Music by VICE

"Though This Can Be Draining, It Ultimately Binds Us, and Makes Us Stronger": A Conversation With False

One of American black metal's finest and most secretive new bands finally breaks its silence.

by Kim Kelly
Jun 22 2015, 7:32pm

Photo by Josh Martines

Whenever a black metal band refuses to do interviews, the implicit assumption is that there's a specific reason—personal, political, or perhaps in the case of devout occultists, religious—that they don't want outsiders looking too closely at their lyrics or history. It could also come down to a band member's shyness, or distaste for a media outlet, or the simple the fact that doing interviews is usually a pain in the ass, too, but it's always worth considering exactly why a band turned down an interview request. False is different, though. One never got the impression that they had anything to hide; rather, the band's guarded demeanor always felt more like they had something precious to protect.

With the release of the Minneapolis sextet's brilliant new full-length (which follows an untitled 2011 EP and split with Barghest in 2011), the members of False finally chose to break their collective silence. Noisey is honored to have been one of the very few outlets—three, to be exact, including Decibel and Steel For Brains—to have been allowed a glimpse into the inner workings of this phenomenal band.

We corresponded via email, with five of them (one of their number is currently visiting family in Peru) contributing responses to my questions. I personally have been a massive fan for years, and am immensely pleased to have gotten the chance to discuss the band's relationship with black metal, the members' punk roots, "life-loving trash," and other secrets.

Noisey: Your new album is likely to be hailed as one of the year's finest. How does it feel to think about that, after all the years of work you've put into it?
It's great that the record has been received so well thus far and it is always pleasing when someone connects with it; but ultimately we were pleased with it first and foremost and that's what has been most fulfilling to us.

You really sound like no one else, even in the ever-evolving American black metal pantheon, and one wonders how intentional that is. When you started False, did you actively set out to be different? Or did you just come together and see what happened once you turned on the amps?
The latter, most definitely. Other than having black metal as the integral framework from which we create, we didn't set out to be different solely for the sake of being different. Nothing we write is forced or laid out with particular formulas in mind; the results are simply extensions of our true natures and selfhood. Nothing more and nothing less.

False is obviously a project that you all hold quite dear; you've taken your time with your releases, played live only on your own terms, and even now, you're only entertaining very few interviews to promote this album. This band feels like something that is kept sacred, and that feeling comes through in your music. What part does this band play in your lives? What does it offer you that other projects cannot?
All of our collective and individual experiences in relation to the band have inarguably helped define who we are today, and without it existence would not be nearly as fulfilling. Every riff written, every piece of every song can be directly linked to particular experiences and life events for us. Playing or hearing particular passages forces a pinpoint of those particular points in life when those parts were written, whether they are traumatic or triumphant. That's probably what makes this more than a band for us, we're not writing riffs simply for the sake of writing a riff one finds enjoyable (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with). When we perform live together, it is worlds more for us than 6 individuals playing music. That time period while we're on stage differentiates what you referred to as the sacred from the profane for us. It's is a time of renewal, even though the medium can be chaotic. With other bands we can become physically tired from performing, but with False it is exhausting on many more levels. Though this can be draining, it ultimately binds us, and makes us stronger as individuals and a collective whole.

Fast, intense music lends itself well to catharsis, and False seems like something that may offer a great deal of catharsis both to its members and to those of us on the outside listening in. You obviously love and respect one another, and that lack of negativity makes for an interesting dynamic, given the inherent negativity that's supposedly required of black metal. What made you decide on black metal as a main conduit for these thoughts and emotions?
Every member has a deep reverence for black metal, and those who came before. This form is the most honest and sincere for us, and thus the most desirable. Though our love and respect for each other is very real and pertinent to our output, the source of what we write definitely very much comes from dark and "negative" places. Together we're able to take those negative energies and make the experience an enormously positive one for all of us. That's probably what you've noticed when you mentioned "lack of negativity". With that said, the darkness and those negative spaces are very much a necessary component for us to create. Without those spaces, black metal would not exist in the first place, and we certainly don't play this form of music because we find the world and our surroundings satisfactory.

Many of you come from a punk/hardcore background and DIY roots—and this is a bit of a generalization of course—but it seems that metal bands with this kind of nuanced musical history do a better job of breaking out of the box where extreme metal often finds itself, since your music is built upon darkness and intensity rather than any sort of orthodox "metal only" mindset. Have you found that your punk roots actively inform the way you approach things with False?
Those roots absolutely influence our approach. They have made us more "open-minded," in that we don't strictly play with metal bands; in all honesty we sometimes prefer that. We've played with industrial projects, death-rock and post-punk bands that we find a common bond with on more significant levels than the "sonic content" bond we are expected to form with metal bands, just because we're all playing metal. There are few things more aggravating, as far as music goes, than metal bands who feign esoteric, pagan or occult beliefs because that's what's "in" right now. Those cowards bastardize practices that are very real for many people. For every "Witchcraft/Occult" Doom band that gets signed, there are dozens of actual occult bands that get overlooked, but in all honesty it's probably better that way for the underground. We'd much rather play with projects that are authentic and honest with themselves, whether they're a metal band or not. As far as perspective goes, the DIY background definitely has helped make us grounded, and taught us how to avoid the unnecessary grief that bands deal with when they somehow get these insane expectations when it comes to being in a band. We do this for ourselves, and that's all that matters. DIY has certainly informed that outlook.

