I think it speaks to a deeper love than what most people can comprehend when two people can be together romantically, run multiple businesses, and play in a band together for numerous years like KW (he/they) and Vic (they/them) of Vile Creature do. The Canadian duo has been together for over six years now. A majority of that time, they've operated as this sprawling doom metal force in addition to their business endeavors and life as romantic partners.
As years have unfolded for Vile Creature, their music has slowly shifted and transmogrified. Droning, sludge-riddled doom has slowly morphed into an experimental long-form approach to heavy music. Snapshots of their music since 2015's A Steady Descent Into The Soil has shown this progression. On their newest outing, Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, it is extremity unbound and untethered to standard genre tropes.
Though their music can seem oppressive, their message is anything but. Their deep love seeps into their communities—both Ontario and heavy metal— in many ways. Their music has long championed positivity, whether it is finding it, creating it, or nurturing it. They have also been enduring advocates for equality through all of their music and social presence. On this new full-length, they pull the lens back a bit, casting a wider gaze to the world at large and how apathy pervades society as a whole in addition to many of the things that plague progress.
To accomplish their mission, KW and Vic scrapped their previous processes and came at these five new tracks differently. Blossoming confidence, new writing approaches, and some help from friends and other musicians turn every second of Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! into some of the most powerful music in the first half of this tumultuous year. It all culminates in an absolutely stunning arrangement of choir music and plodding thunderous extreme metal—it is, quite possibly, the greatest single moment of Vile Creature's discography.
KW and Vic agreed to sit down and talk after their long days at work. Surrounded by their animals, curled up on the couch, we talked about their newest album, life as partners in more than just music, and how to get involved during these trying times. Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! arrives this Friday through Prosthetic Records. Pick up a copy of the album and read our in-depth conversation now.
How long have you two been partners both in life and in business?
Vic: Almost six years
KW: We’ve been together for almost six years and opened a food truck together four years ago..?
Vic: Yeah, I quit the same job we were working and KW got fired from it a week later and we were like, “what are we going to do now?”
KW: I had this idea for a really long time of opening a vegan hot dog cart and calling it Rescue Dogs because I thought it was great. We did it and it went really well for a bunch of years then we went into owning this grocery/bakery/deli and then also running the food truck.
Vic: It was kind of a gradual upgrade. We’ve worked together for a long time.
KW: Like five years.
Vic: So, we’re not sick of each other yet because we have a band.
KW: Yes, we also play in a band together. We like each other.
Well, that is a relief!
KW: This is an interview about the hot dog cart, correct?
Yes, I came here strictly for the hot dog cart.
KW: I’m glad. You have real OG knowledge and I appreciate that.
That is what I am here for. Now my question to you about said hot dog cart: did you have any specialties? Was there an Ontario Dog like Seattle has a Seattle Dog. You know how a bunch of places have their dog. Was there an Ontario Dog?
Vic: The Ice Dogs promoted a special dog we did for one day!
KW: The Ice Dogs are a junior hockey team. The Ontario Hockey League is a big thing—obviously, we live in Canada—and in Ontario, we have the OHL which is 16 to 20-year-olds before they go pro. The Niagara Ice Dogs were the team in St. Catharine’s where we lived at the time. They did a cross-promotional hot dog which was fun and weird.
Vic: Very weird.
KW: There were definitely smashed potatoes on top of it. The signature dog we had was the Rescue Dog—the namesake. It was a vegan chili cheese dog. We hand-rolled all the hot dogs and it was our own chili and our own cheese.
That sounds awesome. Kind of switching gears, the hot dog cart went along, the bakery opened up, and you’ve been in a band together—how did Vile Creature come together as an idea for you two to dive into music together?
