Inter Arma continues on a dark path
For Inter Arma, like many bands, 2020 has essentially been a wasted year.
Aside from having a full list of erased gigs, including a handful of European festivals and a lengthy opening tour for Deafheaven, the musically adventurous and atmospheric Virginia rockers have been unable to write new tracks, as the dynamic of the group requires that the members be together. in a room during creation, which proved impossible in the first months of the pandemic.
“We’re definitely a group that writes together in our practice space, so it’s tough when that doesn’t happen,” singer Mike Paparo said by phone in late November from his home outside of Richmond, Va. . “We’re not one of those bands where a guy creates a whole song on his own and then sends it to everyone on the computer. … Some bands came out and recorded three albums [during the shutdown], and more power for them, but we just don’t work that way.
To make matters worse, when the band finally regrouped, reuniting for rehearsals towards the end of 2020, their bassist left, forcing the musicians to switch from writing new tracks to relearning past material with a reconfigured programming. “We’ve written a few new songs here and there, but a lot of the last year has been spent teaching. [our new bass player] the back catalog, ”said Paparo, who will join his fellow Inter Arma group in concert at the Spacebar on Sunday, December 5 (proof of vaccination required). “Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thinking of ideas, and I have lines and concepts and all that, but first I need to hear the song and feel the vibe of it. If the song isn’t there, I just have volumes of what at this point amounts to chicken scratching.
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Revisiting the group’s past catalog, Paparo was first struck by the number of songs he had forgotten, especially on early albums such as To sleep, from 2010. “I mean, I wrote the lyrics for them, and I didn’t remember anything,” Paparo said, and he laughed, then admitting that he had visited lyrics sites in line to remember precisely what he had written. “Funny. What does Genius.com say the lyrics are here? OK cool.”
Inter Arma managed an exit during the pandemic, however, releasing the cover disc Garber Days revisited in July 2020, which finds the group reinventing songs from everyone, from Prince (“Purple Rain”) and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (“Runnin ‘Down a Dream”) to Neil Young, of whom “Southern Man” serves as witty record and emotional anchor, in part because of Paparo’s long relationship with Young, as well as the way the song reflects his own experiences moving from New England to Richmond.
“My mom loves Neil Young and played his [music] all the time, so the first time I heard this song was when I was a kid, ”Paparo said, adding that while the song was a deeply meaningful part of Inter Arma for over a decade, she has recently gained resonance as Richmond has started grappling more openly with her story amid a reborn movement of black lives. “It made [reiterate the song’s importance for us], especially after what happened in the summer of 2020, when they finally demolished those fucking [Confederate] statues littering our city. “
Paparo never hesitated to write about politics in Inter Arma, although it was more veiled on the first albums, standing out more clearly on Sulfur English, starting in 2019, a meaner, meaner, and uglier record, shaped in part by the social and political unrest the songwriter saw spread to the United States in the months the album debuted to take shape. “I think the disgust with some aspect of what was going on in our country at the time took over, and it was like, [forget] that’s what it will be about, ”he said.
Don’t expect a brighter turn when a new record finally emerges, likely in 2023, with Paparo being careful to note that whether he explores internal strife or a global collapse, he tends to take a darker view. .
“I don’t like happy music. I don’t like cheerful art. I don’t like happy books. I don’t like pop music, for the most part, ”he said. “The kind of stuff I’ve put in place for what will become of the new Inter Arma, it’s dark. … I have tried to stay positive for the past few years, and personally I have done a decent job at that. But, man, the world is messed up, and when I write I can’t have a happy face and say to myself, well, it’s dark right now but it’s gonna get better. I don’t know if it’s okay. It’s like, OK, cool, I can’t wait for climate change to kick our ass and the water war to happen. The injustices keep piling up, but, OK, cool, great. Let me keep hope here. I wish I could write something playful, like, “Hey, we’re having a dark time but we’re going to be fine!” But I don’t think it’s inside me.