Interviews

Binary Vocalist Jordan Shteif on Their New Record and More

Photo: Morgan Newell

I am not a purist. The liminal spaces between hardcore, screamo, and metalcore don’t particularly mean much to me, and I love when bands knowingly skirt the lines of all three, allowing themselves to breathe and move. With that in mind, Binary is a band that gives itself free reign to play around with the music they make. It’s refreshing to hear a band not give a fuck about anything except for the songwriting, something that Binary has in spades. 

The journey they’ve taken—from an inauspicious, prototypical skramz demo to their newest, most explosive and moving material—is one of a band full of people who are students of the game in the truest sense. They know how to make the most of the tools in their sandbox, in ways that others don’t. The band’s last record, Commit More Arson, is a passionate and blistering workout, the zenith of a band whose members spent their teen years listening to equal parts Usurp Synapse and Gaza.

I’ve been privileged enough to hear their latest material, Say Your Prayers, No One Cares, and it’s another rocket fuel-powered step forward for the band, dancing between borderline-deathcore breakdowns, enigmatic sass, and frayed primal-scream-therapy from vocalist Jordan Shteif.

I’ve seen Binary live twice now; once at the Hope for Shelter fest in San Antonio and again a few days later in an Austin warehouse where Jordan hung upside down from the rafters while screaming their lungs out. What could have been a rote foray into spazzy mathcore cliché ended up being the most electrifying performance of the evening due to the band’s charisma and passion. It was so impressive that my partner bought a shirt after initially being skeptical.

I recently sat down with Jordan to ask them a few questions in advance of their new material. 

Alright, so first things first. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. I gotta get the generic question out of the way first: how did Binary start?

Okay, word. Binary started when I got the idea to move from Florida to Philly. I knew Alex [McFarland] and Logan [Reilling] (guitarist and bassist) because the tape label I helped run in high school put out their old band (Magnolia). They were moving to Philly for school, and they knew our old guitarist, and that person introduced us to our old drummer, so like August 2017 we started writing for the demo we put out in October or November of that year.

To my ears, you draw influence from screamo and even deathcore while still being pretty strongly rooted, musically, in metalcore. Where do these aesthetics and influences come from?

Alex and I kinda recently got into deathcore a bit, them probably moreso than I. I kinda just love the MySpace shit. I moved to Philadelphia a screamo kid and through playing more shows in that genre up here I just got tired of it. Metalcore was introduced to me through [my partner] Téa and other friends who were also familiar with screamo. I had a really negative perception of a lot of things I’m into now.

I think that kind of progression is really interesting and it's something I've been talking about more lately, how stuff that used to be dismissed as "poser shit" usually ends up coming back as an influence to later generations. Why do you think that is?

I mean, it’s 2019 right? People have been worshipping '90s bands for at least 15 years at this point. How much more can really come from that? If you ask someone who’s 30 how they got into “punk” they’ll probably tell you their older sibling took them to a show or some shit, [but] nowadays most of us got into it from the internet, which gives us such a wide range of music to look back on and derive influence from.

We can all see that a band like Drop Dead, Gorgeous probably heard 18 Visions and went “Shit, I wanna do that,” but we can look at that progression and take what we want from it instead of only having one scene or one band to look at. In ways that has let people push things far as hell, and in others it’s homogenized things to the point where regional differences in sound hardly exist anymore.

Photo: Morgan Newell

Oh, 100%. The internet kind of revolutionized DIY music in general and hardcore music in particular—bands that were a literal footnote back in the day have grown huge cults of their own due to people rediscovering them and spreading their gospel.

Speaking of regional differences in sound, do you think that being a Philly band influences Binary's music in any significant way? I think the "typical" outlook on Philly's DIY scene is that it's all twinkly emo, but it's got a historically robust hardcore scene and you've also got bands like Soul Glo who play rip-shit hard political music.

Sonically, Philadelphia hasn’t influenced us in the slightest. I think that’s because of the internet and the access to everything ever. Soul Glo are a really good band, probably the only band I’d drag myself out of the house to see. I saw them play the basement of a Chinese restaurant last week. So cool things like that will happen occasionally. I feel like things are disjointed, can’t say I feel a strong sense of community here.

Photo: Stone Fenk

That's pretty interesting. I know a lot of people who talk a lot about how DIY is their "family" and while I think local DIY communities are important, that shit also rings a bit hollow to me sometimes.

It seems hollow to me too. Sometimes I wish I lived in a smaller town that had a hardcore scene. In Philadelphia it seems like everyone just wants to come through on tour so they can play their shit to a few people in a basement and eat an overpriced and overrated vegan cheesesteak. I talk a lot of shit when I could probably put more effort into cultivating a scene but like I said, Soul Glo are the only band I’ll walk outside for, and I don’t want to bother them by asking them to play a show every time I get hit up to book some band.

Word. So let's talk a little bit more about your music. When your demo came out I remember thinking that it was pretty much boilerplate screamo—good, but definitely of its genre. Then Commit More Arson came out last year, and I think that was kind of the perfection of the whole screamo/metalcore hybrid that's been starting to get traction this year. And listening to your new LP, I feel like you're switching things up again while still maintaining that full-throated aggression and tightly-wound songwriting dynamic. How would you chart Binary's musical progression?

We started just wanting to play screamo/emoviolence influenced by Love Lost But Not Forgotten. That band’s too good to even touch, so we released that demo with three songs on it, not nearly heavy enough to come close. Commit More Arson saw us attempting to write breakdowns but not really with any intention of getting people to move. We were still new at it; I suppose we’re still new at it but we have a goal in mind when we write nowadays, a lineup change solidified that.

The new record is very influenced by bands like Heavy Heavy Low Low. We didn’t want to completely abandon our “roots” just yet. That’s what the songs we’re currently writing are for. I don’t think I can properly categorize the new stuff. I call it "brat-core."

As in [Philadelphia scene luminary] Brat Cote?

Brat liked screamo Binary more than brat-core Binary, so I don’t think so. Shout-out to Brat, though, that’s my king.

[Laughs] The only thing I can gather from that label is that the music is gonna be hard as hell and I'm stoked. Okay, one last thing real quick: I heard you've got an emo trap project and I wanna know about it.

Only getting harder is the plan! God, the rap project is kind of a joke. It’s just funny to sample Makara and the Red Light Sting and talk about imaginary scenes of things too dramatic to take seriously. It’s almost a songwriting exercise for the heavier music we make in Binary. Songs aren’t catchy anymore and I want to change that. Kyle [Kovac], who plays drums with us now, produces all that shit. Maybe an EP will come to light soon. I love YungJZAIsDead more than anything. I’ll also take any excuse to stop working a job. If a fraction of my rent can get paid via SoundCloud I’m all in.

Photo: Morgan Newell

God, if only. Thank you so much again for taking the time to do this interview. If there's any one thing you want people to take away from it, you have the floor now. Shout-outs, statements, whatever.

It was fun! Say Your Prayers, No One Cares will be out soon as hell via Convulse Records and Pattern Recognition Records, unless someone we’re kinda sorta flirting with wants to make us theirs. Follow binary on social media I guess: @1001binary0101. We’re not that annoying. Look out for that new .gif from god. It’s better than anything you’ve heard in a long time.

Keep your eyes peeled for Say Your Prayers, No One Cares, out on Sept. 6. In the meantime, check out the debut single, “The Thrill That Can Kill,” here.

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