Atlanta’s Dead Register has a complex kaleidoscope of sonic landscapes in their dark palette. Fronted by husband and wife tag team M.Chvasta (vocals, bass VI, bass) and Avril Che (keys, synthetic bass, piano bass, textures, backing vocals), the band is rounded out with the talents of drummer Randy Garcia. Together, the three musicians fuse a huge collection of inspirations into a rich, sophisticated hybrid of goth, post-punk, industrial, and 90s alternative rock. They do not simply bend genres; they snap them in half and rearrange them into entirely new crystalline structures.
Dead Register has now unveiled their fantastic new video for “Alive”, a look at life under various types of lockdown, ennui, or existential angst. There’s of course a pandemic flavour to it – but it addresses the repetitive cycles that wear us down under late capitalism, mental health crises, and environmental issues. Although it is DIY, the creative spark and M. Chvasta’s excellent pantomime really draw waters from the deep emotional well that Dead Register digs with their music.
The band spoke with Post-Punk.com about their history, their creative process, and the meaning behind the new video:
Can you tell us about the formation of Dead Register? How did you guys come together, and what kind of music, artistic statement, and atmosphere do you wish to create?
Chvasta: Avril and I have been friends since the dawn of time. Sometime in the 2000’s back we discussed starting a “Bass VI + Synth Bass” band. In 2013, we made it happen. I wanted to present an environment in a lower register, with haunting, powerful hooks, melodies and jagged hypnotic riffs and rhythms. We built a handful of songs with programmed drums, then quickly decided that a live drummer would bring more energy, movement, and power to the stage. We wanted to make the most crushing sound – familiar, but in our own voice. So… here it is!
What music did you listen to growing up? From what post-punk, goth, doom, and shoegaze acts do you draw influence?
Chvasta: My first (and favorite) goth records were Fields of the Nephilim and Grinning Plowman back when I wasn’t old enough to drive. Avril and I both love Killing Joke, Godflesh, Neurosis, & Birthday Party. I love the first two Swervedriver albums. Not much of this comes across in our sound though. People often compare my voice to Brendan from Dead Can Dance or Peter Murphy. Sure. I’ll take it! Funny, the first time I heard Type 0 Negative I asked the DJ if he was playing Peter Murphy and he scoffed. Type O did have some really interesting production.
Wait a minute, am I hearing this correctly, there is no traditional guitar in your music?
Chvasta: Avril plays synthetic bass into a sub-throwing bass amp, and distorted harrowing highs into a guitar amp, all from one single 88 keyed beast with an array of effects pedals. I play a Bass VI (looks like a guitar, but it’s an octave below in the bass register) and a traditional four-string bass for some songs here and there. Randy plays a hugely resonating drum kit. Our live sound is very bass-heavy, yet the atmospheric tones are all-encompassing.
All the sounds you hear from us are being played live on stage. No backing tracks. No guitars snuck into the recording. Minimal overdubs here and there on the record – we wanted to keep it raw and as close to our live sound as we could.
Can you tell us how the creative process evolved in creating your new album “Alive” versus “Fiber”.
Chvasta: Before we present songs to Randy, Avril and I toil over Bass/Synth/Layers, yell at each other for hours, drink coffee, rinse repeat. When we have a skeleton built, we throw it at Randy and see how it feels. He deftly dials in some huge beats and groove.
Not much has changed in our writing process, but perhaps more emphasis on focused parts and more soaring atmospheres. Turn up that reverb pedal!
Can you tell us about the cover artwork by Stephen Kasner? How did that come about?
Chvasta: He’s one of my favorite visual artists. He’s done so many covers for so many of the heavy/post-hardcore bands that I enjoyed growing up. I had sent Dead Register’s music to him in a cold-call years back, and he responded very positively. He passed shortly thereafter. Tommy, the owner of Seeing Red Records & Redefining Darkness Records worked closely with Stephen in Cleveland and introduced us to this piece. I totally fell in love with it. He connected us directly with the family and they gave us their blessing to use it for our album.
Can you tell us about the song “Alive”? What are the themes you are exploring with the song, and what went into the songwriting process, as well as why was this chosen as the title track for the album?
Chvasta: In short, this song was about going through life on autopilot, akin to being a robot. Not even feeling much of anything, questioning why the fuck I’m even here. We had extravagant plans to make a video with life-sized robots, but we ran out of time and didn’t have the resources. We opted to bend this narrative a bit, using bright colors and paper bags to create a vacuous time loop that parallels the mundanity of daily life. Am I even alive?
It seems you have a tradition of animating your videos which reminds us of watching Tool videos from the early 90s. Can you tell us about the production of these videos, and how the visuals are brought to life?
Chvasta: Avril has directed and edited all five of our music videos, which she and I have created in-house with shoe-string budgets with a great amount of help from our friends – volunteering their time in exchange for torture and pizza (especially one Mark Malek, who has assisted with every production). There is actually no traditional animation in our videos. Our previous video was just us experimenting with puppetry. Everything is initially done live in-camera, including the effects. What you think came from a green screen is probably a live projection.
What are the visual themes the band wishes to convey in the video for “Alive”?
Chvasta: Chaos. Dissolution. Insanity. Restlessness. We’re caged like animals. Is there an end?
What is next for the band? Are there any tour dates on the horizon? When does the album come out?
Chvasta: Our new LP, Alive, hits May 13th! We have a June/July tour with our friends in Cortege (Austin) which we’re about to announce! We’re trying to fill our entire end-of-the-year calendar, too. We’ve recently been picked up by Heavy Talent Booking, who have an insane roster, so stay tuned. Thank you so very much for your time. We look forward to seeing you on the road!
Dead Register’s Alive is out around May 13th via Seeing Red Records. You can pre-order the album below via Bandcamp. The album will include the digital pre-order of Alive. You get one track now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album when it’s released.
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