Portland duo The Body have always been difficult to categorize. Their music is as dark and haunting as even the grimmest metal, and it’s certainly “heavy” both sonically and thematically, but it’s not really metal—and that’s more or less by design.
In the lead-up to the release of 2016’s No One Deserves Happiness, the band said their goal was to make “the grossest pop album of all time.” However, according to drummer Lee Buford, there was no pithy motivation behind I have fought against it, But I can’t any longer., released May 11 via Thrill Jockey.
“We started recording it last January,” Buford says, “so, it took a long time to come out—or it took a long time to finish it. I don’t know that we had a distinct goal over a year of finishing recording it. Even if we did, I think maybe it changed by the time it came out.”
When crafting the album, Buford and his bandmate, guitarist Chip King, approached the songwriting process more like a couple of hip hop producers than a couple of band dudes.
“I tried to not play drums, and Chip was not going to play guitar. We were going to do it more electronic,” Buford explains. “Since we had so much old drum stuff recorded, we just built all the beats with old drum sounds that we’d recorded already. So, it’s basically the same thing, just instead of using 808s or whatever, we used my own kit as the basis, the source material for the samples. And then, a lot of times, we’ll take Chip’s old guitar stuff and just effect it so much that you can’t even tell what it is, or we’ll put it through Auto-Tune, which makes it sound insane—like, not a guitar at all. So, a lot of it is just effecting old stuff we had or building beats out of crazy drum sounds we already made.”
After recording basic tracks—all of the material was written in the studio—the duo sent the songs off to various collaborators. They included regular contributors like Chrissy Wolpert of Assembly Of Light Choir and Ben Eberle of Sandworm, as well as newcomers to The Body fold, like Lingua Ignota’s Kristin Hayter, who provides vocals on “Nothing Stirs” and shares vocal duties on “Sickly Heart of Sand” with Uniform’s Michael Berdan.
Featuring contributions from a variety of other musicians is another way The Body’s production process veers away from how metal or rock are traditionally made.
“We’ll have one idea, record that, and then, build up from that. So, it’s the same concept as far as song-building in hip hop,” Buford says. “Me and Chip don’t really care if we’re on every song or if someone else sings or if there’s a drum machine and it’s not me playing drums. We don’t really care. We just try to make the best songs we can make. That’s more important than ego or whatever plan we had. We just make the best thing, and a lot of times, me and Chip cannot make the best thing.”
The album’s title, I have fought against it, But I can’t any longer., is taken from one of Virginia Woolf’s letters that were circulated after she committed suicide.
“Reading her letters—it’s pretty crazy, because they’re so kind in one aspect and, then, so tragic in the other,” Buford says of why he and King were inspired by the line. “It’s this weird mix of these beautiful letters to her sister and her husband, but [she’s] also talking about how it’s miserable to live. I think that aspect of it appeals to us in a lot of ways.”
This kind of ironic dichotomy is the essence of The Body: a metal band who are not really playing metal but whose music is still somehow heavier than most metal bands can conjure. And that’s exactly how Buford wants it.
“That’s my problem with a lot of metal,” he offers. “Metal stuff is like, ‘We’re these scary, grim guys, and that’s all we do,’ but that’s not all you do. I feel like that’s insincere, because that’s not really how life works. When people are like that, that seems suspect to me, like it’s just for show. It seems more genuine to me to read something like [Woolf’s letters], because it’s like, yeah, life is tough sometimes, but there’s other aspects of it that are not tough. Me and Chip have been best friends for decades now. I see Chip every day. It’s tough to be like, ‘Oh, life is miserable.’ It’s like, ‘Ah, it’s not that miserable. I’ve got Chip with me.’”