For over a decade, converge has released some of this era of hardcore's finest soundtracks to catharsis. But though the scathing mix of punk and metal they've patented after 14 years of playing together has helped carve out a new genre, influencing countless new bands (and a few direct knockoffs), frontman Jacob Bannon claims the Boston hardcore heroes have absolutely no interest in the scene they helped create.
"We don't hang out and listen to metallic hardcore," he says over the phone. Bannon's en route to Banff as part of Converge's first cross-Canadian tour, which finds them heading all the way east to Quebec City with Canuck punks Cursed.
"We don't see how we relate to a lot of those bands. We don't sound like them, and they don't ethically come from the same place. What they do is rehearsed and pretty, and what we do is ugly and real.
"We're against complacency and a lack of originality. We're all about supporting stuff that's sincere, passionate and real, regardless of what tiny little sub-genre it falls into."
So you'll probably find Converge listening to, say, Led Zeppelin or Nas over some watered-down wannabe act like Atreyu.
That attachment to "realness" is in keeping with the band's strong DIY ethic, to which they've stayed committed despite their growing success. It's why they choose to tour independently, shunning big travelling shows like the Warped Tour or Sounds Of The Underground.
"We don't have any fun doing it," explains Bannon. "This band's a positive outlet for us to make serious, emotional music, but we also want to give our audience a good experience. We don't think those festivals are the right environment to make that happen."
It strikes me as kinda funny that after several epic albums -- including 2001's genre-breaking Jane Doe (Equal Vision) and last year's successful You Fail Me (Epitaph) -- the remarkably soft-spoken Bannon talks about the band's sound with some humility, insisting that they just write songs that challenge them and that they enjoy.
But though Converge may just be writing for themselves, something about their music's raw energy and brutality has connected with more people than they ever expected.
That rabid following is partly attributable to Converge's unwavering commitment to their fans. For the band, it's not about mascara and rock star posing, but about actually trying to relate to the audience -- not to mention that they're legendary for playing harder than a motherfucker at their live shows.
"People come to support what we're doing, so I feel it's our collective responsibility to give it our all every night," says Bannon.
They're one of those great anomalies -- a bunch of guys in a band who not only talk a good game, but actually follow through. Though crowds as far away as Japan go apeshit over their shows, these guys still cling to their integrity and live the hardcore no-frills lifestyle on the road.
"That's amazingly important to us. Without that ethic, without having your own moral compass as a guide, you essentially have nothing."