Artist Interview: Carson Pace of The Callous Daoboys
Posted: by The Editor
I wasn’t sure what to make of Celebrity Therapist on my first listen, and when I talk to The Callous Daoboys vocalist Carson Pace, it sounds like that’s the point. “We zig when people wanted us to zag,” he jokes to me, noting that the record is not the classic mathcore follow-up many fans expected from the Atlanta metalcore group’s sophomore LP. But the more I listened the more it made sense; Celebrity Therapist is, as Pace explains to me, just the Daoboys being the Daoboys. It’s got all the things you look for in a Daoboys record: the math riffs, the blood-curdling vocal performances, the massive hooks, but it’s got a few new wrinkles for the band. “Beautiful Dude Missile” flirts with electronic metalcore and “Elephant Man in the Room” has technical riffs that’d make Protest the Hero proud, and other the other end of the spectrum, the band’s picked up a newfound sense of melody. “Violent Astrology” slows things down for a churchlike dirge bridge, “Title Track” is a theatrical post-hardcore triumph in the style of My Chem’s best, and “Star Baby” devolves halfway through into likely the first Daoboys song that can legitimately be described as achingly, hauntingly beautiful. It’s a behemoth of a record, and it truly is one that only The Callous Daoboys could’ve put together. Read my conversation with Pace below–we discussed the way COVID affected the writing of the record, the band’s attempt to follow a record like Die on Mars, and what might come after Celebrity Therapist.
It’s been a few years since Die on Mars came out, and a few things have happened in the world. How has COVID affected the way The Callous Daoboys operate?
I feel like we were on the cusp of maybe doing some serious touring. We had a couple really big offers and a couple things lined up for summer 2020, and it was like, “We’re not gonna get the time to go into the studio. Maybe in 2021.” Die on Mars we recorded in 2018, and we thought it would’ve been out that year. Naive. You don’t really know that the studio process takes a long time, that readying things takes a while. We really thought we’d be touring all summer 2020, but that’s obviously not how it shook out, so we went into the studio and made the best record we could. We didn’t know when the world would open up, but we knew when it did, we’d have a killer record to tour on.
You’ve said “Beautiful Dude Missile” was the first song you wrote for Celebrity Therapist, and you wrote that the day Die on Mars came out, right?
So as soon as you finished that record, did you pick right up with working on this one?
Definitely. I had a bit of a crisis, like, “We have to write something new!” I don’t know why. We did that the day it came out, and then I wanna say “Star Baby” came next. I think I wrote that while we were on tour for Die on Mars, the lyrics to it. Bits and pieces were just coming together. Originally it was gonna be a five-song EP called Celebrity Therapist–we’d been kicking that name around for a while. I wanna say twelve, fourteen songs were finished for this, then got cut to eight. A lot of ideas were kicking around, but I think the first ones we were were those two and “Title Track.” I remember finishing “Title Track,” being like “This is gonna be special.” They’ve been done for a while. I love them, man.
I’m glad you brought up “Title Track,” because that one and “Field Sobriety Test” together–like a quarter of the album’s runtime–are where the record really ramps up. They’re probably both the most melodic and heaviest songs you’ve done. Celebrity Therapist has a lot of both ends of the spectrum–was there a sense that, after Die on Mars you really had to push the envelope?
Absolutely, and I mean, I think that process is continuing now as we wrote more material. I’d say I’m about 25% into LP3 right now. I am obsessed with this band. It’s my favorite thing in the world, so you can expect new music pretty regularly. I look at Die on Mars as a collage of our influences and interests. There were people calling it a “classic mathcore record” or whatever, and it’s like, “How the fuck do we follow that up?” It’s about finding our sound, about making our own lane, where Die on Mars was “We’re already in this lane.” I think we crushed it, but I think we did everything we could in that lane. Now we want to do something no one else can do.
Was there a feeling like, “How do we follow that record up?”
There was talk of putting in some jokes about sophomore slumps, but it didn’t fit. Being meta, something like that merch speech in “Contrail Crucifix” just wouldn’t make it. It wouldn’t fit. Before we went in to record this, the biggest show we’d played was with Silent Planet and Greyhaven, and we were like, “This is really crazy.” I think it came down to having all these eyes on us, and it was wild. So let’s do something wild, and let’s not just put out some 25-minute mathcore record. We said fuck that. We were gonna make something no one’s heard before. Whenever there’s a hate comment like, “Dillinger Escape Plan already exists,” I can’t wait to shove this in their face. We wanted to do something no one expected us to do. When it was done I was like, “This is the record I’ve always heard in my head for this band.” I would say this is a better starting point for us if you’re a new listener. I think it’ll continue to be that way in the future as we get heavier and weirder.