KW: Soon after Vic and I met, Vic established an interest in wanting to learn how to play an instrument. They wanted to play drums. I said, “buy a drum kit and I’ll teach you how to play.” I know how to play drums and the only way I know how to teach is by writing. So, Vic bought a drum kit. We ended up sitting down and Vic learned how to play and learning rhythms while I was playing random guitar stuff. Vic picked it up super quickly and three months later we had our first record.
Vic: I think initially, we were rehearsing at a rented practice space in Toronto. I remember this one time there was this god-awful smell just oozing in and around the room. We were like, “what the fuck is that smell? What is going on?” We determined it was the drum throne absorbing ass sweat for god knows how long. So, we complained about it…
KW: [laughs] We complained?!
Vic: We did!
KW: We mentioned it to the dude. Like, “you’ve got to smell this…” So, he came in and said, “Oh, this is bad!”
Vic: Then he gave us a free session.
KW: I don’t know if they gave us a session. I think they just swapped the seat.
Vic: I think they gave us some free time…
KW: It was pretty gross. I’m not sure we got anything for free. I do know that was your second time playing drums so welcome to the bad smells, bud.
Vic: My advice as a drummer is: don’t ever lend your drum seat out to anyone.
That’s valuable information.
KW: And that’s how we started our band!
I love it! Great origin story. From when this began and as the last five or six years unfolded, how has the approach to your music changed as you’ve learned to come together as a musical duo?
KW: The first few years were very much feeling out playing together. Obviously, Vic was starting to play an instrument and I hadn’t played one in five years, so I was getting back into playing guitar. It was very much feeling out who we were as musicians. I feel like as Vic settled in to…
Vic: Getting more confident.
KW: Yeah, gaining confidence behind the kit and I found my place on the fretboards where I was comfortable and starting to flesh out the music I wanted to write, not just creating for creation’s sake, I feel like it’s been cool to continually grow and challenge ourselves. Every time we’ve gone into creating something, we’ve sat down or I’ll yell at Vic from across the room and say, “Hey! What do we want to change this time?” Then we just come up with ideas that we want to explore. It’s been fun each time.
Vic: I think one thing specifically that you can see the gradual change is: when we started, KW just did vocals and then alongside the releases, I started to try and do vocals. Then, by Cast of Static and Smoke, we were doing a pretty equal number of vocals.
KW: Yeah, there was a conscious decision—the truth of it is that when we started the band, you were pretty adamant you didn’t want to do vocals.
Vic: It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t have any confidence that I would be able to do it.
KW: Then eventually you tried it and were like, “Okay, this is fun!” Then I was like, “Oh my God, I never want to do vocals again now.”
Vic: That was just a matter of you wanting to focus on rocking out on guitar live.
KW: I just want to play guitar.
Vic: Yeah, instead of worrying about everything vocally. It’s a challenge to do vocals and drums at the same time, but it’s cool to be a little bit more confident with that aspect.
I’m sure putting the reps in and taking that step initially to take on that challenge you become more comfortable and more confident with it. I’ve heard the initial steps to try and drum and do vocals at the same time is a bit daunting.
Vic: Yeah, you just have to practice, and you have to cut some things out live.
KW: I think your headset microphone was a big thing.
Vic: That was a huge thing. I was using a boom stand for a long time and—as much as I think the headset might be super nerdy—it makes me not worry about moving my head in the right direction. That’s helpful.
Continuing with the progression, holistically speaking, for Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! You both made the jump to Prosthetic Records now. How has the move to a major label influenced or impacted your typical DIY operations?
KW: That’s a good question. Honestly, not a ton has changed other than we got a really awesome support system around us and people who are really invested in the things that aren’t playing music and believe in it. That’s really fun and—to go with the theme of the conversation—it’s given us a lot of confidence.
Working with all the labels before being on Prosthetic—Cory at Halo of Flies was so awesome to work with and was game for anything. Same with Andy at Dry Cough. We’ve never really had an issue when Prosthetic asked to work with us. It was really simple and easy. It’s kind of allowed us to play music and then go to work. Then, when we come home, we don’t have to worry about promoting a record and sending a million emails.
