortionist, Revocation, and Fallujah. Going back to who’s featured on our album, we’ve been on the road with Periphery. We’ve toured with Intervals, 36 Crazyfists, Sleepwave, Reflections, Yuth Forever, More to Monroe, and like you mentioned, The Faceless, After the Burial, and Rings of Saturn, but our most recent run was with Ghost Key and Crucible.
If you had the choice, what would be some bands you’d really like to tour along with?
Definitely want to tour with Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, Baroness, Between the Buried and Me. I’d really like to do another Periphery tour. That was fun, but it was our first tour so we were still working out a lot of the kinks. Killswitch Engage, Norma Jean, or Tesseract would be cool.
There are a lot of releases coming out this year. Any specific releases you’re looking forward to from other groups?
Who the hell knows if it will ever come out, but we keep hearing references towards a new Tool record. Deftones is supposed to be coming out soon. I’ve been jamming a lot to the new Baroness record so I’m currently happy with that. I love Meshuggah, but there’s guys in the band that are like super Meshuggah fans, so we’re looking forward to that too.
What do you see for the far future of the group in terms of musical experimentation, releases, etc?
We recently just picked up a new guitar player and he’s almost officially in for the group. He’s a phenomenal musician, went to Berklee. He’s not only playing guitar, but also into writing lyrics. So, I’m kind of excited about that aspect, not that I want him to fully take the wheel on lyrics, but it’d be nice to sit down with him and bounce off each other in terms of writing. We’ve jammed a couple songs that we’ve been writing. I think there’s again a lot of melody to the material, but a lot of dynamics as well. The soft parts will be softer and the heavy parts will be even heavier.