Interview with BingeNinja’s Shane Burrow
BingeNinja is weird. They have acoustic records, electronic records and heavy full band records. They play those records live with varied member lineups, at various eclectic shows. We interviewed Shane and talked about their new video “That’s What We Tell Ourselves”, upcoming album “Teratoma”, what makes the band so “weird”, his need to make art, his views on music and the scene here in Toronto.
You just a dropped a new video for “That’s What We Tell Ourselves” can you tell us about the inspiration behind the track and the video?
The track was inspired by society’s general lack of realism. In public and online we present ourselves outwardly as perfect beings. We want to make sure EVERYONE knows how accepting we are of everyone else. The idealist picture we paint of ourselves becomes a mask we wear so often that we start believing our own bullshit. Suddenly we are advocating for groups or things we don’t fully understand or belong to, when really we should be projecting an honest, REAL version of ourselves. If you love someone, and your relationship ends, society tells you you should give it a certain amount of time and then “get over it”. Easy enough for the person who ended the relationship, but for those of us who are on the other end, we know that is simply impossible. Realistically, you never stop loving that person. But societies idealism dictates how we share our experience publicly. Now we are fixing ourselves when we were never broken. We are “becoming a better person” and “learning from our mistakes” when really we should be figuring out why we made those mistakes and accepting ourselves for who we are.
In terms of the video, I collaborated with a phenomenal director Shawn Hook-Carleton. As with my description above, the lyrics start from a general, social commentary and then take on a more personal experience. Musically, it was a very conscious effort to have the song feel sharp and claustrophobic with the shortened time signatures, and then draw those changes out in the second verse, followed by a full, wide open riff that culminated in a huge, spacious outro. So for the video, I wanted to make sure each section of the song had a different location, ranging from a small space to medium to long. Shawn was keen on contouring different colour/contrast elements for each section, which turned out to be genius as we feel it accentuates the flow and subject matter of the song.
When it comes to music, what’s something you used to tell yourself that you don’t believe anymore?
That success is measured by how many people are at your shows, how many “likes” your band page has, or by how much money you are making doing it. I’ve seen so many bands/artists come and go because they put in a certain amount of time/effort and it didn’t pay off the way they thought it would. It begs the question, what were you really doing it for in the first place? A true artist HAS to make art. Everything else comes after that. Like every band, we used to have dreams of being rich and famous, playing arenas and “living the good life”. Now I have found that living the good life means being happy and being able to make the art that I want without any restrictions or timelines, at least, that’s what I tell myself….
You’ve described the band as intentionally weird. Why?
We did that as a disclaimer for anyone just getting into the band because our stuff is so eclectic. A lot of our fans have been disappointed because they hear a doom metal song and hope the rest of the album is doom metal, only to find the record riddled with electronic, acoustic, pop, hardcore, piano and sounds from all over the map. The reason we created this band was to intentionally separate ourselves from the idea of what a “band” is, both musically and philosophically. Not only do the songs on our records sound totally different, but the live incarnations of the band are always different depending on what we feel like doing. It could be a full band playing a heavy set, a full out electronic set, or an acoustic guitar with a keyboard and strings. That’s why we describe ourselves as weird. So when people that had certain expectations of what our performance was going to be come up to us after a show like “Dude, wtf?” We can say “Hey man, we warned you!”
BingeNinja has been together for about ten years now. How has the band evolved over the past decade? Do you see music and the industry the same way you did when you started this project?
We’ve had various members in BingeNinja in those ten years, mostly drummers, but Sean and I have been the Binge backbone for a while now. He’s always been solid as a rock, but to watch him progress even further as a player and performer into what he is now has been very special. We’re so in tune right now, I’ll show him something and he’ll come back next practice not only killing it, but with stuff I’d never even think to put on it. He and I have grown an amazing musical bond. We don’t really talk anymore, we just look at each other like “yep”. Kyle is another fantastic story. He used to play drums in the band when we first started, but moved to central Canada. He just recently moved back to Ontario when our previous drummer Adam was having twins. Kyle came out to a Toronto show and we made him play a song on drums. Adam amicably gave up the drum throne and within the first 2min of our first practice together it seemed as though Kyle had never left the band. We had a very touching heart to heart while drinking beer in a downtown alleyway one night in which we were very forthright with our thoughts about the industry/scene/music in general, and what we wanted out of it. I can honestly say that in the 10 years as a band BingeNinja is the strongest it’s ever been. Musically, creatively, performance wise, our intent is to make art that is honest and that touches those who are open to something outside the norm. Also, we love haters. We know who you are, and we know you’re reading this right now. Stay salty bitches.
Teratoma, your upcoming second full length record is set to come out…soon. How soon!? Can you tell us about the making of this record and what fans can expect from it?
