Interview with Andy Maddox of The Saddest Landscape

Hailing from the prominent and seminal hardcore Boston scene, The Saddest Landscape is what some would call a hearkening or a throwback to 90’s style hardcore emotive music. I would not argue with that description; however they are more than that. They are a decade’s worth of blood sweat and tears coupled with their own unique take on the “Emo” sub-genre as a whole, often incorporating post rock and post hardcore elements into their songs. In 2003 they released The Sound of the Spectacle to a dying underground market, subsequently garnering a small cult following. The Saddest Landscape remains as relevant as they were six years ago when their sophomore LP Lift Your Burden’s High for, This is Where We Cross was released. Although not completely absent from the scene the outfit took a brief hiatus between 2006 and 2007 to refocus themselves. Now, having completed splits with Trophy Scars in 2009 and Pianos Become the Teeth this past year, it becomes clear they have the respect of critic’s, fans, and their peers. Are we on the cusp of something greater a revival or a musical revolution? I sit down with The Saddest Landscape’s Andy Maddox to discuss his latest release You Will Not Survive, his views on the genre as a whole, and how his band has evolved their sound over the years.

Andy Maddox

You Will Not Survive has been in heavy rotation on my iPod for 2 months now, how well do you feel it has been received thus far, critically and with the fans?

Thanks, that is really great to hear. So far critically I think almost across the board it has been very well received, we have been recently seeing quite a few best of 2010 nods which truly amazes me, we really like the record but we never know what to expect outside of that. As far as the fans go, it seems like they like it, we have been noticing an increase in newer fans who don’t know our history and the new record is the only thing they know by us, so I guess that is a good sign people like the record.

The subject matter in your songs is typically of a somber nature, but You Will Not Survive is noticeably darker.  This really is not a change of direction for the band more of a tweak. So what do you attribute this subtle shift to?

I’m not sure really, either that or I am afraid to think about it too much. Ultimately, I just write about what I am dealing with in my life or what those close to me are going through and I guess that it is just a darker time. That said I do like to think that it isn’t all dark and broken, there are bits of hope sprinkled throughout, and realizations that there are things worth living/fighting for.

There seems to be an old school Emo revival going on right now; I look at your band headlining the charge. Then there is Touché Amore, Snowing, La Dispute and your label mates Run with the Hunted, why does it seem like there is such a demand for real old school Emo now?

The Saddest Landscape

I am flattered, but I am not really sure we can claim to be headlining any sort of revival. We just feel lucky that there are so many great bands playing right now but it is nice to feel a part of a scene again. For awhile it seemed like we were alone out there (or at least in the minority) so now to have bands like Touché Amore or Pianos Become the Teeth out there inspiring us, and reminding kids what it means to play passionate music from the heart is really exciting. I am not really sure why it is happening, I guess because kids got tired of all the apathy that was there before, and now there is just a need to reclaim what is vital in music, feeling.

So to follow up the last question, do you feel like this underground movement has the ability to capture the collective conscious of today’s youth like it did in the early 90’s? Or do you feel that it might be a bit too imperfect, grungy, and harsh in comparison to school yard and shopping mall varieties of Emo?

It is tough to say, I will say I have noticed an increase in coverage in larger media outlets that would have ignored us a couple years ago and that can be a fair judge of what the larger public may be into. Either way I think it is just as vital as it has ever been and I like to believe kids are ready for a change, and I have no doubt that some of the bands in this scene now will have a large crossover to the mall kids that you are referring to.

What do you feel distinguishes you from the aforementioned bunch, because I feel like there is a tendency for people to lump genre mates together and say that they all sound alike?

With any scene or group of bands there will be a lot of things in common, and I do feel a kinship to those you mentioned, and I think they are all amazing bands, but the subtle differences are what keep it exciting. When it all gets analyzed down to the last detail I think it is as simple as we just play what we like to play and it becomes our version of a common theme. And those that think all the bands sound the same are simply just bored, and most likely don’t really like this style of music anyway.