So this is the mild version of The Callous Daoboys compared to what’s coming next.
I wouldn’t say mild. It’s not a self-titled record, because I think self-titled records are usually your first or when you get bored. The name Celebrity Therapist has a meaning. But if we had a self-titled record, it’d be this. It’s so definitive to who we are and where we can go. A lot of the people I showed this to, on first listen, called it a transitional record. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but there’s different ways to interpret it.
Obviously this record is called Celebrity Therapist for a reason, and there’s a line in “Title Track” with that phrase. What about this album does that name capture for you?
I had the title for the record before that lyric. It’s been around forever, for years. It goes hard! It’s got a lot of meanings, and I’ve seen people unravel it a little. I’m not the one who sings that. Hayden from For Your Health sings in, and I thought that was such a tongue-in-cheek thing to do, that I’m not even saying the title. It’s like Hayden’s my therapist or something. It just goes hard. It’s got a lot of meanings, maybe not ones I can dissect without talking your ear off. It just sounds like a Daoboys record title.
So this record has fewer songs than Die on Mars, but it’s a longer album overall. I like that it starts with “Violent Astrology,” which is longer than anything on that album and has a lot more going on, then leads right into “Time Loops,” which is probably the most straightforward metalcore song on here.
Definitely. That’s the most basic song on the record.
You said “Star Baby” was one of the first songs done for Celebrity Therapist. When you had that one finished, did you know that was the closer?
Oh yeah. I did everything on it, and then I sent it to the groupchat, like, “This is a new song.” I never do that. I’ll send a riff as a feeler. But this was a whole song, totally done. Everyone was like, “This is fucking crazy.” I was like, “I know!” We were so proud. We knew it’d be the closer. We talked about it being a single, but we didn’t wanna spoil it. That’s the best Daoboys song. At the moment.
Bold, but I think I agree.
I love it so, so much. I think really is fitting that we put the listener through seven tracks of chaos and get this really nice ending.
It feels like the end of a journey.
It really does. I remember my mom, who just likes the ending, being like, “Why isn’t that the whole song?” That’s like having sugar for every meal! It’s a little dessert. I remember showing everyone that song and them being like, “This is gonna be a crazy record.” Yeah it is.
What do you want to convey with the track ordering of the record?
I’d hope that people can pick up the themes after a couple listens, pick up how everything connects. All the songs intertwine. The structure is very intentional. It’s mean to go this way, and we put so, so much thought into it. It affected the lyrics, how the songs were written–if anything, that came first.
So you had the concept for the record and filled in the gaps from there.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened.
You self-released Die on Mars, right?
How did you end up on MNRK Heavy?
We put out Die on Mars and we were fielding a couple label offers from the usual suspects in the metalcore world. I’m not gonna name names, but you can figure it out. None of it felt right. We saw what they did with our contemporaries, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t how I wanted Daoboys to develop. That’s not to say it was wrong, but it wasn’t for us. I got this email from these two guys, then, Travis Gentile and Tom Gnolfo. Tom was at Sony at the time, so when I saw that in his email I knew I had to open it. It seemed like a big deal! They thought for sure we had a label, but we were trying to stay independent–we talked about waiting til we could be a big fish in a small pond. I talked to them on the phone and pretty much instantly trusted them. They gave a fuck about the band. They’d ordered our merch, had it on vinyl, just felt like fans of the band. Our first phone call wasn’t “What numbers do you do?” It was “What’s this lyric mean?” I was like, “This is fucking cool.” They’d helped Moontooth develop a lot and sign to Pure Noise, and were starting their own label–Modern Static–and I just trusted them. When I finished the record they were very surprised with what we’d done. They said, “This is bigger than our label. Pitch it around.” A lot of places weren’t super interested. Monarch was Entertainment One at the time, and they were like, “We need this. What do you want?” We laid out what we needed, and they said, “Whatever you want.” They’re really in our corner. I can’t imagine being on any other label. We’re the only bands like this on the label, except maybe Rolo Tomassi or Esuela Grind, but we’re our own thing, and they treat us that way. It’s great. I love it.
What’s something you listen to that you think Daoboys fans would be surprised you like?
I feel like everyone knows I’m obsessed with Bjork. Maybe Daoboys fans don’t like Bjork. I feel like almost nothing’s surprising at this point. I like The 1975, which everyone knows. I will say I’ve been into ’90s alt rock lately, like Tonic, that stuff. Recently I’ve been really attached to a song from Cheetah Girls 2, so that’s it. It’s called “Dance with Me” and goes impossibly hard. It sounds like someone write it for Justin Timberlake, and he said, “This is too on the nose for me,” so Disney got it. That’s my answer. It goes so hard.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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