Becky and Steve at Prosthetic are phenomenal people both in the work they do and the quality of their character. It’s just been effortless and rad. It feels like we have a really good team of people that want to have our music heard, which is cool.
Along those lines of the jump in labels and the growth and confidence over the years; though Vile Creature is still the same at its core—the message, personal politics, you two working together as a couple—this new record on its own looks and feels very different than anything you two have done. Right off the bat, just looking at it visually, the album artwork is incredibly striking. Where did the idea for the album art originate?
Vic: We really wanted to go back to using photography because we had used it in the past. We agreed that it was visually striking to compose something that is existing and also add a little illustration. I’m obsessed with surrealism and absurd visuals. Also, KW is obsessed with Suspiria and bright colors—just creepy and unsettling stuff. We had a couple of people in mind that we had to carry out this vision we had and they’re extremely talented. It was really cool to have this idea and then have these wonderful folks help us…
KW: Bring the idea to life. Yeah, I feel like we walked a really thin line between being stupid and outrageous and really juxtaposing beauty and terror. I feel like we fell on the right side of it. All credit is due to Danika Zandboer and Bri (Duguay) who was the model on the cover. They really took this idea we had and ran with it. Stephen Wilson did the drawings and layout. It looks exactly as I pictured it in my head when we nailed down the ideas.
Vic: Speaking of themes, we’ve always put our music out there enveloped with this idea that people could impart their own ideas on it even though our ideas and what we’re saying is pretty specific in terms of our politics and such. I feel like it’s important to us for people to interpret their own things. This album cover really gives people their own imagination when it comes to the music that accompanies it.
I remember when I first saw it appear on my timeline, it makes you take a step back. It gives you a real visceral response. Hearing some of the Suspiria influence and what you all were envisioning, it definitely comes through in the final product.
Vic: I’m glad. It’s cool to have something so visually bright when it comes to “metal music.” As much as we love evil shit, it’s nice to have something that is not traditionally associated with harsh music.
KW: Then again, you do have someone staring off into the distance with a mouth full of worms.
Vic: Yeah, so it’s bright pastels, you have something beautiful, then you look in her mouth. I tried to put the worms in my mouth and I could not, so I imagine people looking at it are getting this upset stomach feel.
KW: We will definitely always clarify they are very much real worms.
Was this done in one take? Did Bri like go and then you got it? What was that process like?
Vic: We did not lie to her and go, “It’s only one take.” Then go, “Oh, one more please.”
KW: She came in prepared and when we asked her to do it, she took a while to think about it. She knew who we were and where we were coming from then after our conversation felt like she could personally support the artistic idea of it. Second, she felt like it would be a cool way to process stuff. I completely respect, and I feel like that tension you can see on the cover is from Bri dealing with stuff while doing these photos.
Vic: That was something we worked out. She wanted to be a part of it because she had some things of her own to work through.
KW: We did 12 takes total. We had to load all of the worms—it was like a handful of worms—a horde. We had to load the horde of worms into her mouth, she had to close her mouth, get set into position, and then open her mouth. As the worms came out, the pictures were being taken. We did that 12 times.
KW: I can’t say for certain, but of the like 130 photos taken, I’m pretty sure the one we picked was in the first or second take.
You needed others to just make sure.
KW: Yeah, there are a bunch with her looking forward, different eye placements. Danika is a food photographer.
Vic: An amazing food photographer.
KW: She’s also done some really phenomenal portrait work. In her portfolio, she has a lot of cool portrait series. When we asked her to do it, she came with her own ideas and really knew where to place Bri and how to take that photo so we could get exactly what we were looking for. It was a real team effort.
Shifting towards the music and the theme of the album, you mentioned in a previous statement that songs like, “You Who Have Never Slept,” come from “…a place of frustration; the culmination of years of letting emotions like apathy dictate how you interact with the world and finally striking back with everything you can muster.” The apathy you speak of—does it pertain to personal apathy, apathy on a global perspective, or both perhaps?
