‘…Chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change… But that’s all of life, right? It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation.’
I think about this quote from the Breaking Bad pilot episode often. Having re-watched the series just recently, these words uttered by our main character, Walter White, still pack quite a punch. Extrapolate it to daily living and it hits even harder – you’ll find yourself astounded by the many curveballs life can throw at you with all its welcoming surprises and even more confusing disheartenments. Nonetheless, you’re indebted to its linear motion with no other choice but to come up with a course of action on a whim. Here is where resilience and progress shine through like a long-awaited beacon of light as you gain more knowledge and feel fulfilled along the way, and even having the motivation to pass that wisdom to others, be it through heartfelt expression or putting in hands-on work. SOM is but a testament to this act of determination and we at Everything Is Noise are delighted to have them for this edition of WFA.
These Northeasterners may seem like an enigmatic bunch at first glance, but don’t let that fool you – they have everything figured out. Vocalist and guitarist Will Benoit, and drummer Duncan Rich stepped up to tackling this feature and provided insight as to why that is – right down to the band name.
Will: ‘We decided we should find something that we could define rather than use something that already puts a specific idea into your head. We liked that SOM sort of implies ‘somber’ or ‘soma’ which gives you some indication of what we might sound like without giving you the definition.’
Duncan: ‘SOM has many meanings, some of which extend beyond English and language in general. SOM is ‘sound’ in Portuguese, ‘Saam’ is the number 3 in Thai (SOM was originally a 3-piece). Then beyond the standard ‘meanings’ (at least English), SOM is short, it’s gentle, and as Will said it teases feelings of intoxication, slowness, sadness, and has always conjured a dreamy vibe.’
It’s strange, really. The band name is equal parts simple, mystical, and oozes with omnipotence, with such thoroughness from its conception striking an aura of confidence that is immediately alluring – and honestly that’s how I felt upon discovering SOM’s music about two years ago. Their brand of post-metal felt (and feels) complete; a surrounding wall of soundscapes that are controlled but not afraid of soaring high nor digging deep into the muddier parts of the psyche. Above all, the name SOM strikes me as malleable to any meaning, as Will and Duncan mentioned, much like their sonic grounds.
SOM’s seemingly well-established sound can be traced back to a thriving community of artists primarily based in Boston.
D: ‘The 5 of us have been making music together in various forms, casually and officially, for years. When Will and I founded Constants, Will was living with Mike who was forming Junius with Joe and Dana. Will and Mike ran Radar Recordings together, which put out early records for Junius and Constants, as well as Caspian, Adai, Seneca, some side projects, and others. Coming up in Boston, we had a very tight-knit community of musicians and we spent many long days and late nights experimenting together in different configurations. Almost like whoever was available after work would meet up at the Sound Museum in Allston to get loud and blast off… We’ve grown up together, we’re a family. It feels like it was only a matter of time before we were doing something official together.’
As Duncan mentioned, SOM began as a 3-piece band, with him, Will, and bassist Justin Forrest (Caspian; ex-Adai) joining forces to seek out a new musical outlet completely different from their current and past projects ‘to do something simpler and heavier’. Their chemistry felt so natural that they shortly put out their debut full-length The Fall. Readers, there is not a single moment on this album where the songs feel the least hypnotizing. The Fall certainly thrives in its simplicity and is also palpably heavy – though more so akin to the rise and fall of moonlit waves rather than a menacing force seconds away to pummeling you to your death.
W: ‘…I wanted to streamline instead of lengthen, and make the vocal parts feel as immediate and as strong as I could. We knew we wanted to create something dark and epic but also something way more accessible than anything any of us had done before. I remember I was watching season 1 of The Strain when we were working on those songs, so there was a lot of emphasis on darkness and a sort of creepiness, but in a very self aware and intentionally over the top sort of way. Once we freed ourselves to make bigger, bolder moves like that, it quickly felt really natural and I think we were able to enjoy the process more as a result.’
D: ‘The Fall was an opportunity for me to focus, cut the shit, and find my place or role in the music. As Will said, we collectively agreed to simplify and be very intentional with every note and every hit. Once initial ideas were established, instead of adding, we spent a lot of energy removing, and often taking what was for us a more minimal approach. On the drums my goal was to lay back and be as unseen/unnoticed as possible, and focus on saying what I wanted to say with as few hits/notes as I could…’
Give “Ten Years” a listen and let it simmer in you for a while – it’s really something and with not much really going on, isn’t it? The reverberating bass coupled with the chunkiness of the guitar glide through this almost lethargic motion, as the airy but fulfilling vocals and synths give enough color for the song to pop out regardless of its minimalistic structure. It’s a trend that follow throughout The Fall and it’s surprising how the album never loses its momentum.
After an unforeseen circumstance that prompted the band’s members to quickly switch roles and recruit additional members, SOM permanently became a quintet, bringing in Joel Reynolds and Mike Repasch-Nieves (ex-Junius) for guitar duties. By now you should be aware that the band is quite a juggernaut – especially considering all the members having been friends for so long. Simply put, the years of experience and relationship-building will no doubt influence the musical output – no mattering the conflicts or the varying perspectives on what should go where musically – because, as Will rightfully states, ‘it’s a good problem to have when five people care so much about something’. Agreeing to Will’s sentiment, Duncan adds, ‘we help each other carry the weight when needed and we kinda have our own language when it comes to making music that can make it come together quickly, it’s fun’.