You're all involved in other projects, and Minneapolis is a huge mecca for punk bands and leftist ideas. Have you caught any flack for playing black metal? Are there things you feel that metal could learn from punk, and vice versa?
It's almost a rite of passage for a black metal band to be accused of being Nazis at some point in their career, it seems. It's happened to a couple of our members—once on tour to our brown guitar player by a very blonde-haired, blue eyed person who apparently saw our record in a "questionable" distro and read something online about the band. It comes with the territory, given the history of some of the political black metal bands in the past. Other than that, we haven't gotten much flak for playing black metal. Some of us have had interesting discussions with people in the punk community about black metal, and their apprehension about it due to the history behind it; but there is an important distinction between condoning behavior and denying the history. We aren't a political band, and don't fit into the "left vsn right" paradigm that many become fixated upon. For us, black metal shouldn't be made into this humanistic medium that some people in the punk community try to appropriate as such. To do so is to perpetuate life-loving trash, just as much as the message of many NS bands is still life-loving trash at the end of the day, albeit for a particular group of people. Extreme metal has deep roots with hardcore punk and wouldn't exist without it, so on a sonic and energetic level they are inherently intertwined. Beyond that, it appears that more and more metal bands are following DIY practices, and more punks seem to be getting excited about metal. There are too many things to name that both communities could learn from each other, but it appears to be happening.

You keep your lyrics close, leaving them up to interpretation. When you write them, are they for you, or for others? Do you enjoy leaving that bit of mystery? Hell, even the album itself is untitled.
People should continue to form their own narratives. Part of our narrative is keeping certain things to ourselves so that they remain ours. In the past, the lyrics weren't very personal. It turned out that this album was a massive, many years long catharsis, and the lyrics reflect that. Many words spoken on this album weren't printed, and that habit will probably be kept in the future. The mystery isn't so important. Some things just don't need to be shared.

Why have you finally agreed to do (a few) interviews? Is it purely to help support the album, or do it just take a few years before you finally feel comfortable talking about False to outsiders? How much thought do you pay to the business side of music business? Even metal is its own cottage industry, and playing the game will get you further than not. You've kept your integrity, and it's part of what makes you so great; the bigger a band gets, the more opportunities come with compromises.
It's not so much being comfortable talking to outsiders as it is understanding their intentions with their interview requests. As you acknowledged earlier, False is an important part of our lives, and we are extremely protective of it. For us it still is most important that the music speak for itself, and having seen so many trivial and uninspired interviews for Metal bands in the past we decided that it wasn't necessary and wanted to bypass them altogether. It was a decision we made, but not a rule. We purposefully chose to speak with the particular outlets we did knowing that their motivations were legitimate, and that the writers involved were quality, thoughtful people. The fact that we're currently doing a few interviews doesn't mean that they'll become a regular occurrence. We try to pay almost no thought to the "business" side of things, as we don't do this for a paycheck. The role of the band in our lives is more substantial than that, and won't be reduced as such. That's part of why Gilead Media has been nothing short of fantastic to work with. Adam has never asked us to be dishonest with ourselves, or to do anything that we didn't 100 percent want to do. We probably could have made his life easier if we granted interviews in the beginning, but he understood and supported our decision not to when the first record came out. There are very few people like that, especially in the music business.

You're hitting the road for a tour very soon, right?
Yes, we are going on a 33 day tour of the U.S. and Canada this Summer. A week of the dates are with our old friends in Thou. We haven't done an extensive tour in almost 3 years as organizing the time for six busy individuals to rehearse is task enough, let alone planning a 5-week trek, so this is definitely an important tour for us. We're hoping to get to Europe next year.

Catch False on tour—if you're lucky, you might get to see them share a stage with Thou!

7/7 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
7/8 – Billings, MT @ Black Sparrow Tattoo Club
7/9 – Spokane, WA @ The Pin
7/10 – Seattle, WA @ Highline
7/11 – Vancouver, BC @ Fastcore Fest
7/12 – Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
7/13 – Sacramento, CA @ Blue Lamp
7/14 – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse
7/15 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Blue Lagoon
7/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ Complex w/ Pendulous
7/17 – Phoenix, AZ @ 51 West
7/18 – El Paso, TX @ The Sandbox
7/19 – San Antonio, TX @ Korova
7/20 – Austin, TX @ The Grand
7/21 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
7/22 – Houston, TX @ Black Barbie
7/23 – New Orleans, LA @ Sisters in Christ
7/24 – Tallahassee, FL @ All Saints Cafe
7/25 – St. Petersburg, FL @ The 9 10
7/26 – Gainesville, FL @ Loosey's

7/27 – Nashville, TN @ Cafe Coco w/ THOU, Noisem, Alraune, Unsacred
7/28 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Roboto Project w/ THOU
7/29 – Toronto, ON @ Sneaky Dee’s w/ THOU
7/30 – Montreal, QC @ Rrroooaaarrr Festival w/ THOU
7/31 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus w/ THOU
8/1 – Brooklyn, NY @ ABC No RIO w/ THOU (Matinee)
8/1 – New Brunswick, NJ @ TBA
8/2 – Baltimore, MD @ 5th Dimension
8/3 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wolf Cycles
8/4 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Roboto Project
8/5 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Drinkery
8/6 – Detroit, MI @ The Sanctuary
8/7 – Chicago, IL @ The 2040
8/8 – Milwaukee, WI @ Quarters

'Untitled' is now available on CD and 2XLP from Gilead Media and digitally on Bandcamp.

Kim Kelly can't wait for the Brooklyn date on this tour; she's counting down on Twitter: @grimkim