The Brooklyn metal scene is thriving. “It’s really cool to see how many bands have done well coming out of Brooklyn in recent years,” metal guitarist Elizabeth Cline tells us. And her band, Mortals, is no exception.
We spoke with Cline yesterday over the phone about the band’s new album, Cursed to See the Future (just released by Relapse Records), and what it’s like to balance her career as a full-time writer and journalist with her seemingly relentless tour schedule and efforts toward a new album that Cline said are already underway.
Tonight Mortals will be celebrating their album release with a show at the Acheron. The band will also be premiering their very first music video inspired by horror films like Psycho. Two more bands, Godmaker and Mammal, are also going to play some brutal metal. Doors are at 8 p.m., but get there early and stay late for the dance party Cline says she’s hoping for.
Caryn, the drummer, and I were in a post-hardcore band together before Mortals. And then the drummer and the bass player of Mortals were in a Slayer cover band together. Those two projects kind of fell apart around the same time, and the three of us were looking to do a band and– this is like 6 or 7 years ago now– we combined forces.
I kind of came to the guitar sort of late in life. I grew up in South Georgia and I was actually in the marching band when I was in middle school and high school, and that’s how I learned to read write music and started playing French horn and trumpet. Originally I had classical music training and so did our drummer, Caryn. And then I started playing guitar seriously when I was probably 22 or 23, which is like, especially in the metal world, pretty late. There are people who are shredding their asses off by that age. So I had a lot of catching up to do.
It’s interesting you had classical music training, I feel like that’s a common theme– a lot of people I know who are fans of metal are also fans of classical music. But maybe my friends are just weird.
No I think you’re right. I see a lot of overlap. My aunt and uncle who live in Georgia, they think it’s totally wacky that I’m in a metal band. And I’m like, “Well, actually if you listen to metal, if it’s like played acoustically, it has a lot in common with classical music.” They’re both really complex styles of music.
I grew up in the punk and hardcore scene so when I started playing guitar I was playing simpler hardcore kind of stuff. I wasn’t one of those people who grew up listening to a lot of metal. I got drawn into the metal scene just because going back like seven, eight, nine years ago, that was the scene where the most creativity was happening. Like, the music that’s coming out of the American metal scene right now– it’s incredible. I think it’s one of the most creative, imaginative spaces for music right now, and that’s also why I think it’s getting more inclusive, and more “mainstream,” if you will.
I do, well I think that music follows trend cycles just like everything else. And obviously in the ’80s metal was the biggest musical genre in the world, so this isn’t a new thing. But I mean metal is really different now than it was in the ’80s. I think part of it is that now the scene is much more focused on good musicianship and good performances. I think that’s something that appeals to everybody. And I see less exclusive, snobbish behavior coming from metal heads, which I also think is really cool and more progressive, I guess.
Yeah, as a musician I’m definitely more interested in, and challenged by metal than I was by hardcore and punk. I was always really into hardcore and punk because I’m a very socially conscious person. So for me, I always loved hardcore because of the message. But now that I’m an adult, and a grown ass woman, I don’t really need to necessarily have some sort of statement coming out of music. I just want to enjoy music for music’s sake. And that is, to me, metal to its core. It’s very rare that you’re going to go to a metal show and get preached at.
So I know the punk scene can be very male dominated and it can be tough for a woman that plays music. Do you feel that the metal scene has that equivalent vibe? Have you ever been labeled as a “girl band” and is that frustrating?
No, not at all. That’s another thing I love about metal. In metal, people will pay attention to you if you write brutal, kick-ass music. Are you good at what you do? Do you slay? Otherwise people aren’t going to pay attention to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl. So I like that the scene kind of measures people based on talent. And it’s less concerned about whether or not we’re girls.How does it work? The thing about Mortals is that it started out as a hobby that kind of took on a life of its own. When we started out we had no intention of ending up where we’re at today. We just kept touring, and we just kept getting better, and then this opportunity came along and of course we had to take it. We have to see how far we can take this.
I honestly am in the process of figuring out how to balance my writing career and the band. We have our album release show this Friday, and we have so much going on with the band right now. I probably spent four days straight in my house. I didn’t leave. I was finishing my second book proposal to give to my agent, because I know I’m going to be on the road with my band a lot this fall. And if I don’t get this done now, it’s not gonna happen. It’s tricky, but so far we’re all pulling it off. Like Caryn, our drummer, is still working at WNYC, and Lesley she’s still in another band, she works sound at the Acheron, she also works as a graphic designer at a fashion company in the city. We’re all still juggling all these different things going on in our lives and I guess it remains to be seen if we can keep this balancing act going or not.
I’m really really proud I’m a part of this community. I feel really fortunate. […] It’s really cool to see how many bands have done well coming out of Brooklyn in recent years. The first band that we went on tour with back in 2010 was Mutilation Rites, and they’re from here and they’re doing really well.