by Niccolo Dante Porcello (@niccoloporcello)
Before they were Double Grave, the Minneapolis trio of Jeremy Warden, Bree Meyer, and Seth Tracy played for three years under the moniker Ego Death. In collaboration with the great Forged Artifacts, the band has compiled a reissue of that early work. Comprised of their first single as a band (“The Kiss” premiering here today), and their final EP from the Ego Death era, the tape, Ego Death Forever, is a delightful review of an early era of a band that has matured and grown over the past 6 years into a formidable act. In that time they’ve eschewed some of their sun-drenched pop-ness like that on “The Kiss” for their heavier, -gazier sound of contemporary releases.
“The Kiss” is a standout song, sounding maybe something like a distinctly Ego Death/Double Grave attempt at a Bombay Bicycle Club track, with a dominant, buoyant riff that comfortably sits above incredibly steady work from Meyer’s bass and Tracy’s drumming. It is blissfully romantic without being the least bit trite — the goal of so much songwriting — and frenetic without being rushed. Warden exalts: “I met you in north Wisconsin/ you were hauling plants out of a van/ I knew I didn’t stand a chance” a humanly relatable sentiment in every way, except perhaps geographically.
Present here is the magic of going back and listening to Ego Death Forever — you are listening to the formative spirit of Double Grave, and watching people grow up. On 2017’s New Year’s Daydream, their first work under the new name, their sound is far more nuanced. With Ego Death Forever as reference, we can now hear the trio, and Warden as a songwriter, evolve both sonically and romantically. It is both a gift and a remarkable insight to have this addendum to an already great discography.
Below is an interview with the band about the Ego Death Forever release:
P-T: Although this material is separated from your current output as Double Grave, do you all feel like it is still representative of your work as a trio? Is there an ideological separation between the Ego Death material and the Double Grave material?
Double Grave: When we changed names we weren't trying to become a whole new band or anything, it was still just the three of us. But it did provide an opportunity to sort of clean up our back catalogue and start fresh. We mostly just moved forward and left the Ego Death stuff behind, but eventually some of those songs started to work their way back into set lists, either by request or because we missed playing them, and over time it became clear which ones stood out as still feeling like "our songs". In a sense this new tape feels like what our first release should have been if we'd only been more patient in putting things out. These are the songs we think really do represent that beginning time for us.
P-T: When revisiting these Ego Death songs, and listening to them in comparison to Empty Hands, they sound like a more raw version of the band -- something of a youthful tenacity that was critical to the evolution into Double Grave. How do you view this era of your/the band's songwriting? Is this reissue project driven by nostalgia (not that this is bad), or something else?
Double Grave: Ego Death got moving so quickly, and we didn't know what we were doing but we wanted to do everything we could. It started as this fun thing for us to do, but soon enough it was the only thing we cared about and before you knew it we'd had four recording sessions, a few tapes, and couple tours behind us. So to hear that they sound young and rough energetic is nice, because that's really how it was! This reissue is for sure partially nostalgia driven, it was just a really fun time with lots of dreaming and very few cares. But we also felt like we owed it to ourselves to keep this year and a half origin story alive and not totally bury it. Like I mentioned before, there were a lot of songs we are fine forgetting, as every musician has, but, these ones feel like they still show off who we were then, what it was like to be a starry eyed trio of friends.
P-T: Looking back -- what were the biggest differences between the Ego Death-era and the current Double Grave one? Comparing the songs from each era, I hear that the name change inspired a more coherent sonic image for the band, but is there anything else that changed?
Double Grave: I think when we changed our name, we were sort of making a commitment to ourselves to take things more seriously. It's like, we've done a lot, learned a lot, and we now have a better idea of what we want to be and where we want to go. Ego Death is actually a very popular band name around the world, so we knew that if we wanted to do this indefinitely, or try to bring it to another level, we'd need to change our name at some point. We'd been working hard on our album New Year's Daydream, which was a pretty big sonic shift from everything before, and thought that that release was the perfect opportunity to start fresh with clearer intent. I think we were asked a similar question in local magazine right after the name change, and we just kept saying how we're serious now, and we want everyone to take us seriously! Which I laugh at now, it sounds so silly and dramatic, but it felt like a big deal at the time, it really felt like making a pact together for the first time when we renamed.
P-T: The "Death" and "Grave" portions of the two names respectively are certainly akin in a way -- was this manufactured, or more coincidental/lightly referential?
Double Grave: The death theme was more coincidental than anything else. We'd decided that we needed to change our name, and spent a few months just coming up with names, hanging on to them, seeing what stuck. We were actually on tour playing in Western Mass when we thought of Double Grave. We were literally killing time in a cemetery before the show when Seth saw a double grave, and we thought "add it to the list!" Then the rest of tour I kept having dreams that that was our name, I could just see it ya know? And when we got back it was decided. The Death/Grave thing definitely felt right, it felt like a cohesive switch. A lot of our songs dwell on death and how it works, so, despite our poppy tendencies, it seemed right to keep that theme out in front. Before everyone thought we were a psychedelic jam band, now everyone thinks we're metal!
P-T: Is there anything else you'd like to say or talk about with this reissue?
Double Grave: I guess I'd just like to say I'm thankful to the community we have (you, Forged Artifacts, Ali, all our friends) for helping us do this. It's an odd thing, I think, to switch your name and do a reissue only a few years after the fact, kind of re-writing your own history. Especially for a band as small as us! But to me everything feels complete now, like I've made amends with a ghost of the past or something. Before we'd left a this awkward gap in our identity, and now it's all clear! And we can carry on fully intact. And for that I am grateful.
Double Grave tour dates:
5/14 - Minneapolis, MN - Mortimer's
5/15 - Omaha, NE - O'Leaver's
5/16 - Columbus, MO - PDM
5/17 - St.Louis, MO - CBGB
5/18 - Springfield, IL - Bread Strechers
5/19 - Kalamazoo, MI - Shakespeare's
5/20 - Madison, WI - Mickey's
5/21 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club
5/22 - Sheboygan, WI - Weather Center