Class Traitor discusses their debut EP ‘Calving’ & their eagerly anticipated launch
Image credit: dsr-photography.com
Class Traitor are a desperation sludge-metal project based in Naarm/Melbourne, consisting of members of well-established bands such as Munt, Bøg, Plovers & Beggar. Their debut EP Calving captures a snapshot of a world in despair and on the verge of seeming dissolution. Filled with raw, visceral emotion, the release is brutal, intriguing and wonderfully crafted. Released back in December 2021 initially via Crucible, the band will finally have a chance to formally perform and release the record at the launch on the Saturday 30th of April. I sat down with the band at Jam Hut in Preston and discussed the EP. it's original release and the evolution that has occurred since.
Class Traitor consists of Eric Stone, Sol Laskowski, Ronnie Dixon and Dan New; Andrea Daniels wrote and performed drums on Calving, but after stepping down to make space for existing commitments, Dan has taken up the roll after their departure. Recorded in the Dandenong Ranges during one of the brief moments between lockdowns, the EP is the band ‘dealing with social disconnection, isolation, and getting ground into meat and dust within a bureaucratic, failing machine-world.’ Each song was recorded live and in a single take, aiming to capture the songs in their most organic form; how they would be heard and performed live.
Glass Heart, the first single and opening track of the EP, is described by the band as a narration of a ‘slow, stilted decline into lovelessness. Every damaged day is a boot on her heart. Unable to either escape or maintain, he creates an inner world, where digging down to find a seed of warmth leaves his knuckles bare.” As the opening track of the EP, it is an uneasy listen, but in the best way possible. It sets up the tone of the release and musically encompasses the emotions that the band were feeling at the time they wrote it.
Listening to this EP, it feels like four chapters of a book; although each track is distinct, musically and thematically intertwined with one another, it tells a story. Each track keeps you engaged, building on the previous in power and emotion, and it also has very few moments for the listener to relax; it holds on with a vice-like grip. Even when the tracks scale back in intensity, there is something sinister present in the background at all times, there is a constant sense of unease and restlessness. Perfectly mastered for vinyl, the first two tracks bleed into one another beautifully, with a brief moment of rest in the middle, almost like a break to flip the record, before it picks back up, cascading into the last two tracks of the EP, arguably the most seething tracks off the EP. Overall, it is intrinsically punishing to listen to; there was not a moment listening to this EP where I did not feel like the sense of pure desperation, anxiety and constant sense of unease that this record is aiming to evoke.
As a band, Class Traitor is an unpretentiously collaborative project. There is an ease and self-assurance when they talk about each other and how they create together as a group. Eric mentioned, when discussing working with Sol for the first time “[He] just comes up with really good stuff, and it makes me want to do create things that are more meaningful; I’m not just creating things that are just a practise but that are not really felt in that style.” Sol added “… that goes both ways. I very quickly realised that even if I had an idea and it didn’t resonate particularly strongly with me, it might be a potential song for Eric, and he would come back and really like it. Even if the ideas were quite rudimentary, if Eric found some sort of meaning in them, he would just go ahead, straight away takes it and injects all this emotional momentum into it. I would come up with a seed for this song, and if Eric ran with it, then there was this whole universe of lyrical content and emotional direction that would steer the writing process… It was this very rapid back and forth.”
Working around people you have unbridled confidence with can create a distinctive unique project at times: Class Traitor are a wonderful example of this. Described as a ‘happy accident’ when discussing the bands beginning moments, the project has clearly allowed them all to delve into a new style that they hadn’t artistically explored before. Working off one another, each member will throw something, and although it may not resonate with themselves, might inspire another member, giving them the inspiration to create something new. Eric added to this “[initially] We would try a whole bunch of styles, because Sol can basically play any sort of heavy style that you can talk about … Half of them I thought ‘maybe’ or ‘no’, and then there were some that really stuck. We just kept going down that road, and it was great for me. A lot of these styles, I can’t physically do those styles of screaming and put those kinds of lyrics out there; I can’t put out something that doesn’t actually make me feel something.”
