D//E Interviews: Uniform

The soon to be released, Shame, will be the fourth album by New Yorkers, Uniform, a work worthy of repeated listening, deeply inspired by literature and representative of the band's heady creativity, with a relatively cleaner sound, yet absolutely proportionate to their earlier material.

Unifrom become the first act ever to return for an interview with D//E on which vocalist Michael Berdan discusses the new album, the current state of the world and the band's future plans.

Congratulations on album number four. How different is it?

Thank you! It feels good to see it finished. I suppose it’s a bit different from our previous records, but it isn’t a huge departure. This feels like a more fully realized idea from beginning to end. The songs are more concise and the themes are more direct. It is a significantly cleaner sounding record than anything we’ve made before. By making a more sonically accessible record, I think that we manage to get our points across in ways that we’ve never been able to before. That’s not for me to judge, though.

Does the creative process feel any smoother after having built up a larger body of work?

Yes, and very significantly. We’re much better at communicating with each other now. There is a much greater sense of trust in all of our individual abilities as players and songwriters. We’re more willing to test new ideas than ever before, but at the same time more diligent about self editing. If one of us wants to try something in a song we all try to work it in. If it’s cool we keep it. If it’s not we cut it pretty quickly and none of us get offended. We try to act in service to the song at all times, not the other way around.

What did Randall Dunn bring to the table?

Randall is a genius. He has a stylistic vocabulary for realizing heavy music to its full potential that far exceeds pretty much anyone else. He brought a tool kit of abilities and ideas that helped make this record all that it could be. Almost more importantly, he was an extra set of ears. Greenberg generally handles all production and mixing for us and he’s great at it, but having a capable outside hand from someone who isn’t in the band proved to be invaluable.

Obviously literature has always been a big part of your world. Guide us through the books and sources that sparked the inspiration for Shame.

Oh man, there is a lot on this one. I found myself pulling a lot of inspiration from detective novels from authors as varied as Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson to Brian Evenson and Matthew Stokoe. Spent a lot of time with the more crime oriented works of contemporary Japanese authors like Ryu Murakami and Fuminori Nakamura. There’s a lot of Cormac McCarthy and Donald Ray Pollock in there too. Basically, I was reading a lot about hard luck men who do a terrible job at dealing with their problems. They revel in existential despair and place their problems at the foot of the world. I wanted to take a good look at exactly who I don’t want to be.

Why did you relate that much to the concept of the antihero?

Self pity leads to self destruction. Even though these characters by and large maintain a stiff upper lip they are all clearly haunted. Their experiences are used as excuses for egregious behavior and disgusting attitudes. I think that many of us have a tendency to devolve into creatures of pure resentment when we let ourselves. Cynicism is a natural reaction to existing in a fucked up world. Stepping away from that mindset is a daily endeavor.

What are some of the main themes and ideas examined in Shame?

It’s mostly about the roots of my cynicism. Defense mechanisms that I learned during childhood I’ve carried over throughout my life. The various psychological armors that I built for protection eventually became my prison, and I want out. This means taking an honest appraisal of my life and how point A leads to point B.

You've frequently explored dystopian themes in your writing. How do you feel about the current state of things, now that it's clear to everyone that real life is strongly paralleled to some sort of an apocalyptic scenario?

I believe that we are living through a period of societal growing pains. It’s not the end of humanity (although that is quickly approaching due to climate change), but a profound shift in consciousness. There is never growth without some kind of suffering. People who have suffered for a long time are justifiably tired of their pain being disregarded and their lives not meaning as much to those in power as others. This leads to some people who look like me accepting that they have played a role in the institutional oppression of others and making a concerted effort to change that. On the other hand, there are a whole lot of people who look like me who live in intense denial of their place upholding structural oppression. Those people who fear positive change have a tendency to react in some pretty terrifying ways, and those are largely the people in power at the moment. I’m not gonna pretend that I know how things are gonna end, but I have a sinking feeling that we have a long way to go.

Is art the best response to the world's violence?

I’m not sure. For me as a middle aged, middle class cis-het white man, I’m gonna see the world through a certain lens of privilege. In that regard it’s easy to say that art and other forms of peaceful protest can bring about necessary catharsis and healing. I’m not a black man who has had to live in fear of the cops for my whole life. Trying to walk that mile in somebody else’s shoes, I might not feel the rage the same way that someone less privileged than me does, but I do sure as hell believe them and try to understand where they are coming from. I could never even begin to suggest that it would be better for a person of color, whose lifetime of justifiable anger has finally boiled over to the point that they feel compelled to burn down a building, should really just write a song or a poem or paint a picture or something.

Do you miss touring? Do you see things going back to some kind of normalcy any time soon?

I enjoyed the break after being on the road so much over the last couple of years, but at this point things are starting to reach an existential fever pitch. I desperately miss playing live in a way that I never thought possible. As for things going back to normal, who’s to say? Nothing is going to even begin to get better until there’s a vaccine, but even that will take time to circulate. Then we’ll have the anti-vaxers fucking it up for everyone. What a mess...

Once again a new album finds Uniform with a new lineup. How did drummer Mike Sharp join the band?

We hired Mike as a fill-in drummer on our summer tour with Deafheaven and Drab Majesty back in 2018, and he instantly fit in. The man is a musical encyclopedia, a joy of a human being, and one of the greatest punk drummers of our time. I’m beyond grateful that he’s decided to waste his precious time and abilities with us.

Are there any plans for the band after the album's release?

We’ve started working on a collab record with one of our favorite bands, but I can’t say who yet. There’s a chance that we’ll play a live stream set or something like that at some point in the near future. We’ve got some tour dates booked for 2021 but they are VERY tentative. It’s all so hard to say right now. Living life one day at a time.

Shame is out September 11th, 2020 through Sacred Bones.

Band photo by Ebru Yildiz
Album art by Heather Gabel


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