In a decade where genres are fading and visibly dependent on reunions, FRAMEWORKS are standing up for originality. The Gainesville, FL outfit released their Chorus.fm-approved debut in 2014 and while it’s been an endorsement of their skills and ambition, it’s become the perfect A-side to their new record Smother. The 11-track effort is full of introspection, poetic textures, and sections that hit like Fever Hunting, and it’s a welcome addition to Deathwish’s catalog (i.e. Converge, Cold Cave, Touché Amoré). With the group set to do a short U.S. tour, we caught up with vocalist Luke Pate for an extended Q&A about their new LP, writing between phases, and why friendships matter in 2016.
For a lot of people, music is often seen as a form of therapy. Do you relate to that at all?
Yes, very much so. For our band, I feel like when we’re up there playing music it’s less about performing and more about what we get out of the music. When we don’t play shows for a while, there’s definitely a weird feeling. We’re not performers in the sense that we’re not great actors, so when we’re up there, we’re just doing what comes naturally. There isn’t much thought to it.
How does writing about personal experiences help you handle more difficult emotions?
I don’t know how it helps me handle it… I don’t know if it makes it better or worse. For instance, there is this person I wrote a song about — it was right after we did the Modern Life Is War tour — and as soon as we got back, I walked into the bar that I used to work at and a friend of mine immediately asked me how the tour went. I told him that it was great and that it was probably one of the better experiences of my life and this guy that was standing right next to us — not in the conversation, but just listening — mumbles ‘band sucks” and walks away. Now every time we play that song, I think of that moment and that petty guy, and I still get angry about it. It hasn’t made anything worse but it’s very cathartic.
Is music something you turn to during stressful/unhappy times?
I think all of us do. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it’s something we do when someone is feeling bored or when they’re angry or sad about something — like going through a breakup. Boredom is one of those tough emotions and the best way to handle it is to write a song.
Can it be a challenge to be so honest and candid in your music?
Yes and no. I think that if we tried to be more candid, we would be very terrible at it. Not to say that we’re not very good at being candid, but I don’t think that we can do this band any other way. Frameworks is just a mashup of all of our personalities. Myself and Cory [Fischer] — our lead guitar player that we started the band with — are the exact polar opposite personalities and for some reason, when we got together and started playing music, it just worked.
So I don’t think we could do anything differently. If someone approached us and offered us an ultimatum or a deal that required us to be a different band, we legitimately would not do it. It just wouldn’t work. We really can’t function as any other kind of band. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Since releasing Loom in 2014, you’ve toured quite a bit and even managed to find the time to release an EP earlier this year. Do you get most of your writing done on the road? Or are you guys usually able to take time off just to write?
Both. Cory’s the one that fuels all of the songwriting. It sounds silly but he just gets an idea in his head and he holds onto it until we’re ready to write. He structures it out in his weird, weird head and then when we start writing, he’ll have a skeleton ready. Sometimes it will come to him when we are on tour, sometimes it happens at random. He honestly writes a lot of music while watching TV. It’s the most bizarre thing. He plays guitar while watching TV and for an album, that’s where most of our songwriting comes from — when he’s just relaxing.
Speaking of albums, you’ll be releasing your second full-length, Smother, in July. Most of the lyrics on the record are emotional and sometimes even sad, but “Trite” sticks out as it seems to capture the anger and discontentment that’s been a primary characteristic of hardcore music. What was the major influence behind that song?
That’s actually the song that’s partly about the shitty kid in that bar who said “band sucks”. I wrote that particular one because people like him and his personality really get to me. He hasn’t done anything to deserve to have an opinion like that on a band like Modern Life Is War. People have a right to have their opinions and they can say whatever they want but unless they’ve done what Modern Life Is War has done, then I don’t think they should shut them down like that. It’s people like him with that entitled mentality — they have an opinion on something they haven’t experienced and they choose to belittle others about that.
There’s another guy on the Internet who always starts these shitty Facebook groups that focus on saying very debasing things and sometimes it’s about our friends. This one time, he said something about Topshelf Records and it was out of nowhere. It was about DIY spaces and how signed bands shouldn’t be allowed to use DIY spaces because they’re for DIY bands and he tied Topshelf into that in an unfair way. People like that shouldn’t be allowed anywhere.
They conjure these ideas and spread them without any merit… it’s the same story with that guy in the bar who hasn’t done anything in music but still has a very negative opinion about my music and music that is very influential to me. It really got to me. It’s not like it’s a new thing by any means. I just felt like writing about that because there were a few people who made me very angry about a petty situation and I wanted to call them out on it. That is something I’ve never done before.
Outside of “Trite”, which new song was the most difficult one to write?