KW: It’s definitely all of the above.
Vic: Yes, but I think for me it feels personal. It’s definitely tied to my personal thoughts to feeling like I’m not doing enough and feeling like I’m sliding a comfortable, uncaring indifference and I don’t want that on myself.
So, what do you do in cases like this where you find yourself potentially slipping into these apathetic scenarios?
Vic: Taking care of yourself and doing things for your own pleasure—without hurting people—is totally in line. Taking care of your own needs, whether it’s the simplest things like drinking enough water and eating decently. It’s also reaching out to people in any way you can to know you’re not alone. I think that’s a step towards being more intentional and being a part of a community.
KW: It’s really important to do shit for yourself. It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: You only have one life. We’re not around for very long and you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself because it’s hard to take care of other people when you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin or feel yourself.
I imagine it’s a little tougher over the last few months given everything that has been going on too.
Vic: It’s hard to reach out to people when you’re being forced to isolate. It’s like, “Oh, I feel like I’m spending too much time on myself because I’m not able to do community-based things.”
From a global perspective, where do you see this apathy pervading or finding its way into your personal lives?
Vic: Seeing everything happen right now as a cumulative effect of compounded, generational stuff that is systemic that you feel like you can’t do anything about because it’s so large. You think, “Where does this come from?” Then you might learn the history of colonialism and realize, “Whoa, that train was going a long time ago.”
I see a lot of people who don’t take a lot of responsibility for white supremacy. They say, “It’s not our fault because these things have been happening. I’m not responsible for it…” It’s understanding that these huge institutional and systemic systems. We need to look at the everyday things we’re privileged from and see what we can do that might seem small to us but might add up in the grand scheme of things.
I appreciate that. It’s a really insightful explanation into some of those things. Elsewhere on the album, “Harbinger of Nothing,” you both wrote for the Adult Swim singles a while back. How does this single that was previously released tie into the general theme of the album? Were you both thinking or laying out general themes for this album when this single arrived?
KW: “Harbinger” was the starting gun for writing the record. The story behind it is: Adult Swim got in touch with us on the 1st of March of 2019 and asked us to be a part of Metal Swim 2. This was huge for me because Metal Swim 1—a decade ago—I listened to that thing on repeat forever. The bands on that are amazing. I felt really overwhelmed and honored about it.
We found out it had to be an unreleased song and they needed it by April 1st. We were getting ready to play our first Roadburn and we had not had anything written. So, we hunkered down and spent some time—it was kind of an exercise in putting together a song in a very short amount of time. Musically, it came together within four or five days. On day 7 we went into a studio here in Hamilton and recorded it. Then it was mixed, mastered, and sent out.
Musically, it was something a little bit different than what we had done before. It felt cool to write that way. It definitely got the creative juices flowing. Lyrically, Vic did 90% of the lyrics on that song and when they were recording the central section of it, I wept. I broke down in the studio. It was one of the coolest vocal performances I’d ever got to see.
Reading the lyrics and spending time with it, then hearing it back helped me, personally, form where I wanted to go with the rest of the writing. So, even though that song was written well before the rest of the record, it definitely informed writing the rest of the record. Once we were well into having everything together, we realized that it was meant to be on the record and also the opening track. Then we went back and re-recorded the whole thing except for Vic’s vocal parts.
Knowing that “Harbinger of Nothing” was the starting point for writing the record, you began to develop ideas for lyrics, arrangements, and themes. What were some of your early ideas or sentiments that you knew you wanted to convey through the album?
Vic: I’m thinking about the lyrics to “Harbinger of Nothing” now and it’s probably the most personal lyrics I’ve ever written.
