Punk band evolves but holds onto DIY ethic

By TRAVIS BRAASCH

While many musicians and bands continue to create music in the same vein as when they first started, Ceremony has broken free from the constraints of hardcore punk and continues to evolve with each new release.

Ceremony started in Rohnert Park, California, in the early 2000s.

The group released its first EP, titled “Ruined,” in 2005. The EP showcased a faster style of hardcore music often labeled as power-violence.

Shortly after, Ceremony released its first full-length album, “Violence Violence,” through the hardcore label Deathwish Inc.

Band members have known each other as far back as middle school and many members have played together in bands since their teens.

Guitarist Anthony Anzaldo’s interest in playing music goes back to his childhood, when his father worked for MCA and Elektra records as a record promoter.

“His job was to get songs played on the radio,” Anzaldo said. “Before becoming a record promoter he worked as a radio DJ, so music has always been a major part of my family. I was exposed to various types of music since birth.”

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Photo courtesy of Ceremony

For many musicians, an artist or band sparks an interest in creating music themselves. For Anzaldo, Prince made a lasting impression.

“I discovered Prince when I was 8 years old and it opened up a whole new world of music for me as far as the way I would listen to and enjoy music,” Anzaldo said. “He was the one who first inspired me to play music myself.”

While Ceremony found success within the hardcore and punk community with a blend of fast tempos, noisy guitar blasts and rapid-fire lyric delivery, band members found themselves growing and evolving as musicians.

“With fast hardcore music like “Ruined” or “Violence Violence,” it’s only done well when you’re young,” Anzaldo said. “That youthful angst is what makes hardcore and punk music great.”

Ceremony released two records under the well-known punk label Bridge Nine that showed a change in style.

The album “Still Nothing Moves You” reflected interest in textures and layers of sound. “Rohnert Park” began to sneak in spoken word passages and vocalist Ross Farrar used a more traditional singing style.

“It was definitely a natural progression for us to move away from hardcore music,” Anzaldo said. “We all grow up, change and evolve, and our records reflect this. It’s worked out for the best.”

Fan Eli Hernandez said Ceremony’s lyrics are still punk.

“Punk lyrics are personal and are usually from the singer’s life experiences, and they still have that on their newer records,” Hernandez said.

“I never really notice what label a band is on first,” he added. “If a band is good, then I’ll listen to them.”

Ceremony’s progression in sound included signing with the larger Matador record label, which is known for having a roster of bands that play various styles of music rather than focusing on any specific genre.

The group’s move to a larger label garnered criticism from hardcore fans who embrace smaller labels and a DIY aesthetic. Anzaldo said jumping to labels like Bridge Nine and Matador can seem like a big jump, but it’s really not.

“Labels don’t really matter the same way they did in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “People don’t listen to a band or musicians just because of the label.”

After joining Matador Records, Ceremony released the album “Zoo” in 2012 and “The L-Shaped Man” last year.

The albums show a giant shift in the group’s style, embracing the sparse style known as post-punk that originated in the ’80s.

“We know a portion of our fan base is made up of hardcore kids who loved our first records but we know that “The L-Shaped Man” is not a hardcore album,” Anzaldo said.

“We make music for us and if you like it then that’s wonderful but we aren’t going to pander to our fan base to just go on tour,” he added.

While the group has scaled back its blast beats and edgy lyrics, “The L-Shaped Man” sounds like a record made by a band knowing exactly what it wants to do.

It calls up memories of a band like Joy Division and The Fall, which paved the way for post-punk music. The lyrics remain personal, however, and the album still sounds very much like a Ceremony record.

“I feel like the album is definitely post-punk but we have always played music that didn’t necessarily fall into one scene or another,” Anzaldo said.

“People who listen to Ceremony cannot be grouped into one niche or scene, and getting to tour with a band like Bloc Party has shown we can play in front of different audiences and people will dig our music,” he added.

Being in an active band for a decade has given band members time to grow as people and as musicians, and their latest album reflects this. Ceremony is functioning better than ever and has no plans of letting up.

“We used to tour a lot more,” Anzaldo said. “When we put out a record, we will do an American tour and a little European run but we actually aren’t on the road anymore.”

Ceremony finished its American tour with Touche Amore last month. The band always has plans to record new music, so fans should keep an ear to the ground for news of an upcoming release within the next year.

For more information, visit ceremonyhc.com or matadorrecords.com.

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