Words by David C. Obenour
I’ve Seen All I Need to See is a blistering album. Blown apart guitars and drums smash against each other with fury. After being drawn into the darkness with an opening spoken word track, all that follows is suffocating and unrelenting. Though underneath these heavy layers of noise and distortion, dirges, riffs, momentum and raw emotion pulse through the songs for a fascinating and compelling listen. The Body have stripped their sound down to its core and created one of their most fully realized works yet.
Off Shelf: Last year was very trying for many and the holidays can exacerbate that even in the most normal of years. How have you been holding up?
Lee Buford: I’ve actually been hanging in there pretty good. I’m a very anxious person so when the lockdown first happened it actually calmed me down a lot. I wasn’t worried about all these things I should be doing or having to go out. As things have started reopening despite any real progress with anything it’s admittedly made me feel a bit stressed. My mom is 75 and still teaches public school so I worry a lot about that.
OS: The album art and aesthetic of The Body is extremely closely woven into who the band is. Can you talk about the cover of I’ve Seen All I Need to See and more broadly, how you see the visual aspects of the band playing into the music?
LB: Our friend Alex Barton made the cover. We’ve been friends for about 15 years now. He’s done videos with us in the past, designed shirts for us, played on a couple of the records with us so he’s definitely in The Body family. He’s always really good at being on the same page as us so I think he was just trying to make something as bleak as the record is.
OS: The title of I’ve Seen All I Need mirrors some of the bleakness and suffocating heaviness of these songs. Can you talk about how you landed on that name and what it means to you?
LB: We actually got the name from a song by our friend from back home in Arkansas, Adam Faucett. Chip was listening to his record one day and he says that line in the song “Day Drinker” and we asked him if he was okay with us using it. The song is pretty grim but in the southern kind of way where mere existence can seem daunting. I think it’s pretty apropos for the record.
OS: The world is such a different place from when you wrote and recorded I’ve Seen All I Need to See. How do you think what you did then reflects our juxtaposes with how you were feeling then?
LB: It’s weird that we recorded the record before the pandemic but it’s a very fitting record for it. It’s very claustrophobic which I’m sure everyone is feeling nowadays. It’s also very angry which I’m sure everyone is also feeling. When we recorded it I don’t remember being all that angry but maybe it was some divine guidance or something.
OS: Can you tell me about the spoken word sample that opens up I’ve Seen All I Need to See?
LB: I wanted to start the record with the same narrator that ended the last record. On that one he was reading Bohumil Hrabal and on this record we had him read “The Kaleidoscope” by Douglas Dunn. I wanted it to bridge the two records together. They’re both very different passages but both have the same theme of trying to make sense of the situation you’re in.
OS: Admittedly, I’m ignorant of most things gear-related, but I can’t help but be fascinated in the blistering tone of guitar and blasted out drums on this album. Were there any moments or sounds that stick out from the album as ones that you were excited to have been able to capture?
LB: I think once Seth [Manchester] started experimenting with how to get the level of distortion we wanted we were all pretty excited. It’s just a process of sending the signal back and forth between the board and the tape machine with blowing it out each time.
OS: How much of that is control and how much of that is exploration? How important are both to you in achieving the sound you have for The Body?
LB: It’s a lot of exploration until we get what we want and then it’s pretty controlled. But we always kinda push things out as much as we can.
The sound is really important, I mean, on this record the sound of the distortion is the backbone of everything. It’s what unifies the record I think.
OS: In a similar matter, how do you approach your use of vocals in the album? Do you approach it like you would an instrument in the band or do you see it as filling a different role?
LB: It’s a little bit of both. Chip’s vocals are like an instrument but when we have guest vocalists on, a lot of times they provide the polar opposite of Chip’s vocals so they’re usually very melody heavy to create that balance between the two.
OS: You talk about noise as an expression of freedom, a “liberation from sound” – which I found a fascinating thought. Can you talk more about that in both how you create and consume music?
LB: I think I like “noise” music in the same way I love early punk, hip hop, and dancehall. It’s about creating something with either limited gear, in the case of hip hop and dancehall, or limited ability, in the case of punk. It just seems more sincere to me in it’s limitations. I think it’s easier to relate to music when it’s something you feel like you could potentially make. It’s kinda the same mentality of the way people love love songs because everyone’s been in love. The commonality of it is what affects you.
OS: For as brutal as this album is I still feel like I can hear glimpses of struggle and triumph in the noise, helping to balance the heaviness. How do you approach melody when you’re creating music so heavy?
LB: It was tough on this record to be honest. Usually we have Chrissy [Wolpert] singing or strings but we didn’t put any of that on this record. I think Chip would never admit it and it’s probably not intentional but he has a very good ear for parts that are really heavy but also pretty catchy.