Maths, one of the most potent and electrifying forces in UK hardcore, have returned after a virtual absence of four years. Their new EP ‘The Fires Courting The Sea’, their first recorded effort since 2010 full-length ‘Ascent’ is an absolute stormer, a simultaneous gut punch and adrenaline rush that represents the best these lands have to offer in modern screamo.
Ahead of the record’s upcoming release on Tangled Talk, Already Heard caught up with Zen and Matt from the band to catch up on what’s been going on in the world of Maths.
Already Heard: It’s been a while since ‘Ascent’ came out and things have been quiet in the Maths camp, what have you been up to?
Matt: We all have many interests, musical and otherwise, which keep us busy. Personally, I spend my days as a primary school teacher and my nights working on numerous music projects (currently, hip hop-inspired electronic, pop punk and acoustic), in addition to writing, designing buildings, cycling, etc.
Zen: I run a small label, make music every day and tour a lot in other bands and on my own.
AH: The new record is fantastic. What inspired you to make it – was it just that you had the songs, or do you see this as an opportunity to kick on as a band and make your mark?
Matt: After the completion of ‘Descent’ and ‘Ascent’, there were a few ideas for songs lying around, and we decided a couple of years ago that it would be awesome to write them in full. While it’s great to hear that other people enjoy our music, our primary interest is the writing process and the satisfaction that this brings.
Zen: It’s been a very natural progression from playing shows and practicing all the time, to not playing any shows and never practicing, and now to the middle ground we are at now. I don’t think we have ever had the conversation of “we should stop being a band” or “I really want to play shows again.” It’s just always fallen into place. Like Matt said, the songs themselves have been around in one form or another for a few years before we started recording, but it wasn’t a case of making a record for the sake of it. It felt like we had something new to add to what we did before, like when a director goes “back to their roots” after making huge blockbuster movies, they’re not doing it because it’s the most lucrative or smartest choice, they’re just doing it because they want to. We all love making music, it just felt natural to start making it together again.
AH: The five tracks on the EP are quite explosive and caustic. What were your inspirations behind writing them?
Matt: Musically, we have so many diverse interests. It’s worth mentioning the likes of Jerome’s Dream and Orchid, as they were the types of bands that inspired us originally. While I still listen to these bands, one of my biggest melodic inspirations these days is some of the modern hip hop production. Recently, I’ve also been pondering how influential ‘90s trance music has been on me and on modern music generally.
Zen: Lyrically, they’re very different from any previous writing I’ve done for Maths. Past releases were very self-involved, inward-facing, ‘The Fires Courting The Sea’ is much more open. Each song represents a specific time and place, old memories and present situations. Thinking about it more now, I really think because the recording process took so long the meanings completely changed over time. Words that seemed uncomfortably personal a few years ago now represent shedding negativity and learning to live with nostalgia. Maybe that’s why I agree with the lasting influence of that very brief window in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when trance was mainstream in the UK.
AH: Did you record it yourselves like you did with ‘Ascent’? What was the process this time around?
Matt: Yeah! I personally have always been a fan of learning to do things without having to rely excessively on others. Writing so much music, an understanding of recording became essential. What started out as a necessity has become another interest and passion in my life.
Zen: It was such a long process, but I think that was primarily down to me. We recorded rough ideas for the vocals, then demo takes of vocals, then real first takes, second takes, third takes, total re-thinkings, etc. I feel like it dragged on for at least a year, but it was so refreshing to not have the pressure of having to get it all finished in a weekend or even in just a few hours as it was when we recorded the vocals for ‘Ascent’. Matt has done an incredible job on the production, it sounds so perfect.
AH: Your traditional home has been Holy Roar Records. What was the decision behind releasing with Tangled Talk this time around? Are there any other labels you’d like to work with?
Matt: To be honest, I have very little knowledge of record labels, especially in this country. Tangled Talk always intrigued me, due to Andrej’s comfort in releasing diverse styles of music. In particular, I think Blak Nite (an electronic project, released on Tangled Talk) have released some of the most interesting UK music of recent years. We joke in the band that Blak Nite were the reason we joined Tangled Talk…but it’s not far from the truth.
Zen: Haha, yeah that’s pretty accurate. I actually approached Tangled Talk and a couple of other labels with the vague idea that we might record some more songs and Andrej was the only person I ended up feeling confident in, his dedication and enthusiasm were clear after our first phone conversation.
AH: The landscape of UK hardcore has changed a lot since you were last around; the crop of #UKSWELL acts have mostly died off, replaced by a younger, hungry crop. What are some of the current UK and international bands that excite you?*
Matt: What the flip is #UKSWELL? It’s hardcore, right? Anyway, Employed to Serve are my UK favourite at the moment. Personally, I’m really looking forward to more Thicket of Antlers too!
Zen: I have absolutely no idea what #UKSWELL is, but all of the bands we played with last year were great. After being away from this community for so long it was amazing to see the passion and conviction of everyone. I can’t wait to do it again. Right now the only one I can remember specifically by name is Cady, i’m not sure if they have any records out but they were amazing live. The Lowest Form are alright, too.
*NB: “#UKSWELL” was the jokey umbrella term given to bands like Kerouac, Goodtime Boys, Pariso, Bastions and Vales, to mirror the “Wave” scene occuring in the States at the time (La Dispute, Touché Amoré, PBTT, Defeater et al)
AH: Your comeback has happily coincided with that of Throats, with whom you recorded a split release with for Holy Roar Records. Since this is an era of reunions, if you could bring any band back from the dead, who would it be?
Matt: I tend to hold the belief the music typically gets “better” (for my tastes) over time, so almost all of my favourites are still together. And although it may be cool for some of the late ‘90s screamo bands (for example) to still be around, realistically, I kind of like that they were great for a few years, rather than trying to hold on to something that had its time and has moved on since.
AH: And finally, what does the future hold in store for Maths? Is this EP and upcoming show it for the time being, or are there more plans in the works?
Matt: We have a fair few shows coming up, but several of us will be moving far abroad in the near future. Although this will limit Maths, who knows when we might surprise everyone with a show.
Zen: Some release shows, a couple of tours, then that’s it for our current plans. With us all living so far apart (soon to be much, much further) it’s best to keep it minimal and just do whatever falls into place. I’d be happy to work on another record within the next couple of years though.
‘The Fires Courting The Sea’ EP by Maths is released on 23rd March on Tangled Talk Records.
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)