I think about repetition a lot because I'm a creature of habit. I wake up. Go to work. Come home. Run. Write. Go to bed. I ask myself what does repetition do? Well, it kind of humanizes and it also kind of automatizes. The humanization comes from how I interact with people at the parts of the day where I can interact with people, but this is tricky. If I repeat the same mantras and words to the same people at every interaction, then I am fulfilling an obligation or directive of "talk," meaning it's a mechanical function. But if I introduce new things, organic elements, new ideas to interactions, creating growth, then I am undergoing a humanized interaction. The goal is to stop the body from going on autopilot, losing time, choice, or identity.
What happens to a gear as it's used repeatedly? Indefinitely? It corrodes, like all things do. Eventually it fulfills its functional destiny so much that it cannot fulfill its functional destiny. A gear, with its once great and numerous teeth, becomes a perfect circle, unable to exert friction, unable to wind, unable to sputter - a circle spinning in place with nothing to show for it.
Saturated, Edmonton duo Rhythm of Cruelty's most recent full length on Mass Media Records, is about decay. The first song, not including the introductory instrumental piece, "Day In, Day Out" showcases Brandi Strauss musing on repetition and collapse "No movement/Gathering dust/Day In/Day Out." Her lyrics, on top of pulsating, at times claustrophobic, instrumentals, echo the form. But this isn't a hopeless record, either. On "Full Circle," she sings "Where we were once before/Where we start again/Full Circle/The Stars they have aligned/Wearing a blessing in disguise." It ends with an obscured benediction, even in the face of depersonalization and corrosion.
But for all the bleakness in Saturated, Brandi Strauss and Ian Rowley hold onto hope. The creation of anything is an act of hope, at least a shot fired at the darkness of reality.
JR: How is it playing in a postpunk band with two people? I know you guys use a drum machine - do you enjoy playing like that or would you rather have a drummer?
IR : It's amazing. We've been partners for almost 7 years, and Rhythm of Cruelty has become this creative extension of our relationship. Although we've talked about collaborating with other people, live or recorded, Rhythm of Cruelty is very much the two of us. We knew very early on that the element of mechanical rhythm was something we wanted. I don't see us getting a drummer, maybe more drum machines. But we don't rule out the possibility of alternate sources of percussion.
BS: I enjoy the simplicity of there only being the two of us in this band and the fact that we use a drum machine rather than a drummer. Over the past few years Ian has become quite creative with the drum patterns. The drum machine has become my favourite aspect of R.O.C. Actually when we had started out Ian was on drums and it wasn't until we borrowed our friend Dave's Oberheim and Ian had picked up his guitar; it was then that we really found the sound we were looking for. We have discussed having a guest drummer for a show or two to play alongside the drum machine, though we've yet to follow through with that idea…in due time.
IR : Brandi writes all of the lyrics and will show them to me. Sometimes I'll help in the arrangement of the words, but they're very much Brandi.
JR: Do you find yourself writing about things grounded in reality, like events that happen to you or maybe being influenced by a book you read, or do you make up scenarios, moods, and ideas?
BS: For the most part, my prose are written from my visual view point - my perceptions of reality. I try to write regularly, often I write of personal experiences, relationships, or my understandings in life. Sometimes I find influence in other areas such as dreams, books I've read, or something someone says. For example last year in spring I was in New York on my way to a show with a friend, when he stated that we were all "chasing daylight," regarding the "party life style." At this time in my life I was struggling, dealing with some heavy things, finding comfort in excessive "partying". Those few words that evening left an impression on me, I came home from that trip and wrote, "In The Daylight."
JR: Saturated is your first record on Mass Media, right? How was it switching from Crude City? Any notable differences?
BS: Yes it is. Both labels were supportive and extremely easy to work with.
IR : Crude City is ran by our good friend Dave. He wanted to highlight some of the newer Edmonton bands coming out. He was and is a huge help in pushing us, helping us book shows on tour, and just generally being supportive of us. Mass Media has been amazing as well. They've been putting out so many great releases lately and we were quite honored when they showed interest in releasing our music.
JR: You guys made a music video for "Dysphoria" on your last record - are you planning on doing any music videos for the new one?
IR: We've talked about it with our friend Parker, who did the "Dysphoria" video, but nothing planned yet. It's possible that we may do some videos for the newer stuff we're going to record.
BS: Eventually we'd like to. At the moment though I believe recording our new songs takes precedence over making another music video.
JR: You guys did a massive North American tour a few months ago, covering both the United States and Canada. Is there much of a difference between playing a Canadian show versus a show in the U.S.?
IR : Not really. There's an amazing and interconnected community all throughout North America, and internationally as well. We feel just as welcomed in places like St. Louis, Austin, Tacoma, etc. as we do in Canadian cities and we've created really rewarding friendships throughout our travels.
JR: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience playing music in Edmonton, Alberta? When you think about your local independent music, are there any defining bands or venues there for you? Any artists that someone reading this might be interested in?
IR : Edmonton has a really interesting and diverse music community. Some of my personal favorites are Strangled and The Strap (both of which Brandi plays bass in!), No Problem, Zebra Pulse, The Olm, Beauty Rest, Languid, Borys, and the almighty Energetic Action. I have also recently started a label with my friend Parker called Pseudo Laboratories. Look for plenty of releases by Edmonton artists (including Rhythm of Cruelty) as well as others abroad.
BS: Edmonton has a lot of creativity and everyone is really supportive. Unfortunately a number of venues have been closing down this past year - my favorite Wunderbar came close to its end as well. Luckily Wunderbar is a special venue for Edmonton and the community came together to raise thousands of dollars to make sure that didn't happen. As for bands, Ian has an electronic project with his friend Parker, called Private Investigators who are great! I also enjoy anything Robert Burkosky does, Energetic Action, Christ Appearing As Sun, Beauty Rest, Love Electric to name a few. Zebra Pulse, Pigeon Breeders, The Olm, Borys and Segue are fantastic as well, all worth checking out!
IR : I've been getting more and more into science fiction lately, and just recently finished Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers. Fantastic book. Currently reading The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs, and so far it's not my favorite of his, but he's always interesting to say the least.
BS: I try to make time to read, though I don't do it as often as I'd like. At the moment I'm reading Tape Delay by Charles Neal, which is interesting thus far. Earlier this year I read a lot of 'self help' books, one, The Miracle of Mindfulness written by Thich Nhat Hanh I found really insightful as simple as it is. It's just helped me to become more focused, which is what I needed at the time.
JR: What all is in the future for Brandi Strauss, Ian Rowley, and Rhythm of Cruelty?
IR : Well it's almost fall, and when the weather starts getting colder, we buckle down and start writing and recording new material. In the new year expect another record, tour (Europe?), and other sorts of weird ephemera from the two of us.
BS: Personally, I hope to focus my energies on creating and exploring more, wether it be personally, musically or artistically. As for Rhythm of Cruelty, we will continue to pursue and explore our sound. We plan to record again this fall and then in the spring, when the ice has melted we hope to tour again.
JR: Anything else you'd like to say
BS: Acknowledge the beauty of things, take energetic action, avoid distractions and stay focused.