July 24, 2018 | by Jocelyn Hoppa
Hailing from Whitby, Ontario, Chastity's Brandon Williams makes the kind of music that champions youth community in the face of small town isolation and alienation. The things people do to get through and by, as well as the notion of being death obsessed and therefore more apt to overcome the dulling ache of it all.
Williams' has released a few singles and EPs under the Chastity namesake over the last year. Death Lust, his band's debut LP, was released a week ago and new listeners will be greeted with familiar '90s punk and indie rock influences his band aptly builds on. Hardcore, melodic — sometimes both in a singular song — the album is rife with forward-facing lyrics unafraid to peel back the layers of our collective discontent, to examine suffering as a means to survival.
No Recess! recently spoke with Williams' about this not-so-light concept album, perhaps a much-needed cathartic gem for these not-so-light times in the world.
NO RECESS!: What exactly is going on in your working class town of Ontario that inspires your music? With an album title like Death Lust, the mind wonders.
Brandon Williams: I think it’s more about what’s not going on in my town — the needs of people that aren’t being met and isolation that falls from that negligence. I feel comfortable spending lots of time on my own, but a lot of my friends don’t and have struggled because of it. I think we need food, water, shelter, dopamine, and serotonin to live. In my life I’ve felt the privilege of balancing the first three.
NR!: “Children” speaks directly to the youth culture your music champions. There’s also a video for this song, which is about an incident that took place in your hometown and the events that followed. Can you take a minute to explain what happened and what impact it had on your community, especially the young people living there?
Williams: Dafonte Miller was assaulted with a metal rod by a piece of shit white cop named Christian Theriault. Dafonte was 19 years old, lost sight in his left eye, and my community largely didn’t react. Dafonte is black. The cop is a cop. It’s got to be prerequisite that you need to be a broken person first before you become a cop, and there are gangs of them.
I feel like I am watching a movie hearing some people speak sometimes, as though I’m in another world. A horrible thing happened in Whitby, and any white person that I’ve talked to about it hasn’t known. I think speaking about it shouldn’t be rare, I think we need to start talking, and keep talking.
NR!: I rather instantly engaged with your sound — there’s a meld of punk, metal, and ‘90s indie that certainly speaks to my own listening tastes from the time I came of age. How did you become interested in experimenting with these genres?
Williams: Damn, ah, thank you so much for saying that. A lot of unreal songwriters emerged into their popularity through those genres, but there’s a lot of work still to do, I’ve thought? I think that when I discovered these genres I discovered a lot of missing pieces. Ian Mackaye says creating music is conversational, artists speak back to each other. I sort of feel like I’m working my ideas on the shoulders of geniuses before me. I’ve listened and listened, have first wanted to be a fan of the greatest of them, and now I want to put my piece into the conversation.
NR!: What are some bands that helped you process all that embryonic pain first experience in youth and allowed you to stand a little taller as a result of their influence?
Williams: Fiona Apple and Refused have been my main two that I’ve wanted to put into Chastity, bands that made me feel less alone, more powerful when I felt powerless.
NR!: Death Lust, as you explained it, “is about growing up death obsessed, it’s about the pain that it takes but the capacity that we have to overcome.” I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on this. Is there something in being obsessed with death that allows some people to overcome the pain associated with it?
Williams: Yes, I imagine so. I think it’s sort of coping in a way like “death isn’t that bad, and it’s easy.” It’s a poor message to promote and I hope not to promote it, even though I think that it’s true. Surviving is hard and we need to make it easier for each other. And that’s what I want the message of Death Lust to be.
NR!: “Negative with Reason to Be” is one of my favorite tracks, it’s real ripper and features lines like “anxiety be my peace.” What inspired this song?
Williams: It’s a spilling of anxieties at the end of the ease of Heaven. So often my anxiety comes crashing onto me after I’ve felt good. Like a what goes up-must come down effect or something.
NR!: “Suffer” is another one that feels kind of cryptic for such an obvious title. The first lines: “Do you remember? Looking for Bloody Mary in my mirror? That September?” Can you give a little insight into this one?
Williams: It’s about feeling an intimacy with death.
NR!: Death Lust is essentially a concept album, with a plot that traverses suffering to survival. The [9th song] titled “Innocence” is a hell of way to wrap up this journey, especially as the music lingers on this rising tide of sonics. How do you define innocence, and how can it be recaptured after a period of sorrow that can permanently mar one’s own emotional purity?
Williams: I guess I feel like a person who never made any mistakes never made anything. The song is about substance use, and returning to a feeling of innocence in our self, separating our struggle from our real character. I don’t think it’s about purity, but about getting back to who we really are. I’d rather people use substances then feel hurt, but I think it’s a missed point. I’d rather people not feel hurt, to have the resources to find healing, to work on that together, to push for medical and therapeutic reform, to be more careful about how we treat each other, how we battle together, and I’ve got hope in that.
NR!: How did you land on the name “Chastity” and what significance does it hold for you? (I think this ties into this idea of “innocence” but I’d like for you to explain, since it has a few meanings, such as virginity.)
Williams: It’s just a flipping of the world I think — a safer, cooler feeling place for me to crawl myself into for a while. At least that’s what I’ve hoped. I don’t want to be hostile about sex or those who choose to have it, but I do think that it’s a bit overrated, especially in the given way that it’s treated. But that’s not what the name Chastity is about.
NR!: I read that after you released some demos, you held your first Chastity show in your own bedroom. That’s one way to play to packed room (at least considering the square footage of any bedroom I’ve ever resided in)! Any good stories from that event, other than the obvious one of cops showing up?
Williams: Yes, it was good, just friends that I grew up with mostly. Capacity in there must be 15 people? Last Friday, on release night, I did it again and we live streamed onto Captured Tracks. It was a surreal good night.
NR!: Your second show was with Priests, and then you went on a rash of sharing stages with the likes of Metz, Chelsea Wolfe, and Fucked Up… all before releasing a full-length debut record. That’s pretty rare. Did you have past experience in other bands playing for live audiences or is that something that just comes naturally to you?
Williams: I had experiences playing music live in the past, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m afraid of it, especially of feeling like I have to put on a character on stage or something. I don’t want to. Instead of moving all around everywhere I sort of just want to sing the songs with all my heart... haha.
Purchase Death Lust over at Bandcamp
// UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
07/20 - Durham, NC - The Pinhook +
07/21 - Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade Hell Stage +
07/23 - New Orleans, LA - Gasa Gasa +
07/24 - Austin, TX - Barracuda +
07/26 - Phoenix, AZ - Valley Bar +
07/27 - Santa Ana, CA - Constellation Room +
07/28 - Los Angeles, CA - Bootleg Theater +
07/29 - San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop +
07/31 - Seattle, WA - Barboza +
08/01 - Portland, OR - Bunk Bar +
08/02 - Boise, ID - Neurolux +
08/03 - Salt Lake City, UT - Diabolical Records +
08/04 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge +
08/06 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th St. Entry +
08/07 - Chicago, IL - The Empty Bottle +
08/08 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Tavern +
08/10 - Montreal, QC - Bar Le Ritz PDB. +
08/11 - Allston, MA - Great Scott +
08/18 - Toronto, ON - Camp Wavelength Festival
+ supporting MOURN