They famously called themselves “hardcore kids with leftover Slayer riffs” when they started in 1990. Now Converge are arguably the untainted face of aggressive punk. Propelled by LYRICIST Jacob Bannon, their abrasive sound has spread without any mainstream promotion, hitting #1 and #8 on the U.S. Heatseekers and Indie charts alongside the mega-commercial likes of Pearl JamJason Aldean, and Kiss. They achieved this without artistic compromise through a DIY work-ethic which eventually morphed (through “60-hour work weeks”) into their own record label, Deathwish Inc. We talked to Bannon to discover the mindset required for that kind of artistic drive, as well as the inspiration for their chilling lyrics:

To live the life you want, you’ve abandoned those in need
A necessary casualty, or so you would believe

So begins the opener “Aimless Arrow” – [LISTEN] – from their eighth and most potent record, All We Love We Leave Behind. Bannon tells us this piece regards the “consequences of abandonment” and aspects of his life that trace as far back as his childhood.

“Aimless Arrow”‘s piercing riff, courtesy of guitarist Kurt Ballou, fits this theme like a glove, and Bannon has recently described AWLWLB‘s music-lyric relationship as more connected than past efforts. We ask him to elaborate: “The songs on our most recent album have subtle twists and turns in them for sure. Rather than just being straight-forward vocally, we attempted to create vocal patterns that enhanced these aspects of our songs. I write independently from the music for the most part, so no musical direction dictates what I do in that world…we write songs about negative/complex things in our lives…not to glorify these things, but to work through them and find a positive.”

Perhaps this is best exemplified on the title track – [LISTEN] – that Bannon wrote after his beloved dog died in his arms, epitomizing all of the sacrifices he had made to be a touring musician, including time spent with loved ones:

I’m sorry that I missed your lives
While I was on the road, learning to survive
You deserved so much more than I could ever provide
Thank you for loving me and bringing light to my eyes
All we love we leave behind

As poetic as Bannon can be, he couldn’t explain Converge’s secret sauce for their devout following, or how everything they’ve released since 2001’s Jane Doe sets their breed of punk’s pace: “I don’t analyze what we are or how people interpret our music or art.” Though he did draw circles around why their music connects so well – loyalty and honesty. Loyalty in 22 straight years of Converge. 12 with this last “definitive” lineup of “brothers.” And artistic honesty: “We’ve never attempted to fit a mold or style within our subculture,” the 36-year-old frontman later emphasizing, “music for many is role-play, but for us it is expression…from an artistic perspective, we are an honest band creating honest music. I could see that people could relate to that, regardless of age or direction in life.”