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ERRA Vocalists Discuss Video Games, New Record, & More

Erra, who recently released their album Neon, have been touring nonstop in promotion. The band was included in this year’s Summer Slaughter tour as well as added as an opening act to the After the Burial and Acacia Strain tour.

During one of their shows, we hopped on the group's tour bus and spoke to frontman JT Cavey and founding vocalist/guitarist Jesse Cash about the new material, video games, past members, and more. Check out the full interview below.

You were talking about playing some video games before the show. What’s your main game right now?

JT Cavey: Well the Black Ops 4 Beta is out for PC right, so I just downloaded that. I used to be a huge Call of Duty player back in the day, but I kinda fell off here and there. Like most video games, you check it out at least. I like FPSs a lot. Jesse [Cash] and Sean [Price] love the Dark Souls and Bloodborne type of games. I’m too much of a pussy for those.

Jesse Cash: I’m actually a pretty casual gamer. When I’m home after my girlfriend goes to sleep, I’ll play for a couple hours. Because I’m casual, I never expected to love the Dark Souls series, but it just clicked. I’m obsessed with Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3.

JT: I uninstalled the game after the first mini-boss. I literally rage quitted and they’re all making fun of me.

Your setlist has been shifting a lot lately. You brought “Hybrid Earth” back to the setlist during the Summer Slaughter tour, but replaced it with "Rebirth" and "White Noise" for the After the Burial/Acacia Strain tour. Do you feel that you have to shape your sets based on who you tour with?

JT: Yeah, that’s literally the intent. During our tour with Dance Gavin Dance, we didn’t play “Hybrid Earth” because we knew we were playing for their fans. So we added “Hourglass,” which is a song we’ve been wanting to play for awhile. We had "Hybrid Earth" for Summer Slaughter and some new album songs for the latest tour. It’s cool that our discography allows us a spectrum of genres and different tour. We can kinda chameleon-ize for each tour.

Jesse: Yeah, that’s a nice, new component of our band since Drift came out. We can kinda shape shift a little bit depending on the tour we’re on.

I think that’s also reflective on the new album. There’s a duality of styles from very heavy moments to some very subdued, melodic moments. Would you say as the band progresses, your goal is to widen this spectrum? Have Erra represent the extremes of both melody and heaviness?

Jesse: Absolutely. My favorite kind of music is melodic and straight to the point. But my favorite kind of metal typically is low-tuned, heavy bands like Architects, Northlane, or Meshuggah. I tend to like that side of metal for the past few years.

If we’re looking at your solo material in Ghost Atlas, it’s more-so the melodic side of Erra. There’s definitely a clear difference between the bands. Would you say Ghost Atlas is you at your purest?

Jesse: Yeah, probably so. With Ghost Atlas, the primary intention is to be as honest and emotional as possible. With Erra, that is still a goal, but on top of that, we still are considering intricacy and heaviness. There’s a lot more factors that go into an Erra record and there’s a lot more to think about, which is really exciting and more challenging, but also more work. So, I have to be in a more specific head space to write Erra as opposed to Ghost Atlas, which is literally just raw emotion.

JT: Is it more intimidating to write fresh and new Erra content than it is for Ghost Atlas?

Jesse: Yeah, Erra is for sure harder, which again is cool because it’s challenging. There’s just so many more layers. Physical layers like more guitar parts, synth parts, screaming vocals, singing vocals, both our lyrics, and technical drum parts as opposed to simple drum parts that anyone can play. There’s a lot that goes into Erra. And I like the balance of both because I can exert a lot of energy recording an Erra record and then go record a Ghost Atlas record after.

Jesse has his side-project, but would you ever want to do your own project, JT?

JT: Oh, yeah. Making time to do that is definitely the hard part. I spread myself kinda thin with hobbies and work. I have some local friends from home who we’re trying to do a more generically, bone-crushing heavy outlet. It’s nothing serious or really solidified yet, but definitely something I haven’t ruled out. I just haven’t made time.

Being that this is your second record with JT on vocals, was the writing a recording process for Neon different than Drift in any way?

JT: I like that I was there from start to finish. With Drift, I came in with all the instrumentals done and six out of the ten songs were done lyrically. Not that I had any input on the instrumentals for this record, but it was cool to see how the creation process functioned from start to finish because it allowed me to get a better idea of what we were working with and how to continue with the vibe that was on the table.

Lyrically, how do you guys collaborate? Is there a middle ground?

JT: It’s almost like 50/50.

Jesse: Most of what he’s screaming on the record, he wrote. Most of what I’m singing on the record, I wrote. There’s a couple circumstantial moments to where it might be flipped, but the vast majority, that’s how we do it.

JT: Sometimes he’ll do something that I like more, so I’ll change my lyrics to accompany his vibe. And since he’s the instrumental writer, he’s good at interpreting a pattern that I had. We do a pretty good job at whatever our strong suits are.

After going through the lyrics on this record, relationships seem to be a common theme. Would you agree to that or are there other major themes that you think are worth mentioning?

Jesse: The record definitely focuses pretty hard on the turmoil of relationships, but there’s definitely still a glimmer of optimism there just because that’s what the band represents. We’ll always have those layers of optimism, but overall I think this record definitely leans more on the turmoil.

JT: I think it definitely taps into just more raw and authentic emotion. I think that’s what 90% of the content is. It’s just reflecting on real intimate occurrences and events that have happened between both of us. And even if the song and content is perceived as dark and heavy, there’s not like a negative vibe on any of the songs, but more of a reflection.

Going back to before JT joined the band, do you recall the first time you heard his vocals? Probably on the Texas in July album, yes?

JT: He probably heard me before then on an Erra cover in 2012.

Jesse: JT did a Youtube vocal cover on our song “Seven.” The way we got to know him was from touring with Texas in July. We needed someone and it popped up immediately in our heads ask JT because we knew Texas in July was breaking up at that point.

Have you remained in contact at all with previous vocalists Garrison Lee or Ian Eubanks?

Jesse: We’re not in contact with Garrison anymore, but we are still in contact with Ian.

JT: Ian is one of my bosses. Alex and I work for a bar called Black Market and Ian is one of our managers. When I moved down to Birmingham, they brought me there because our whole friend group were regulars at the bar. And the place turned out to be hiring and I really enjoyed it, so I pulled Ian aside and asked him if it would be weird if I applied here. He’s my favorite manager there. We love that guy.

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