Though I can’t help but ask myself: How does this bond operate in isolation? Of course, SOM was not unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the band to come up with alternative strategies and leverage their newly developed sound. From uncertainty spawned Awake – a doom pop album (thanks, Greg! Both the band and I wish we could’ve come up with that name sooner) that, not only strengthened their brand of post-metal/shoegaze, but also introduced new aural leanings that complemented their somber music wonderfully.
W: ‘…With The Fall, I presented the guys with demos of the songs, and then we got in a room and hammered on them until we had an album. With Awake, we had started that process, but due to lockdown, we ended up demoing and recording remotely and then I mixed the songs here at the studio (The Radar Studio). So everyone was isolated recording their parts at home… Ultimately, he (Duncan) recorded the drums for the record with his iPhone – those are the tracks that are on the album – it’s kind of wild.’
With songs like “Awake // Sedate” and “Youth // Decay”, you would’ve never guessed that the band crafted them on separate spaces. Both tracks are worthy successors of The Fall, keeping the heaviness intact while bringing in melodies that are solid and really catchy. The production is more in-your-face and impacting, at the same time gently taking you to dream-like realms that are just pristinely vivid. All-around immersive, SOM proved that their flair for this type of music is simply in them – there’s no threat of isolation that can take them and their collective love for music down.
Along with the aforementioned tracks, the band brought in a few collaborators and created remixes for songs off Awake (featuring Johnny Dang from O’Brother; hisself and Ryan Osterman from HOLY FAWN) and off The Fall (featuring Marshall Gallagher from Teenage Wrist; U DYE, and Giuseppe Capolupo from The Devil Wears Prada) alike. Admittedly, I am usually not a fan of remixes and yet for some reason, these ones clicked for me. It is a satisfying change of pace as these songs are reimagined through glitchy yet subtle and even groovy electronic elements, curiously amplifying both the somberness and the sense of wonder SOM have achieved in pulling off musically to this date. Trust me, give them a try – it’s quite nice.
The inclusion of these remixes did propel me to ask the band if this sort of experimentation would be something that we the fans would hear on future releases and, from the looks of it, I kind of hit the jackpot.
W: ‘This is a great question, and something I think about a lot. We absolutely find inspiration in all kinds of electronic music, and I’m a big fan of planting seeds for future records – I love the idea of hinting at things early on so you can push those boundaries and have more palettes to explore without it feeling like a dramatic shift away from what the band sounds like… On our next album there are some electronic and sample flourishes, but it very much sounds like five people playing acoustic instruments loudly with lots of effects.’
Indeed, SOM is currently on the works of a new album (which you’ll be able to find out more about by following them on their socials listed at the end of this feature!). The band is confident in continuing their paved doom pop path, though with some interesting outliers of influences: Lately, they have been listening to a range of artists and genres – from Rammstein and Spiritbox to ’50s samba, The Weeknd, and house music. This might sound like a clusterfuck to some but to me? Yeah, consider me on board.
Parallel to their work ethic is their devotion to being agents of change. It is known that music can become a powerful platform for social advocacy, to which SOM have certainly delved into through lyrical themes of emotional awareness and collective support – ‘even more so on the new record we’re wrapping up’, Will adds. The band has also become a vessel for self-realization.
W: ‘We decided early on that SOM should fulfill each of us differently than other projects we’ve been in. For some people that means playing a different instrument entirely, for others it means streamlining the songwriting or the arrangement, and focusing on the tone of all the instruments – making sure every note and every accent count. We didn’t want to write 8 minute songs, or write another ‘concept album’. I want our music to connect in an immediate way.’
Additionally, each member has engaged in projects aimed to give back to their community and cause an overall positive impact on the grander scheme of things.
D: ‘This is how we live our lives. On a personal level each one of us wakes up and says ‘ok, how can I make today a good day, from where I’m at?’ This comes out in ways like using alternative energy (The Radar Studio), growing our own food and food for our community (Edgemere Farm), and millions of other micro-decisions that are rooted in creating positive charge in our smallest circles: ourselves, our families, and communities. On a more macro level, we try to use whatever platform we may have to collaborate and engage with different perspectives, especially voices that have less representation.’
In a way, SOM is an entity bound to progression, whether it is for the music, for the community, or for themselves. It is not at all common to stumble upon a band that is as committed and driven to cause positive change such as this one, and I made sure that all these efforts don’t go unnoticed. It is not only inspiring, but also an indication of brighter horizons to reach out to.
It is also a plus that their music absolutely kick ass. And now a few last words from our guests:
W: ‘Make sure you type in ‘SOM AWAKE’ when you search for us on streaming otherwise you might not find us. Other than that, remember to take a deep breath and look up at the sky once in a while. Thanks for taking the time to put together so many thoughtful questions.’
D: ‘Make yourself happy cuz life is really short. And be good to each other because we’re all connected and our actions affect each other, even if we don’t see it. And thank you Everything Is Noise for talking to us, and thank you reader for reading this entire thing.’
Will Benoit: vocals, guitars, & synths
Justin Forrest – bass
Mike Repasch-Nieves – guitars
Joel Reynolds – guitars
Duncan Rich – drums