We’re shooting for a late September, early October release, but as with anything that has taken the better part of 3 years to complete, we’re not gonna rush it. We worked with 5 separate producers, easily the most varied amount of talents, personalities, studios, instruments and mixing styles for any Binge release to date. I can safely say it’s the most ambitious project yet. It’s funny because it didn’t start out like that. Initially we had written and recorded 3 songs of the heaviest material we had ever written. At that point the idea was to make a 5 song EP of heavy material to re-introduce the public to our heavy side, as the last record we had released was an acoustic/piano split record. However, that was the time Adam had left the band to be a father, and so my dissolution, mixed with my newfound creative inspiration began to garner some very new and interesting song ideas. In the past, someone I love very dearly had told me about Teratomas. At that moment I paid no real attention, but I was trying to make sense of this unclear new direction the material was heading, and I could feel a theme taking shape. I watched a video in which a woman was having seizures over and over again. Her doctor couldn’t explain it, as she had no history of epilepsy, and her symptoms were in no medical books. A brain specialist confirmed that this woman had developed a pocket of brain cells in her thigh. Her body’s natural reaction was to send cells to combat and destroy them, but because they were brain cells, they had turned on her brain as well. I felt a profound connection between this process and what was happening with the record. Basically, I let the album progress naturally until it began to implode, where I then worked with the right producer to reel it all back in. And so, you have some songs that came easily and flowed very naturally, and then you have songs where I made a promise to push myself further creatively than ever before. We did not do a general master of the record, as we want the songs to stand by themselves thematically AND sonically, which is not only a reaction to the feel of the record, but a conscious understanding that our fans are very different. Some like heavy music, some like soft music. Some like this song, but not that song, etc. Our band has always been that way. Different people like different songs. The way the industry is set up now is basically to release singles so that fans can include specific tracks and make a playlist. So just to drive the idea home harder, our record is deeply thematic, but also can be picked apart as a playlist.
You’ve recently gotten some traction in Germany, how did that come about?
I travelled through Europe a few years ago. I made friends with artists/musicians and one person I jammed with lived in Germany. She recently got in touch with me talking about an online label called NOIZEGATE records. We were messaging each other and they liked us. They wanted to include us on a summer compilation record, but they wanted to have a voting system so that the fans could decide. At first like 400 bands submitted songs. They worked that down to 20 finalists which we were happy to be a part of. The next step was to post the song and let the fans decide. The majority of the bands were from Germany/Europe, but much to our delight we were getting a ton of plays and votes, finally coming 11/20. Unfortunately, only the 10 best made the comp, but we made some great friends at the label, and have no qualms about possibly linking up with them for some shows out there In the future.
What are your thoughts on the Toronto music scene?
This is a tough one. There is certainly no shortage of talent. That being said, there are so many bands doing it for all the wrong reasons. Scene shows sicken me, as do the bands that inhabit them. There are so many artists that exist outside of the standard genre-oriented sound, but I think it’s easier for local fans, papers and blogs to cover bands that fit into a category because it’s digested easier. Also, I think a lot of bands and publications are putting their energy into the wrong priorities. I just think it’s lazy to make a generic, copycat sounding record/blog/article, and then put all your energy into promoting it within a certain category with the costumes and the look and the regurgitated band banter. It should be the other way around, and I think it’s on fans and publications to start taking more chances with shows and records they are supporting because if I have another Metallica knockoff band play for 10 people and then tell me I have to get my record on Spotify cause that’s how I’m gonna blow up, I’m gonna hang myself, cause that seems pretty fashionable right now too. Toronto will never be short of original talent, but the NXNE/Indie Week veil of success will continue to perpetuate the facade that the real artists in Toronto are getting support from the city. They are not.
From your point of view, what can we do to make this a better music city for everybody?
Well you’re covering a band that has minimal buzz online or otherwise because you like the material and you wanna shine more light on bands that aren’t getting enough attention in the city. Don’t look now, but you’re doing it.
What was your last binge?
Camping with my friends in Huntsville. I didn’t sleep for 50 hours. Brotendo got starched.
What drives you to make the music that you make?
The short answer is love. I find love in people, places, art, entertainment. But as I said before, as a creative being I HAVE to create. It is simply no longer a choice for me. When everything else melts away it will be me with an acoustic guitar singing a song a wrote. Why does one make love? Why does one breathe air? I have to. It’s as simple as that.
What does BingeNinja have planned for the rest of summer?
We just played a full band show and we’re playing an electronic show to tease some of the new material and to fine tune it onstage. Then we’re gonna take a break from performing until we work out a proper release show, so stay tuned. We just shot a video for our second single, which is a polar opposite from the first one. We shot with our dear friend Adam MaCrae who fans of the band will recognize as having shot the “Murdered” video from our first full length. Other than that, just fine tuning mixes until we’re happy with the record and ready for release. Thank you for the opportunity. I found your questions to be rather refreshing and thoughtful. We appreciate your time as well as anyone who is reading this. Teratoma is coming…
You can find more music by BingeNinja at https://bingeninja.bandcamp.com