In this exclusive Music Mondays article we had the chance to speak with the up and coming duo known as Hitbox. We discussed everything from their inception to plans for 2024 and much more.
Arctic: How did you two initially connect and what was the catalyst for starting a band?
Smegmar: I actually love this story. I initially retweeted an Omerta tweet a couple years ago saying, “Damn I want to start a nu-metal band now.” Joseph replied, “Start one with me.” And that was it- from there we started working.
Arctic: That’s actually fire. Sometimes those dynamics are best because there’s no expectations of friendship right away, it’s just music.
Rei: Do you find that online collaboration is an asset or a hindrance to the songwriting process that y’all have?
Joseph: So we work really well together. Usually when I work online with people it’s a pain in the ass, but we just immediately knew what we wanted to do so it was easy. Now live stuff, it can be more challenging. We live in different states, so that’s gonna be difficult. As far as songwriting goes, songwriting is way easier.
Destin: That being said, I play drums, and I really wish me and Joseph could get together and jam with drums and guitar- push stuff out that way. Since we’re remote, someone has to do the lionshare of the work and send it to the other person. I wish we could do more riffing off the other person though.
Rei: I’ve noticed a change in the playing and the vocals on the new songs, what spurred that change in style. Initially the vocals- they weren’t amateurish, but they had more of an emo quality to them. Now they sound more like grindcore vocals.
Destin: I learned technique. At first I was just yelling on some Corey Taylor type shit, blowing out my voice every time. Joseph can talk about the instrumentals.
Joseph: So with the instrumentals, I listen to a lot of fucking music. Basically my job is riding around on a golf cart and picking up trash eight hours a day. And so I get to listen to alot of music for all of the eight hours. Whatever I’m listening to is what I get influenced to make. With our older stuff: My Ticket Home, Omerta, nu metal- stuff like that. With our newer stuff: older hardcore, older metalcore, like Poison The Well. That’s how we evolved into that.
Rei: There’s themes of war on the singles. Is there like a general theme of war on the new project, or were y’all just playing with that kind of metal trope?
Joseph: Are you talking about Maintaining Remorse? That was just for that specific song. That song is about kinda being reminiscent of how veterans feel that hate the military once they get out of war. I know a lot of veterans that hate the shit they saw, what they did, what they played a part in.
Arctic: What were your early experiences with making music? With songwriting or playing or anything?
Destin: For me, my dad was always in groove, nu metal band. I grew up influenced by all that. His bassist is the one who got me playing drums in the first place. So, making music has been a thing I’ve been doing since middle school. As far as making good music, that didn’t start for a long long time.
Joseph: I’ve always been around music just in a general sense. It’s always been in me so to speak. I would sit outside with my dad in our trailer park, and he would be working on his old truck with this rock station on. They played a lot of grunge and nu metal, so I really latched onto that shit. Over the years it kinda developed. When I got my guitar at nine, I wanted to play Van Halen. When I was ten or eleven I heard White Chapel, then my friend started showing me heavier shit. Then I knew this was what I wanted to do. Then I tried to do shit in highschool, and then no one wanted to do shit.
Destin: I had to deal with the same shit. The first band I consistently played in was like the biggest Nirvana rip off band ever. The singer smoked newspaper to get that grungy sound because he heard the guy from Alice in Chains did that. After that I found some guys to play in a nu metal band with. We had a guy playing barrels and shit. It was terrible but it was awesome.
Arctic: So the sound you grew up in became a part of your musical knowledge?
Destin: Sometimes I feel like it’s a detriment on my end at least. I have a hard time branching out too far. I got this bubble I got into in highschool that is really hard to let go of. When I go outside it I get bored or don’t know enough about it, so I always end up coming back to nu metal. Apparently it's working out for me pretty well right now.
Rei: For sure! What are you listening to nowadays that really inspires you?
Destin: Right now I’ve listening to alot of these new deathcore bands like Tracheotomy… let me just pull up my playlist I listen to everyday. As far as new bands: Circuit Circuit, PS You’re Dead just broke up which hurt me because I listen to alot of them, Papercut, Sleep Sculptor… alright I’m just scrolling through my playlist now.
Joseph: Alright then it’s my turn! So I’ve been listening to old hardcore and deathcore, but as far as new deathcore goes, Tracheotomy fucking rip. Psychoframe goes crazy they’re looking to get a drummer soon-
Destin:I don’t know how I forgot Psychoframe!
Joseph: They make me envious and feel like I don't play guitar good enough. Volcano, Nails, Ingrown- I saw them live they’re amazing. That vocalist/guitarist has something in his head that drugs can’t replicate. Scarab is sick. I’ve also been listening to some Oklahoma hardcore bands like Peeling Flesh, Free for All, and the Tooth.
Rei: Are you gonna give up the video game imagery on this project in lieu of a more morose, dark aesthetic?
Joseph: For the album, I based the theme off this old Baroque painting that I found that I like. It’s called Human Fragility. I really love it, and what it tries to encapsulate is the general suffering of being a person. The things you go through: grief, anger, suffering. So I wanted to cover that. Morose is the perfect descriptor for that. I wanted to explore how morose humanity can be at times. All of us can go through that. The people we care about go through that.
Rei: That’s what I was getting from a lot of these singles, not like a maturity because that implies your earlier stuff isn’t developed, but now in the songs there seems to be a greater range of depth. Whether it’s in the actual songwriting or ideas behind it. What is the process been like behind the album if you don’t mind leaking some stuff?
Destin: On my end, with our early stuff I wrote about very personal stories. With the new one, I’m writing more about feelings. Maybe they’re not relatable, but I’m not trauma dumping on the page as much. So that’s been a big change for me. And Joseph’s been like I’m gonna write a bunch of deathcore riffs and they’re gonna kick ass.
Joseph: For the instrumentals, I’ve been thinking about things that make me frustrated, and I’ll think about how that feels. Then I’ll write a bunch of riffs and then there’s one that’s like, “Yep that’s what it feels like.” Then I’ll record.
Rei: Is it usually the lyrics come first, or the instrumental?
Destin: Joseph will send me a whole instrumental without me hearing it before. He’s cooking. Then, I’ll write and maybe change the drum part. That’s about it.
Joseph: I’m a no snippet kinda guy. If I’m gonna send you music, it’s gonna be a full track.
Rei: I kinda wanted to do a gear check. What kind of plugins, guitars, pedals, etc do you use to get your sound?
Joseph: A lot of it is VSTs. For the guitar tone I use Neural DSP Granophyre, and I tweaked the Mick Thomson preset. I played around with it and fucked around with it until it sounded cool. From there it’s alot of EQ and compression and processing. I also have a feedback pedal which creates artificial feedback: Digitech Freqout. For pitch shifting I use a Zoom G4X. I use Superior Drummer Three for drums.
Destin: I want to get an electric drum kit so I can live-play the drums. But they’re so expensive for a nice one.
Joseph: I have almost all stock Ibanez GRG7. It’s a little 200 dollar guitar, a cheap little seven string. I use eight string gauge strings because you can go lower and they handle the lower tunings better. I saved up for some locking tuners, and put them on there. I just use that.
Destin: There’s one single song I play my guitar on. It’s a Jackson Dinky with Bare Knuckle Aftermaths.
Purchase and Download the new hitbox album Labor Vita, Necesse Mori: hitboxhc.bandcamp.com/album/labor-vita-necesse-mori
Follow hitbox: https://twitter.com/hitboxnm