While talking about how the band has evolved since initially coming together and what the project has become for them, Ronnie says that “a lot of what this band is about is catharsis. It started off and it was just meant to be this heavy, sludgy band. Instead, it ended up being this vessel for getting out getting out feelings and feeling things as we play.” Sol also discussed Class Traitor being an outlet for his creativity, another cathartic element of the project for most members. “This has been a great opportunity for me, as it has been an opportunity for a lot of musical ideas that I have had kicking around but never had the direct outlet for. A lot of other music I play is quite prescriptive or the genre is already well established – I know what those sounds are meant to be like. I had written some music that didn’t really fit into the projects that had more defined boundaries and with this new project, I was able to throw some of these ideas out there; although not all of them stuck those ones that did work, turned out really well… It’s a lot more open ended.”
Although it sounds odd to be doing an EP launch 5 months after its release, it is a product of overall circumstances. Asking how they been preparing for it, there was a general consensus was that of excitement and elation, with Eric saying “We just feel lucky that we are able to do this kind of release at all… There’s a lot of people who haven’t heard it.” With Dan being a new addition to the band, Sol added “Getting [him] on board recently, we are experiencing his approach to playing and unique take on the tracks. They are almost like new songs again.”
With time, new band members and space away from performing, the band has already started working on new tracks. “It’s no secret, especially amongst the band, that I am excited about all the new stuff” says Sol, “We are sitting on at the moment and I can’t wait till we get to a point that we are now introducing our new stuff… We want to try and get another release out by the end of the year purely so we can get to working on the new stuff we have already started.”
Image: Sally Townsend
Class Traitor is part of the Crucible line up, which includes not only bands, but artists, writers and film makers. Started by Sam Saljooghi and Scott Curtis in 2020, Crucible is described as a ‘a platform for supporting and growing independent artists, as well a space for collaboration, in the blurred lines between genres’. Their aim is not fight against the artistic vision of the band, but to give artists the ability to build their vision and help present it in the most professional way possible.“We are here to foster the visions of our kindred spirits, through every aspect of the release process, as a conduit for DIY ethic and integrity to be presented to the world.”
Chatting with Scott, who is a vocalist in Naarm-based band SUNDR, he discussed that the idea stemmed from him wanting to release his music independently, but professionally. “We sort of decided as a band that we wanted to self-release it and have complete control of it… We had the idea of starting a digital store and online marketing, something which Sam has a lot of experience in. From there, it naturally evolved into wanting to starting Crucible. We wanted to make the label something neutral and let the bands choose how they wanted to show themselves creatively and aesthetically… We [Sam & Scott] both saw that there was a gap in the market, and how it felt to be an artist in isolation, so handing it over, we know that nobody is going to listen to it or even understand it as intimately as you do, so there ends up being a lot of compromise with that. We wanted to make the process of handing over for the artist to be as easy as possible; we want to adhere to their vision rather than being a label that just creates a list of demands.” The band could not speak more highly of Scott and Sam at Crucible, crediting them while we were chatting for creating a wonderfully professional release. They were able to handle a lot of the stress of releasing the record, which is something a lot of independent artists can dread.
Overall, Calving is an EP that is definitely worth your time. And I recommend to truly take your time with it, as each listen unveils something new within the record. This is a perfect snapshot of the band at the moment this was recorded, and it will be exciting to see where they go next. Eric warned that “that if you enjoy this EP, the next will be even more punishing” and I think it will be utterly captivating to see them tap into even more of that emotional and catharsis that they have only begun to scratch the surface of.
The Calving EP launch is on Saturday the 30th of April at Old Bar, with live support from Bract, Well and Gil Cerrone. Tickets for the gig are available via Oztik.
Class Traitor: @class.traitor