The New Vein.fm Album Is Going To Ruin You
"We Still Call It Vein. No One Says 'Vein.fm' Out Loud."
It’s January 2020 and you’ve got a lot to look forward to this year, but your expectations will soon be upended by unforeseen circumstances. Obviously much of this anticipation relates to Vein, your favorite hardcore band, who just got off the road after two-and-a-half years of nearly nonstop touring on the back of their debut full-length, 2018’s Errorzone. They’re entering the studio to record a follow-up and you’d like to hear it as soon as possible. However, the band and — let’s be real here — the world at large has other plans. By the time you hear the album over two years later, Vein will have debuted a shoegaze side project, released an odds-and-ends compilation, and changed their name. The past two years have shown us some very different sides of the band, and in the end, that perfectly sets the scene for their new album, This World Is Going To Ruin You.
Errorzone is a chaos-splattered masterpiece, 27-and-a-half minutes of labyrinthine compositions engineered for maximum impact. Drawing frequent comparisons to metalcore and nü-metal, the album presented Vein as a flashy, adventurous unit whose Massachusetts hardcore bonafides were still intact. The brief tastes of slowed-down beauty and electronic augmentation were expanded upon, respectively, by the two aforementioned interim releases. The 2020 Fleshwater demo teased out the Deftones influences heard on the back halves of “Errozone” and “Doomtech,” stripping away hardcore elements to emphasize Vein’s fondness for shoegazey textures. Old Data In A New Machine, Vol. 1 compiled outtakes, new takes on tracks from Vein’s 2015 EP Terrors Realm, and remixes that proved Errorzone’s occasional breakbeat samples and caustic atmospherics weren’t just a passing dalliance with electronic music.
That compilation was accompanied by a press release announcing an ever-so-slight name change from Vein to Vein.fm, offering little explanation. Were they sued by another artist named Vein? Heralding a change of direction? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Listening to Vein’s first proper album in nearly four years, it’s clear that the Fleshwater demo and Old Data…, as well as several less-publicized Vein side projects that have sprouted up in the past few years, explain what’s going on throughout This World Is Going To Ruin You better than two lowercase letters and a period.
In many ways, it’s still the same Vein. Guitarist Jeremy Martin’s deft blend of brutish chugga-chugga riffs and squealing harmonics, drummer Matt Wood’s innovative drum-fills-as-beats approach, and vocalist Anthony DiDio’s frantic energy are all alive and well. For much of its first half, This World… resembles Errorzone in theory — short, chaotic songs that often seem reverse-engineered from their breakdowns — if not in practice. The band added DJ/knob-twiddler Benno Levine while touring behind Errorzone, and it’s that increased focus on electronic noise-scapes that first sets the stage for the bleaker, more hollow-eyed territory explored on the album.
Though still performed as tightly as can be imagined, something like 55-second burst “Versus Wyoming” sounds more in danger of falling apart than anything on the scientifically-executed Errorzone, with a cacophony of samples and static bombs going off continuosly in the background. By the album’s end, the tracks “Wavery” and “Funeral Sound” take Vein even further afield, the former a moody slow-burner and the latter a multi-part epic that wrangles a Nine Inch Nails intro and Deftones mid-section into something transcendently defeatist. If there’s one lyric that best sums up the tone throughout, it’s DiDio bellowing, “Who has time to spend unconvinced that we’re all gonna die?” on “Inside Design.”
Ahead of This World Is Going To Ruin You’s release this Friday, I caught up with DiDio over the phone to talk about the long wait between recording and release day, the benefits and limitations of his unique writing process, and of course, the three characters Vein.fm recently tacked onto their name.
You finished recording This World Is Going To Ruin You just before the pandemic and went two years without playing live. What’s that off period been like for you guys?
ANTHONY DIDIO: Not playing shows is a bummer for everyone in the world, so I don’t really count that, but we just hung out and lived our lives, essentially. Just stayed occupied with other things that we like. Wrote more music, worked on some of our other bands and other projects, wrote some more material. Six months ago we all moved in together, so that’s been cool.
Was [2020 remix album] Old Data In A New Machine one of those projects?