There’s a few but “Purge” is one. It’s about a family member that was not there in my early development; they kind of just split, which it is what it is. But now that I’m older, they’ve made a real attempt to come back into my life, which is okay as well. What really bothers me is that they will take credit for things that I’ve done — not that the band has much to boast over — and the first time we went to Europe, they posted about it on Facebook. Actually, a lot of family members who have never had any support for the band posted about it. They boasted about how proud they are but they haven’t done anything.
It’s just a sports mentality where if your local team is winning, you bandwagon on even if you weren’t there when they were losing or trying. So that song is about that and it’s probably the most personal one on the new album. I wouldn’t say that all of them were hard to write, but none of them were easy.
Various writers have praised you guys for your ability to progress and mature when it comes to your work. Have you ever felt pressured to broaden your approach or do the changes occur naturally over time?
I think they happened naturally. I don’t think critic reviews ever hold any weight on any part of our writing process. Everybody probably says that but we really don’t read the reviews. There aren’t many mean ones but when we started, people were rude. They would call us “entry-level” and stuff like that, but we don’t aim for a specific genre or sub-genre — we just write a song and start piecing it together and put a theme behind it. We try to keep it simple.
With Time Spent, there were a lot of people that asked if we put more structure into the writing, and that was planned out a little bit, but it wasn’t like “Okay, let’s write a chorus, verse, chorus, verse song”. We liked certain parts and we wanted to repeat them for the first time. We just kind of feel it and go.
Was your transition from Topshelf Records to Deathwish evidence of a desire to evolve?
Yeah, I think so. We always find ourselves in this weird in between phase of genres. We are always too heavy for the emo kids but always too soft for the hardcore kids. Not that Topshelf had any negative influence on that at all; we just felt that we’d rather go for a heavier demographic than a lighter one and we feel like being with Deathwish helps with that.
You recorded with Matt McClellan back in 2014 for a split and again this year for your Time Spent EP. What influenced you to stick with him for a new full-length?
We have only worked with Matt and Jack Shirley. When we worked with Jack, it was our first time recording a full-length and we jumped in headfirst because he insisted on tracking live as that’s the natural way for him to do it and for our album to sound like any of his previous albums. I don’t regret anything. He’s awesome and he’s really good at what he does. With Smother, we were definitely focused on a different sound but we also wanted to go into the studio with the songs being kind of open. That way we could hear the structure and skeletons, and figure out what we wanted to add.
What was the inspiration for the artwork for Smother? Do all of the songs connect to that idea in some way or do you consider them to be separate bodies of work?
All of the songs are separate bodies but I took a lot of time to think about how to connect them together because they are all about different ideas. I really wanted a theme to go with the album because it’s nice to be able to say what the album is about. The emotion I came up with is a “smothering feeling” and whatever the song is about, it’s not hopeless but maybe it’s pointless. For example, that kid in the bar — I could have engaged in a conversation with him and tried to convince him that Modern Life Is War is a good band, but what would it have done? I may or may not have changed his opinion, but what would be the point?
So all of these songs have this overshadowing, “smothering feeling” that you can’t get past, whether it’s good or bad. That’s what we were going for — connecting it with that theme and with that in mind we reached out to Brian Vu, who came up with the “hands” idea for the artwork. We sort of wanted the art to be black and white and have it so something would be dripping from the hand, and he really followed through with that. I think the artwork for the album is perfect.
You guys have come a long way since releasing your debut in 2014; what’s the biggest adjustment the band has endured and how has it changed you for the better?
We have had so many member changes. Loom was written by myself and Cory, and Time Spent was written by the four of us — myself, Cory, Wyatt [Rajer] and Matt [Homer]. There’s been other changes between that. We figured out that regardless of who leaves, we’re always going to keep doing it because we found a way to endure it all and keep going regardless of who quits. I don’t feel like anything is complete yet because we still have some things we need to do. We started the band in 2011 and we went through three guitar players immediately and like five drummers. I actually did a tally once and I think we’re at nine ex-members deep so that’s been the biggest change for us.
I’ll tell you a pretty funny story about my best friend Andy [Nicholl]; we met him at one of our shows and our guitar player had just left so he decided to join the band. During The Fest three years ago — this is when we were all living together and writing Loom — this girl ordered a t-shirt from our merch store and she lived in Australia, and Andy noticed that so he added something extra nice to her order. I don’t remember what it was but she responded back via email and said she was coming down to Florida for Fest and that she would love to meet him. They eventually met and then she didn’t leave — she stayed in America and they got married and then he left the band. I actually had to write a letter for them recently. I forgot to whom it was written to, but the purpose was to help her get citizenship (laughs).
But anyways, I do think the most enduring part for all of us has been trying to find new members because it’s hard. It’s possible to find someone to help fill in so we can make music as a group, but it’s more than that. At this point, if anyone left Frameworks, it’d be more than someone simply leaving the band because these guys are my best friends.