In the past, especially our first record, we talk about the shit that we’ve dealt with. Then we figured out a way to escape that reality that we necessarily didn’t want to live. Pessimistic Doomsayer is about escaping into literature and whatever you have to make life better. Cast of Static and Smoke was a fiction story that KW and I wrote.
This is more of a macro look at the world and our place in it and feeling like sometimes the black hole tries to consume us, but we will not let it.
KW: It was definitely a return to talking about personal pain, but with more general verbiage. Musically, we really just wanted to do whatever felt right and not limit ourselves to anything—kind of try to forget the past records and start from scratch. It was really fun to do some weird, wild new things which we got to in “Harbinger of Nothing,” which we said was our jumping-off point.
Speaking of weird, wild, and new things. The title tracks for this record are, by far (in my opinion) the grandiose and most unique compositions you two have done as Vile Creature. I was hoping we could dive into that and share the steps that went into making that.
KW: I am a huge musical theatre nerd. Going back, our second release was an EP called Pessimistic Doomsayer. On it, our friend Laurel Minnes from Niagara sang on it. She’s a phenomenal vocalist which is only topped by how awesome of a person she is. We recorded with her and she played some shows with us which were so much fun.
I knew very early on I wanted to write a choir piece. Not just a piece sung with a lot of vocals but a full-on choir piece. Laurel was the first person I thought of. I had the song structure in my head, but vocally I needed help. I wanted to collaborate with Laurel again. She plays in a band called Minuscule where it’s her and an entire choir. It was definitely kismet.
She came over and we went through it. We had this three- or four-hour writing session where we came up with all of the melodies. She is so easy to work with and over the next few months put together demos and worked on it.
I knew I wanted extra instrumentation on it. Tanya Byrne, who is in Bismuth—a band we’re doing a commissioned piece at Roadburn 2021 with—she is an actual composer. I don’t think enough people know how musically skilled and educated Tanya is. She really flexed her muscles on this one. She contributed some really beautiful organ and piano lines to it. It just turned into seven and a half minutes of something I was really passionate about writing. The second half of it is six and a half minutes of some of the heaviest stuff I feel like I’ve ever had the chance to write. That whole piece as a title track—it’s the music I was meant to make.
It’s a really powerful piece. I remember sitting and listening to it the first time. I used the word grandiose. It’s very large. It’s very overwhelming and overpowering in the best way I could possibly say it. I would echo your sentiment about how important it was for you to write a piece like this. I think it’s a testament to both of you and your friends of just how intelligent your writing is.
KW: I appreciate it. Thank you very much!
Vic: I’m excited for everyone to hear it all.
You mentioned Roadburn and everything’s been put on hold for this year. For you two, what is the best way that people can support either Vile Creature’s music or you two as business owners in Ontario? What can your fans or other people reading our conversation do?
Vic: If people feel inclined to buy the record online or get a physical form, that’s really cool. There are a lot of things people can do to support causes financially too.
KW: If people want to support us, people can get the record via Bandcamp, which is done through Prosthetic. Also, we have a North American/European merch store that has a bunch of stuff.
As people, we’re good and we want everyone else to be good. If you have resources like extra money or time and skills—lending it to your community in a safe and healthy way is the best thing we can do right now. I don’t give a fuck about the world getting back to normal right now, I just want it to be better. The best-case scenario of this terrible situation is that hopefully, we’re able to get back to some kind of localized, positive community taking care of itself.
Vic: For sure.
KW: Taking care of yourself and your community and caring about the people around you is the most metal fucking thing around.
Vic: Exactly. It’s cool to be kind. I went by an elementary school and they had that on their LED sign. I thought it was very cute.
KW: Vic has that tattooed on their forehead.
Vic: …but I should.
KW: When my tattoo shop opens up, I’m going to get one of the artists to tattoo “It’s Cool to Be Kind” in reverse on your forehead so when you look into a mirror you can read it.
Vic: Then I can look at myself in the mirror and be like, “Ayyyyy!”