After starting with 2018’s Mental Wounds Not Healing, industrial-noise, post-everything duos Uniform from New York City and The Body from Portland, Oregon, returned with a second collaborative album, Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back, on Aug. 16 via Sacred Bones Records.
“It’s a true sequel, because it wasn’t a plan,” Uniform instrumentalist Ben Greenberg says.
“We just all show up in the studio and shrug, and eventually, something comes out,” Uniform vocalist Michael Berdan adds. “Sometimes, it’s OK. Sometimes, it’s not. Fortunately enough, we have enough smart minds who are doing it, but who are also not in the bands, telling us what’s good and what’s not and moving things around.”
Much like the collective’s debut, Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back was built over a series of collaborative sessions. “Right after we finished the first one, we were already talking about doing a second one,” Berdan says. “Working with [The Body vocalist and guitaristChip King and drummer Lee Buford] comes easy, and we’re pretty good friends. This happened right before we did a collaborative tour, so we took extra days and just hung out.”
The approach didn’t change for this new album, even if the two bands had more time to work together. “This time, we spent three days in the studio; we did the first one just in one day,” Greenberg explains.
“This was different, because we had a little more time to breathe,” Berdan continues. “The first time was really condensed. It was a really stressful day too. So, with this one, we felt like we had a bit more time to figure out what we were doing and focus. Hopefully, that shows on the songs.”
The result of those days sounds like a sonic world of terror that grips the throats of fans once again. “We wanted to see what was possible,” Greenberg confesses. “It was more about exploring what we didn’t know than trying to nail something that we know. I think that’s the big difference between the collaboration and when we make our own records. When we make our own records, we kind of know exactly what we want it to be, and so, we’re just carving it. When we’re working on the collaboration, it’s very open, so it takes shape very naturally.”
Dealing with tragic loss is never a closed book, and the details, circumstances, and inherent emotions that surround life never end. While Mental Wounds Not Healing references issues such as anxiety and depression, this new work carries a more precise awareness. “Everything is always kind of around anxiety, depression, hopelessness, yadda, yadda, all that fun stuff,” Berdan says, “but this one has, at its core, this idea of closure, of someone dying or a relationship ending, about how people are supposed to just get over it like it doesn’t matter and how that’s not really possible. Maybe the pain will subside, but you’re still left with a wound, with a memory, and it shapes you.”
“Things will occasionally come back up,” he continues. “I have friends who died quite a long time ago who I won’t have thought of for a while, and then, something will crop up and they’ll become a part of my consciousness and a part of my day-to-day life again. That’s kind of it. This idea of ‘Just get over it. Be done. Everything is OK once you say it’s OK. Be a man. Toughen up’—it’s bullshit. It’s total bullshit.”
The collaboration between Uniform and The Body was built upon an appreciation for each other’s work, which led to bonds of friendship. “We’re very much on the same page,” Greenberg admits. “Musically, we come from very similar places, and we always talk about—people come up to us at shows and are like, ‘Why are you so angry?’ and we’re not. We’re not mad. We’re sad. That’s the same for them. Once we realized we had that in common, it was very easy to make music together. I think it is a kind of special relationship.”
“We’re just confused little kids,” Berdan shares. “A lot of the recordings is just a stream of consciousness, kind of petty, childish garbage—but it’s OK. It came out all right. What I should say about people’s contributions and all is that none of this would be possible without Seth Manchester, the guy who runs the studio Machines With Magnets [in Pawtucket, Rhode Island].”
“So much of the recordings was Lee having these beats, Ben having these riffs, Chip having riffs and ideas, and me adding the voices, but Seth did more work than all of us combined,” Berdan confesses.
Manchester helped the bands record nine tracks of confrontational fury that are sure to make listeners’ ears bleed by using different tools. “There were a lot more synths, like proper synths, on this record than on Mental [Wounds Not Healing]—like FM synths, like [Yamaha] DX7, stuff like that—that we didn’t use before,” Greenberg says. “That gives it this sparkling kind of sheen that we didn’t have on the previous one. The last one was much more focused on noise and kind of doomy riffs and yelling, and this one actually gets closer to four-on-the-floor and almost this pop feel, which is really weird to say, but hearing it back, [it’s] at least as close as we could get to that.”
The title Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back was selected explicitly from the 1982 Bruce Springsteen album, Nebraska, joining a long line of references infused into the album. “There’s a bit of a theme. Kind of every single one we’re going to do, we’re going to borrow a bit from something else,” Berdan says. “I like the idea of culling sentences and repurposing them. So, what something meant in one song to one artist or the person who creates it, I love stealing that and making it mean something completely different and using it for us. That’s something that I’ve always kind of consciously tried to do.”
“We all like Bruce Springsteen a lot. He’s like one of the only truly subversive musicians who I can think of,” Berdan adds. “He wrote a record around Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ and it turns into a Top 40 record. Parts of that make their way into the Republican National Convention, and Ronald Reagan uses them as theme songs, and it’s about Howard Zinn. It’s getting those ideas into the mainstream and not having anyone even realize that it has happened—that is true subversion.”
“I think that part of what we do is we’re always trying to challenge and push against boundaries and make people question what they think and what they believe they feel,” Greenberg affirms. “We do that with ourselves, and I think that it has that effect on people who listen too.”
Berdan agrees, “I really admire those who are intelligent enough to take an important idea that has yet to be explored in the greater conscience and manage to slip it in. I’m not going to say that we’re smart enough to do that necessarily. We make things that are relatable to us, and sometimes, they’re relatable to other people. If they are, that’s great, and if they’re not, that’s great too. Good for you if it’s not.”