You Will Not Survive

How has the move to Panic Records been for you guys? Any really big differences between Panic Records and Alone Records that you feel are worth mentioning?

Panic has been great to us so far, Timm is a solid dude who has been putting out a lot of great records. He also works really hard at what he does and it makes us want to work just as hard in return so I am expecting good things. As for Alone, nothing I can think of worth mentioning, Andrew who did Alone always did right by us as well, no complaints.

So how did you all go about collaborating with both Trophy Scars last year and Pianos Become the Teeth this year? Was this something you had been planning for a long time or was it like a spur of the moment let’s do this sort of deal?

Trophy Scars have been friends of ours for a very long time, Aaron has known most of those guys since grade school so it was only a matter of time before we did something together. As for Pianos that sort of just happened, both bands are big fans of each other, so the idea got tossed around then we decided to just go for it and I’m so happy we did.

The Saddest Landscape/Pianos Become the Teeth Split

2010 has been a very busy year for you guys with You Will Not Survive and the Split EP with Pianos Become the Teeth, anything for 2011 planned? Tour dates? Future releases?

Yes there are a lot of things, most of which I can’t talk about just yet, but I will say we have a new split we will be announcing very soon and a fair amount of touring coming up over the next 6 months or so, we will finally be making it to some places we haven’t been in like 7 years or so, if ever, so I am excited.

So I was listening to the Sound of the Spectacle followed by Lift Your Burdens High, for This is Where We Cross and in comparing these  albums to You Will Not Survive the only noticeable difference may be production values. But as an artist is it weird to listen to your music then and now? Are there any points where you sort of cringe?

I don’t find it weird to listen to. I think part of it might be because we still play quite a few of those older songs so they are still very much a part of our lives. And sure there are parts I would think about doing differently, but overall I am proud of those records and still view them as important part of the saddest landscape.

On a similar note what do you feel is the most striking difference between these records? This can range from lyrics to instruments? Where do you feel you all have you all grown the most as far as your sound goes?

I think the biggest difference is we play a lot more cohesively, we have a stronger line up that plays together rather well, as opposed to in the past where sometimes it felt like we just had 4 people playing at the same time if that makes sense.

Lift Your Burdens High,for This is Where We Cross

So at the end of the cathartic “The Temptation that is You” you sound genuinely exhausted, has there ever been a situation where your voice just gave out or you could not perform because you had strained your voice so much?

Yeah more often than I wish it would, I remember one show in Switzerland a few years ago where I literally could not make a sound out of my voice, it was tough. Usually though it is just a matter of catching up to my breath and all is well. Aaron suffers from it with the drums the most, the main reason there are any breaks between the songs when we play live is so he can rest a moment.

I plan on attending your show in the very near future hopefully but as far as songs go which one in particular do you feel the energy you project is equally projected back at you, in essence which song out of your whole catalog really resonates with the crowd?

The Saddest Landscape

It varies a lot, but “The Sixth Golden Ticket” and “…The Stars in January” still get a pretty big response, lately though the songs on the new record have been taking over in that regard, “eternity is lost on the dying” is quickly becoming a live favorite.  In general we try and play what people want to hear, so just ask us and if we know it we most likely will play it.

Maintaining artistic integrity is incredibly important, and almost paramount for most bands. So do you feel like it is a cop out when established bands change their sound to reach a wider audience or is it a legitimate argument to want your sound reach everyone, even if it means having to water down what initially made you popular?

More importantly does it really matter? Every band needs to do what makes the most sense for them at the time, sure as a fan I wish some bands stayed the same but regardless it does not change the fact that they made that record I still love, even if their new one might not be as good to me. I also feel like very few bands change in a way that is so calculated as to simply be bigger, it is usually gradual and they simply grow/change, the whole “they changed to sell out/cash in” argument mostly seems like conjecture on the listeners part.

One final question what could you feasibly see yourself doing, if you weren’t making music?

Not sure really, I often wish I had a job providing the soundtrack for movies/TV shows, and not really writing the songs just more selecting songs to help fit the mood of a scene. Or maybe being a vinyl buyer for some cool record store somewhere.