Right after the release of 2018’s Good to Feel, the Virginia metallic hardcore group Candy gained just enough momentum to put their name on the map. Signaling the energetic pulse of new school aggression while still maintaining focus for social commentary, the band showed early on no weak point in their own formula. It was no surprise, rather a natural consequence, to see the Virginia troupe later on signing to legendary Relapse Records, celebrating the occasion with another blazing demonstration of raw power - the Super-stare EP. Up until then, the band has shown no signs of stylistic stagnation, often jeering freely into other influences and soundscapes, ingeniously incorporating shoegaze, street punk, noise, doom and/or sludge into their own material.
Four years later, with countless tours under their belt, Candy are back with their sophomore effort Heaven Is Here. An industrial-infused assault on today’s digital age and the slow-burning lobotomization that technology is ensuing. Returning once again to the widely embraced Arthur Rizk to help the band form the perfect shockwave, alongside guitarist Michael Quick, the guys have done it again and put out another demolishing effort to the world. To promote the record, the band will be heading out to two US tours during the upcoming two to three months, alongside a plethora of great artists, and to celebrate all of this, we had to check in with the band’s guitarist Michael Quick to know his thoughts behind the record, talk about collaborating with Relapse, the process behind the “Human Condition Above Human Opinion” videoclip and much more. Heaven Is Here is out now!
First off, I’d like to offer you my sincere congratulations on this impeccable effort we have here. Heaven Is Here is your second full-length record, barely marking four years since you released your first proper LP Good to Feel. One should mention that this is your second contribution under a new label, right after the Super-Stare EP, and I’d like to start right there. Tell me how this collaboration with Relapse came about and what was your first reaction upon it?
Michael - Thank you! I honestly don’t remember how the conversation with Relapse started - we started communicating around 5 years ago at this point. But once we started to get to know them, we saw that even with all the resources they had at their disposal they had a lot in common with us in terms of taste and ideas about making music. Once we realized our philosophies aligned, we felt good about taking the leap of faith to work together and we’re really happy with how the partnership has gone.
Over the course of the last month or so you’ve been releasing singles non-stop. The first one, “Human Condition Above Human Opinion”, had one of the sickest videoclips I’ve seen in a while. Talk to me a bit about how the idea for the videoclip originated and how involved were you with the process?
M - For the first three months of COVID lockdown I lived in a cabin in the woods in rural Virginia. For the first time in my life, I felt separated from the rest of society and everyday technology and routines. I started to think about the way modern life is lived, with its dependence on social media and electronics. Somehow the idea of this giant subhuman creature came to mind - constantly watching sex and violence through screens and being attached and detached from technology.
I was involved in the process every step of the way except for the actual animation of the video which was all handled by animator and co-director Nikita Gorshkov. When Nikita and I initially started talking about the animation I sent him a 20-page document with all of the visual ideas I had in my brain and reference photos to explain exactly how it all looked. He then rendered the scene and we went to work on editing the clip to the music.
In comparison to Good to Feel, I noticed the production on Heaven Is Here sounds both massive and engrossing, but also much more fragmented and raw, like it’s slowly dissolving into the void. Was that a conscious intention of yours, to couple the overall theme regarding digital havoc with the sound itself?
M - Fragmented is a perfect way to describe what we were shooting for - and a word I had in mind throughout the whole process of writing. As you mention in your question, the way we consume digital media now is extremely fragmented. With the ubiquity of streaming, you can be watching a video of people baking cake, 5 seconds later have a video of a terrorist blowing up a building on your phone, 5 seconds after that be listening to pop music and then hit “skip” and be listening to extreme metal music. We just felt that the structure of the album and the flow of the album had to reflect that or the listener wouldn’t be able to relate to the album as something current, their attention spans wouldn’t tolerate it, and it wouldn’t feel like an accurate reflection of the intensity of their everyday lives.
Noise, industrial textures, power electronics, all of these had such a prominent presence in the record, which made for an incredibly sensorial experience. For what it’s worth, it really feels like a step-up. How important was it for the band to go back to Arthur Rizk and try to push it to the next level?
M - We knew that Arthur had experience in all of the above-mentioned styles and genres. A lot more experience than we have. That made it essential for us to work with him again. We knew we wanted to bring in insane sonic elements that exist very much outside of our comfortable hardcore world, but we weren’t always sure of the best methods of doing so and Arthur was a constant well of knowledge to draw from. I tend to speak pretty abstractly about the ideas in my head and Arthur just had the technical knowledge to be able to turn those abstract thoughts into reality.
Whether through associating the sound with your video-clips, lyrics, promos and artwork, body-horror often comes to mind. Does that association make any sense for you?
M - In terms of visual associations the things I actually always have in mind are Sci-Fi, reality TV and skate videos.
I also have to appreciate the continuous connection with Andrew Barnes’ (@aedbarnes) and his amazingly chaotic painting artwork for your records. Do you feel that’s been an important component for the band’s aesthetic?
M - Absolutely. I think he’s genuinely the world’s greatest living artist and we’re honored to work with him every chance we get. This is hard to put into words, but from my perspective it’s shocking how accurately his art reflects the image in my head of the world that we try to soundtrack with our music. It’s become so linked for us that when I write new Candy music I try to visualize what cover he would paint for the new music to help steer it in the right direction.
Hardcore has always been one of the strongest musical platforms for critique and social commentary. Whether speaking out for the smaller injustices in the world, or even striking the bigger pictures, do you think that will ever change in the hardcore movement?
M - I think the more hardcore loses connection to social commentary and critiques the more pointless it becomes.
The world has been a miserable place for quite some time now. War, dictatorships, technological desensitization. Being an artist whose artform confronts and critiques all of these things, one way or another, isn’t that also a form of self-criticism and scrutiny?
M - You’re right, we don’t see ourselves as separate from these problems. One guiding principle of this band is that the “post-apocalypse” that Sci-Fi movies and books have been imagining for decades is not in the far-off future - it is right now, and as people living in that environment we should scrutinize the ways we contribute to it. But as conceptual as the band is, it is also very personal to us. For example, without giving away too much detail, I’ll just say that I very, very much relate to the creature in the “Human Condition” video.
Can anyone reach any sort of betterment without vulnerability?
M - I’m not sure how to achieve “betterment,” but I don’t know if you can find happiness without being honest and vulnerable with yourself about the problems you face.
You’re on the verge of diving headfirst into two US tours. First one will be in the second half of July, alongside the surprising pairing Restraining Order and Lust$ickPuppy, and in August/September you’ll be traveling with vein.fm, Regulate and Living Weapon. You gotta love the diversity in both of these line-ups.
M - We’re very excited about both of them. In regards to the July tour with LustSickPuppy and Restraining Order, we’re particularly excited because we feel like it really accurately reflects the vision that we have for making our music. Restraining Order is straightforward hardcore at its best, LustSick is crazy electronic music, and Candy is a blend of all of it - we think that all kinds of music can coexist and thrive together and we think this tour proves that.
Europe and Portugal are having some serious Candy cravings. So, tell me, what future overseas endeavors can we expect in the near future? No promises, of course.
M - We are hoping to make it to Europe in 2022. We’re running out of time but we’re trying. Like you said, no promises, but we VERY MUCH want to come to Portugal.
Last one to wrap it up. What have you been listening to?
M - Honestly, I’ve been trying to cleanse the palate after listening to so much brutal stuff while working on the Candy album. A lot of ambient music and club music.