Interview with guitarist Tony Sannicandro | By Nicholas Senior
Sun Eater isn’t just the best Job for a Cowboy album yet. It’s the sound of a band taking a giant leap forward while continuing to embrace what made them special before. Job for a Cowboy deserves to be the biggest American death metal band on the strength of Sun Eater alone. One of the major reasons for the band’s growth is the impressive output of guitarist Tony Sannicandro. Every member brings his A-game, but Tony’s fretwork is outstanding. He takes a moment to discuss the new record.
This is your second album with Job for a Cowboy, and it sounds like a whole new band.
I’m glad it sounds like a new band, because it is, I guess, in every literal sense. The writing part was similar to Demonocracy, except for one slight deviation. When we did that album, we wrote the songs to about 75 percent [completion], and then we all came together and started playing them. Then we went to record the album. This time, [guitarist] Al [Glassman] and I wrote a lot of the music here in Boston, then sent it out to [vocalist Jonny] Davy and [bassist] Nick [Schendzielos]. We got the music much closer to the final product than before. When we went to record, it was 90 percent done, or at least as close as you can get. We got it more dialed in by the time we got to record, because we didn’t have time to fuck around this time.
Did you know the lyrics before writing the music?
No, we didn’t have the lyrics, but we had the concept from Davy. I don’t want to give away too much, but the concept we had was of a guy who was losing it a bit, so he takes a journey and that journey ends poorly. We came up with concept while we were on Mayhem [Fest] last summer, so we had time to think about it. When it was time to start writing, it was in the back of my head.
We actually talked about this beforehand. We wanted to have songs follow the lyrics, songs that followed the naturalistic backdrop. So, I tried to do that the best I could. That was really an interesting thing. Instead of me just mashing riffs into ProTools, I would use the concept as a template. It sounds kind of weird, but I would try to think about what it would sound like in the context of the album. So, it was a more musician-driven way to write the album. I think that came across well.
I did push myself in that sense, to try to think outside the box and not keep the songwriting in a cookie-cutter style: Oh, here’s a breakdown or a chug. The whole band just tried to form this all around the concept and write that way. I think we did a good job of that. It’s definitely the best I could get at the time [laughs].
The album is very organic and heavy…
I definitely agree with you. We also used seven strings for the first time on some of the songs, so I think it came across that way, maybe a little heavier. We tried to use it in a way – not to trash other bands – but not the typical seven-string shit that people are doing now that is very rhythmic based and more for groove. We tried to use it as a texturing tool to add to the vibe of the nature theme. For me – living in Massachusetts – the nature is a fucking shitshow. We can have a snowstorm in October [laughs]. We tried to bring that aspect to the music. We liked having that extra string to play around with.
You realize now that you use seven strings, people will expect a return to deathcore…?
[Laughs] I’ve never had a problem with any of that. Anything that you do musically can be a good thing or a bad thing or it can be incorporated well. That goes for any tuning, any type of riffing. You could do a song in drop B and do it one way, or you can work hard and make it sound really cool. We tried to do that, to not just blatantly chug and mush rhythms in and make it the heaviest thing ever. We tried to think about it more and use it a bit smarter than other bands have.
Do you care about the polarized views of the band’s deathcore past?
I don’t care either way. Some of the songs that the band wrote at that time are really well-liked and requested at shows, and yet, other people aren’t happy to hear them live. You know, I don’t think those old songs sound the same anymore because of the maturing of the band as people. We can play the songs faster and better. I can improv a bit because I didn’t write the music. I try to make it resonate with me. I don’t give a shit what it’s called, personally. You’ll either like it or hate it. It’s not up to me, and I think all of us feel similarly. We’re now just playing new music that we like, and if you want to call it something weird, that’s on you. If you hate it, that’s fine, too. It’s like anything else, if you don’t adapt to your surroundings, you’ll get left behind. If the band didn’t adapt, I wouldn’t be here now. So we have to do what we feel like doing, and write in that manner. It’s been positive for us.
Do you have a favorite song or riff from the album?
There are a couple parts that I really like. One of my favorite parts on the album is on “Sun of Nihility.” There’s a solo where I did a trade-off with [producer] Jason [Suceof] that is towards the end. It was the first song we recorded, lead-wise. We started off and had no idea what I was going to play. For this album, when I went to record the solos, I didn’t work any of them out beforehand. I got there, and Jason and I just kinda jammed. It sucked because this was the first song, and I was already stuck. We decided to just do this weird tag-team thing, and it ended up sounding really awesome.
I have to ask because you did that “The Leads are Weak” column for Metalsucks… Are the leads weak?
[Laughs] Fuck no. The leads are the least weak that they’ve ever been. I say that being as humble as possible. The leads are not weak on this one. Everything else in my life may be weak, but the leads are not. Yeah, my money management skills are weak, and my joke skills are really weak too [laughs].
Check the leads on Sun Eater for yourself: