The Body: People's egos are insane sometimes
Chip King and Lee Buford of the Body
"Chip and I don't like most people," says the voice on the other end of the line, calmly. Its even tone and audible remnants of a childhood spent in the South belong to Lee Buford, Chip King's other half. The two are a striking pair, both tall and burly with substantial beards and dark stares, shown casually posing with shotguns in press photos. Together they make up the Body, a musical manifestation of the past 15 years worth of friendship.
Buford has agreed to a phone chat with Gimme Noise before their return to Minneapolis tonight, where they will play a set at the Hexagon alongside local bands Buildings, False, and Prostate. He is very matter-of-factly explaining his interest in cults, a subject that stemmed from discussing his band's use of field recordings in their material, particularly the looping chant found in their song "All the Waters."
"Trying to distance oneself from society is interesting," he says of cult life. "It's interesting when people come at it from a different way. Mostly it's religious, but that kind of 'done with the world' thing is kind of fascinating."
In 2011, The Body was joined by the Assembly of Light choir on a week and a half-long tour, stopping at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Buford, Lee and the 14-member all-female choir packed the sanctuary of the church alongside speakers and drums for a performance that one music writer for NPR would later describe as a "religious experience." In photos, the performance could easily be misconstrued as snapshots of a cult ritual. There is a severe juxtaposition between the billowing yellow cloths descending from the altar and the dark cloaks worn by all.
Though they don't necessarily try to distance themselves from the world around them, the bond that has formed between Buford and King does serve to alienate them at times. "Playing in a band for 15 years with just the two of us, you see how other people do stuff, even in our circle," Buford says. "It just seems so foreign to us, even though they're in the same peer group." They experience this same sense of separatism when considering where the Body may belong, musically.
"For a long time we got lumped in with doom bands, which we don't really listen to at all," Buford explains. "We don't even listen to that much heavy music in a band setting... A lot of the times we play metal shows, and I don't think people enjoy it at all." Interesting, considering that most write-ups of the Body are brimming with descriptions like "sludge metal" and "experimental metal," or really any adjective followed by the word "metal."
Part of what makes the Body so intriguing and keeps their sound so refreshing is how easily they defy any sort of naming or categorization by genre. King enjoys listening to noise music, which is certainly evident in their work. Buford, on the other hand, prefers pop. They meet somewhere in the middle. "Electric Light Orchestra is a band we both like a lot," Buford says. The real inspiration to their sound, though, comes from how they feel when they create it. "We're both pretty unhappy people, I think," he continues, "with how you have to live in the world and what you have to do to get by in the world. I think that's the root of it, hence the anger that comes out of the music."
Buford cultivated this attitude of defeat early watching his mother, a single parent, raise him and two other siblings on a schoolteacher's salary. "Growing up with that, seeing how working hard at a pretty normal job you could struggle so hard... It's like you can't win at anything you do," he muses. Years of touring with The Body left him jaded further. "Being in a band, touring, you don't make any money. I think most of frustration comes from financial troubles."
There is indeed a perpetual sense of volatility in the Body's music. Lyrically, it is lacerating, though most of what's being said is unintelligible. King's voice itself is difficult to listen to -- a tortured scream rising from the depths of each song. The levels seem off, so that at times he appears to be right in your ear while at others it seems as if he's being heard through closed doors. Buford is a skilled drummer, managing to either contain the chaos of a song or guide it along to where it needs to go. Recently, Buford has begun to rely heavily upon digital recording techniques rather than recording from a physical drum set, constructing percussive elements from field recordings. "I like industrial stuff so much," he says. "Sometimes I like fake drum sounds more than I like real drum sounds."
Percussive elements aren't the only aspect that have seen much change lately. In 2014 the Body released a collaborative record with British musician and producer Bobby Krlic, known as The Haxan Cloak. I Shall Die Here is more electronics-heavy than any of their previous material, finding some of the songs on the verge of being almost danceable -- a sharp departure from their typically impenetrable wall of noise we had grown so accustomed to. "That interest in electronics has always been there for us, it just comes out in different ways," says Buford.
In the beginning, the Body struggled with capturing the full effect of what their music sounded like when played live. "Without the volume and the feel of being live, it's kind of lacking," Buford recalls of their first self-titled studio album. "We started adding all the layers to it, to try to make up for that." With I Shall Die Here, Krlic was able to perform the translation for them while reanimating their original material for the album.
This marriage between crushing harsh noise and ambient electronics caught the attention of many, while still managing to maintain the integrity of both parties involved. Suddenly, the Body was getting a write-up by the New York Times. The album was receiving critical acclaim. One day, Buford received a weird e-mail. Someone wanted to use a clip from one of their songs in a movie, The Purge 2. "We went and saw it the other night," Buford says of he and King. "It's like ten seconds of a song from the Haxan Cloak record. It's at the very end, as soon as the movie ends, during the credits. That was definitely an interesting treat."
So, the Body is finally getting some attention. Buford is still careful to stay steeped in cynicism. When asked what advice he has for DIY bands just getting their start today, he cautions, "I think a lot of bands have higher expectations than they should have. I think a lot of bands also think because they play music that they somehow have achieved something in life, but they haven't really. Just because you're playing on a stage to people doesn't make you any better than anyone else. People's egos are completely insane sometimes."
The Body perform today, July 23 at the Hexagon with Buildings, False, and Prostate. FREE 10 PM 21+
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