With pummeling aggression brought on by crippling fear, Brooklyn by way of Florida duo SLAVVE take on that last great unexplored terrain: yourself. There’s a reason the first decipherable words on their excellent studio debut, the SLAVVE EP are “welcome to / my pity party.” You have just entered singer/guitarist/songwriter Chuka Chukuma’s brain, population one. It’s obvious: Chukuma spends a lot of time thinking about himself. This sort of exercise in self-masturbation is not a bad thing, though. Why? It produced this EP, and it’s a doozy.
What began as Chukuma’s bedroom solo project has now been amped up to 10 with man-with-a-million-arms drummer––and former Surfer Blood & Weird Wives member––Marcos Marchesani. The result is a formidable one: it’s 17 minutes that feels thrice that, because, well, you forget you’re in your head when travelling through the dark recesses of someone else’s. Navigating everything from hardcore, emo, post-punk, and shoe gaze, the SLAVVE EP is a genre-blurring effort accomplished with a sort of sad-eyed grace. Obama’s space race is to map the brain; SLAVVE say fuck that, I don’t need expensive, high-tech equipment and a PhD to know myself––all I need is pain and a pen.
We shot the shit with Chukuma and Marchesani about the debut, which you can read below.
Tell us about the birth and brief life of SLAVVE. I know there’ve been some lineup changes and that it began as your solo project, but would you mind filling in the blanks?
Chuka: Back in 2007 I left Florida for a while and moved up to Rhode Island. I was out there making art but no music, at least not seriously. Meanwhile my friends back home were playing and killing it. I was so stoked for everyone but just bummed in general I was away and not being able to be there with my homies. One of them being Marcos. So I guess in response to that I would write and record little riffs and songs and send them to Marcos while he was on the road. In hindsight it was like how Gucci writes a bunch of songs when he's locked up, I was just preparing for when I got out [laughs]. After a few years I moved out to New York where Marcos also had and we just got it poppin', like right out the gate.
Marcos: Yeah, lately we've been having friends fill in on bass. The workings of SLAVVE are all right here though. I've worked with a lot of people musically but with Chuka especially since we've been doing this since we were kids we've always been at like 1000 percent [laughs]. It's totally a language in itself. But you put a guitar in this guys hand and it's just wild. He's always had these lines that have me sitting there hearing hundreds of rhythms and styles and words. I don't know, I think we have this bond musically that allows us to express daily emotions, rants, and situations through SLAVVE.
Why the two-piece approach? Did things just fall that way or is the minimalism deliberate?
C: Not really. Marcos and I have been playing together forever, a lot of the time as a two-piece. He's like my brother, we grew up playing music together, literally learning our instruments from the start so we've always just bonded really tightly on that level. I can remember being in grade school staying up all night at Cos' place playing god awful covers of like Norma Jean and Poison The Well [laughs]. Two-pieces are rad but we're open, like how sick would it be if SLAVVE was a nine-piece? Think a more multicultural type Slipknot? I mean c'mon.
Obviously SLAVVE is heavy band name. As a black front-man I assume you know full well the associations people are going to make with a name like that. Is the political implication here deliberate? What are you intending by it? Or is this just some happenstance band-name-picked-out-of-a-hat-and-people-reading-into-it–the-wrong-way type deal?
C: Well like I said I started the whole thing in the wake of being absent from a life I had only knew, so jokingly in the beginning it was a real satirical use of the word. But quickly on it just made sense and stuck. It's more in the vein of Ye's “New Slaves” joint. We're all bound by something you know and SLAVVE's a platform to come out and just let all that go. I think actually naming my project slave would of been pretty ignorant as I am in no way near in any sort of condition of one, so respectfully I opted for the first world version. The new SLAVVE [laughs].
Tell us a little bit about the process of recording the SLAVVE EP. And with that, mind telling us a bit about your relationship with Bloodmoss?
C: On perdyy purple wax and all. We on stoked on this and Bloodmoss.
M: Yeah, definitely. After about a year of writing, tweaking, and rehearsing, we put out a [demo] cassette with our friend Brendon Avalos who releases under Lost Artifact. We got a track on a few sites and blogs and Matt Halverson from Lefse hit us up. From day one he and his camp have been so supportive and real into what we had to offer. I think he had already been tossing around the idea for the new label, Bloodmoss, but maybe it solidified a bit more after hearing us and a few other label mates. I think it was a lot of right place, right time thing but who knows, Chuka and I have been grinding for so long. It's great to be on a label with like-minded goals pushing out heavier, louder music. They said they wanted to do a release and we were down. Chuka came across Paul Kostabi over at Thunderdome Studios on some random internet shit, just surfin' the web. We booked a weekend sesh at the studio in Piermont, NY and banged the songs out in about eight hours. We captured the feel of this underground-cave-lair-basement set up Paul has for the tracking, and came in the next day to lay some vocals, and there we had the SLAVVE EP. SHIT WAS BOMB!!!
C: Yeah, the recording process was pretty crazy. We had like way more tunes we wanted to record so we decided to just pick a few shades of SLAVVE. The full-length may be way different. We've got plenty of flavors.
What’s next for SLAVVE?
M: We just want to play and put out more music. We've got plenty of it. But I definitely think getting out and on the road is key and coming into focus more and more. Live, I would have to say it’s a pretty cathartic experience so to share that with more people would be amazing.
C: Totally! We're just happy the records out and stoked to hit the road and play. For anyone, anywhere. We do birthdays.
The SLAVVE EP is out now on Bloodmoss Records.