There’s an odd dichotomy that governs a fair proportion of hardcore bands. Despite the fact that they make loud, aggressive music which can easily be perceived as angry, many groups promote a message of positivity and hope. One such band are South Africa’s Truth and Its Burden, whose melodic hardcore has carried them through three albums, reaching I Labour as their most recent expulsion of life-affirming loudness. This one, however, is a little different. We spoke with Ashley de Beer, frontman of Truth and Its Burden, to delve more into his band and their dichotomy.
Firstly, the music – there was a conscious shift away from the breakdown-heavy patterns which permeated their previously two records. Part of this stemmed from advice given by their ex-drummer Dale’s father, Paddy. His suggestion contrasted the band’s songwriting style with Bruce Springsteen’s, stating that the latter can write songs which sound different, but ultimately have his trademark stamp on them. Instead of drawing so heavily from their influences – Misery Signals among them – they branched out to exploring more melodic and introspective moments.
They also shuffled writing responsibilities – Ashley and Calvin [Clayden, guitars] became the main songmappers, as opposed to having all the cooks stir the put. “We had mapped everything out on computer in a “pre-production” type format, so that we could relay ideas and everything easily to the other guys. So essentially, the main songwriting guys were still as before – just with more directional intention, I guess.” It’s paid dividends, and made for a cohesive listen which explores different avenues in hardcore without the risk of stretching themselves too thin.
Despite the change in songwriting approach, there is still an undeniable ‘live’ and chaotic feel to Truth and Its Burden’s material. This feeling was preserved almost due to this approach. As Ashley puts it, “without sounding like a dick, it’s easier to focus on direction for an album outside a band room environment.” And as a result, the band’s performance in that environment is electrifying. “Matt [Sletcher] destroyed on the drums in studio as we were pretty intent on having him hit as hard as possible, getting the best possible performance.”
Returning to this dichotomy of aggressive yet hopeful music, Ashley helps unpack some of the inspirations they draw from – musical and otherwise. While metal and hardcore obviously figure in their listening habits, melodic punk also factors in – he points to “the softer sound of Hopesfall and bands like As Cities Burn, which I would easily say is mainly where the softer sweeter stuff comes from – a need to please all our writing needs.” That both bands have a Christian background is not a coincidence. “I, along with some of the guys have our faith too – it’s something I would hope also comes across in our music, at least through the lyrical content.” But faith is not the main purpose of this musical vehicle – it’s more about your attitude. He draws from his own thoughts and experiences: “I think to some degree influence comes from home life and how you wanna live your life, what you allow to enter your mind and take a hold of your heart. I was brought up with parents who instilled ‘staying positive’ in my mind since young. We grew up with little and frankly we had no choice but to be positive about a shitty situation.” This manifests itself in a film quote in one of the songs – Al Pacino’s classic speech in Any Given Sunday,  placed expertly into ‘Regain Composure’ with an added sense of oomph to the already potent motivational speech.
The glue that links anger and positivity is action. “Anger might be a negative feeling, but put into constructive action in the right way through music or any art form, and you have positive change in hearts.” It is, no doubt, the same energy that drives people who wish to effect change either within themselves or the world around them. It forms an integral part of their own creative process, although Ashley acknowledges that it does come down to “the listener’s or viewer’s perspective.”
Ending on a truth bomb, we discuss advice to give to younger bands who are finding their way in this labyrinth of life. His answer is frank but not without merit: “Don’t strive to find a record label, they’re not what you grew up thinking they were, at least not anymore. Rather write, perform and tour well written music for the sake of having fun with your band. That’s not to say ‘don’t have dreams and strive for them’, but the music industry has changed drastically in the last few years and you may find yourself jaded before you’ve even toured once. Find unique ways to keep the music interesting and if your day in the sun comes, fantastic. Getting signed shouldn’t be the objective, making great music should.”
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