DIDIO: That was in the works way before, like shortly after Errorzone came out. It started with “20 Seconds: 20 Hours,” and then the stuff from Terrors Realm that we re-recorded. Those songs have evolved so much since we wrote them, and the way that we would play them live was so different from how they are in the old recordings, so we thought we had to immortalize them. In a sense they’re remixes, but they’re just rearranged by us. So we recorded that, then it was just getting all the electronic remixes all put together, then it was finalizing what was gonna go on it—it just took a couple years. A lot of the remixes were made on the road too, which is cool. So it was essentially done by the time COVID hit, and then that summer we were just like, “OK, we should just get this out now.”
That was the first thing you released under the name Vein.fm, rather than your original name. What inspired the slight name change?
DIDIO: There’s so many other Veins out there, so we just wanted to do something that separated us from the other ones, as well as help expand upon our vibe. It’s like a tag or an extension of the greater umbrella of the music that we all make between all of our bands. We played off of it a bit. Now we’ve got this thing called Deathfmradio and it’s like a collective of all of our stuff and everyone has the “.fm” tag, so it represents all of us, in a way. I think with Vein-dot-fm, though, kids should and still just call it “Vein,” and we still call it “Vein.” No one says “Vein.fm” out loud, it’s kind of just there.
One of those other projects is Fleshwater, and when that demo was released in 2020, the only evidence that anyone from Vein was involved was like, one vague tweet. Are you planning on increasing transparency with these other projects, or is willful obscurity part of the vibe?
DIDIO: We don’t really think about that type of stuff. When Fleshwater came out we weren’t like, “Let’s make sure no one knows.” If anything, I’d like people to know. That’d be great. I think we’re just unintentionally introverted on the internet.
What other projects are going on under the “.fm” umbrella?
DIDIO: There’s solo projects, there’s Living Weapon, Benno has solo stuff [under the name Venom Benzo]. There’s multiple outlets and they’re all getting worked on at once in the background, here or there. It’s just a place for all of our stuff to go. It’s not really a record label, it’s more just like our own little collective thing. There’s lots of cool things it could become, and I think it’ll mainly be centered on our bands and our artistic things, as opposed to becoming a bigger independent label for the general public.
As it’s been two years since you finished recording This World Is Going To Ruin You, are you sick of the material before most people have even heard it?
DIDIO: It can be frustrating, in a sense, where it’s like, “This is how I felt exactly at this time, and now two years have passed.” You know, you naturally evolve as a person. But I also think these songs are timeless, and I think that playing them live is like a whole other second wind — a whole other dimension to the songs is living them and playing them live. So as much as it sucks waiting, it’s also like, the whole time we were waiting we were listening to the album a lot. We definitely want to keep pushing forward and creating new stuff but I don’t think we’re sick of it by any means. Now it’s the part where we get to make it real.
I was surprised at how similar the Errorzone songs sounded live to the way they do on-record. Has it been more challenging to replicate the new material live, or have you guys always shot to make recorded material that you don’t have to alter much to perform live?
DIDIO: I mean we don’t do anything too ridiculous, but this album has a lot more going on. There’s definitely more to figure out, and it’s never going to sound exactly the same, but it’ll sound close, and if not, it’ll sound like its own version. Now that we have Benno in the band we can actually pull off a lot of it, but we never really do anything that’s ridiculous to the point of not knowing how we’re going to pull it off [live]. If it ever hits that point, we usually end up figuring it out. It’s a fun challenge.
You have a quote in the press release calling every Vein album its “own universe.” What are the biggest differences between Errorzone and This World Is Going To Ruin You‘s respective universes?
DIDIO: Errorzone, as introspective as it is, it’s very bright and futuristic, and you’re exposed. Whereas this one is a boarded-up house that’s much more expansive than you thought — this nightmarish world inside of a house. It sounds fuckin’ stupid — I’m trying to think of a better way to describe it — but you look at the album covers and you look at the visuals, and I think that describes it the best.
No, definitely. I feel like Errorzone is, for lack of a better word, brighter than this new one. It’s jam-packed with hooks and crazy song structures, but This World… seems like a different compositional approach at times.
DIDIO: On this album there’s a lot of repeating parts, but it’s balanced out by other songs and other moments where nothing repeats, and it just plows through to the end. In my opinion, this album has even more catchy parts and memorable things because I feel like it’s more dynamic, and that there’s more dimensions.
Whereas Errorzone was more nonstop.
DIDIO: Yeah, absolutely. With this one, there’s more breathing room, and there’s moments when you don’t breathe at all. There’s more ups and downs; Errorzone was one speed the whole time.
The new stuff sounds like more of an engaging challenge to write and compose, but is it as fun to perform?
DIDIO: For me personally, I think of things in terms of how I’m hearing them and what I want to hear, and I don’t really think about the playing aspect as much. One thing I thought about on the last album, once we went and actually started playing the songs live, I was like, “Wow, this is a lot of words. Maybe I shouldn’t have written it this way ’cause this isn’t fuckin’ realistic, like at all.” I thought that would affect my approach on the new one, but I kind of just did the same thing again, only because it was what sounds the best, this is what I hear in my head. You’re thinking about what’s going to sound the best and what’s going to be the best recorded, and then eventually you just tackle it with a lot of practice.
So with envisioning what you want your vocals to sound like in your head, does that mean you’re thinking in terms or syllables and patterns before you start writing actual lyrics?
DIDIO: Pretty much. Going off what you were saying, based on feels and stuff, I feel like once we’re demo-ing stuff is when we get a good sense of like, “Oh, this feels good,” “This feels bad,” or “This feels good, I thought it sounded like this in my head but this actually feels better.”
How do you think that affects your writing, trying to fit words into predetermined spaces?
DIDIO: Sometimes it helps and sometimes it makes things more complicated. It’ll help you come up with certain phrases or words that fill in blanks or even inspire new ideas, but it can also be confining because it feels like you’re limited. There might be something you want to say that’s not going to sound the way you want it to. It’s a back-and-forth thing — sometimes you take things you wrote and convert them into the phrasing you heard in your head. But I also think it helps deliver things correctly over the course of the song. It’s a puzzle.
At what point in that process of writing new material does a theme start forming for an album?
DIDIO: With this one, it started with the title. With Errorzone, a couple songs were written and then the title was formed. The title brings about a lot of inspiration.
So you had the title for This World… before most of the songs? Or at least most of the lyrics?
DIDIO: Yeah, the last part of the album was the first thing we had. The riff [on closing track “Funeral Sound”] with those words getting repeated, that was the first thing we had, and then Matt was like, “That should be the album title.” So we had the title, a mood, and a riff.
In terms of length and scope, that song’s gotta be the most ambitious Vein song to date, although even the shortest Vein song’s so full of complexity. Was “Funeral Sound” more of a challenge to write than your average song?
DIDIO: Honestly, it felt like a ton of pieces that just came together in a second. I knew I wanted to do a song like that on the album, as a final song, but I had no idea it was gonna sound anything like that. All the ideas happened very fast — like here’s this piano thing, and then it cuts to this, and then the outro with the title was already written — it just made sense. Although it sounds extremely complex it happened very quickly.
Three songs on the album have guest vocalists [Thursday’s Geoff Rickly on “Fear In Non Fiction,” Jeromes Dream’s Jeff Smith on “Hellnight,” and rapper BONES on “Orgy In The Morgue”] — were those written with specific vocalists, or at least the idea of a vocalist outside of the band, in mind?
DIDIO: It was a pre-planned thing with specific parts. We just hit them all up, and thankfully they all did it. I think the three guests are a representation of our influences. We’d be playing a part, and typically Matt could [envision] the guest vocalist at said part, and bring it up. For the Geoff Rickly one, when I was writing the melody and lyrics, I had in mind that he would be singing there, but I wasn’t like, “OK, Geoff Rickley is like this, so he’s gonna say this stuff.” I was writing with them in mind but not necessarily thinking too much about it.
You called Errorzone introspective, and while that still seems true of This World…, it also seems to gesture to the world at large as well.
DIDIO: Yeah for sure, which is ironic because of all the introverted imagery of a boarded-up house. I’m saying “we” a lot on it. Like I was saying earlier, it just complemented what I was hearing. It’s on a bigger scale.
This World Is Going To Ruin You is out 3/4 on Nuclear Blast/Closed Casket Activities.