Some bands like to head into the studio, jam together, and see where the vibe takes them — but Boundaries don’t have the time or stomach for that. In recording their new record Your Receding Warmth, the Connecticut metallic hardcore quintet decided to push themselves as far as they would go and actively trim any fat surrounding their songs. The process was arduous and at times punishing — but, according to frontman Matt McDougal, entirely necessary to take their sound to the next level.
“Something that I’ve made reference to in the past, I refer to it as the 90-10 — to be constantly writing and constantly creating and to throw away 90% of it,” says Matt. “Because most of it is garbage. Because the first draft of most things are garbage. Take the 10% that’s good, and then bank that. And just keep doing that until you have an EP, until you have a record, until you have merch that you’re proud of that you think captures a visual aspect of what you think sounds like instead of just farting out five designs and not caring about it. Take more time, be constantly editing and revising yourself, and be vulnerable enough with yourself to say, ‘Wow, I wrote a really bad song. We shouldn’t put this out.’”
This might sound harsh, but the proof is in the pudding, and Boundaries’ pudding will chip your teeth. Your Receding Warmth is a record bristling with vitality, powerful and hard-hitting in its riffs and structures without ever sounding rote and typical. Each song has layers of texture and emotion, but never sounds bloated, easy, or created with just a good time in mind. It’s for this reason that the band have become one of Connecticut’s most vital musical exports and a band to beat in a sea of lackluster, derivative acts.
“For myself, at least, the driving force [behind Boundaries] would be that as the barrier to entry to create music gets lower and lower — gear is always getting better and cheaper, there’s a new form of social media every week, it’s more saturated than it’s ever been, even from my beginnings in MySpace and Limewire — a lot of heavy music is, I’d say artistically dishonest, or maybe two-dimensional,” says Matt. “My drive has always been to write music that sonically functions on a level that people like because it’s just heavy, man, I work out to this, I can’t wait to mosh to this, that kind of demographic — but creating it in a way that’s genuine and expressive. My constant drive is to create something undeniably genuine, so even if you don’t like it, you can’t say that it sucks or that it’s lazy, which I think is the worst thing to call art. My goal constantly is to not fall into the trap of making heavy music for the sake of it being heavy.”
Connecticut has a history of very heavy bands — but for many Americans, one imagines McMansions and haunted hayrides when they think of Connecticut. Where did Boundaries find their sound among all that?
You’re definitely right in that Connecticut is very cottage. I’ll drive somewhere to go get food, and it very quickly goes from housing projects to mansions that are so large it makes me angry. Two-Ferraris-in-the-driveway-angry. There’s this huge disparity as far as the general wealth of Connecticut, and most of it is pumpkin-spice bullshit. But there were places where we really found comforting. I was going to shows in Wallingford for, like, forever, way before I could drive. There was an American Legion that still has shows, and a basement in Hartford that had shows. So those pockets existed, but they were really hard to find. We found out through going to shows other places — Hey, we’re having another one, but it’s over here this time. It was just a bunch of people who were probably the age I am right now, booking their friends. Or halls that would let you have two shows before telling you never to come back. It was all very temporary — you’d have to pivot to what was available constantly.
Was there one show that you remember as being the fucking best?
The go-to one would definitely be 2014 or 2015 — a friend of mine, Cory [Emond], the guitarist of boundaries now, I didn’t know him at the time but he booked my ticket home to play a living room. So that band drove out from Ohio to play in front of a couch and everything. But there was 150 kids in that living room, so no show has ever happened there again because it was a disaster…but it was a great show.
You’ve talked about your 90-10 method — throwing out 90% of your material, keeping the 10% that’s good. Approaching Your Receding Warmth, did you have to do that less? Was the 10% readier?
It’s the process that’s worked with us, for me and sort of for us. Just keep writing, every day. And some days we’ll get an hour into it and think, ‘We’re not doing anything useful today. Let’s just scrap it, we’ll try again tomorrow.’ I don’t know if that process has gotten any less necessary. I hope it never does. I think I’d start to become afraid that what I made was lazy if it didn’t take a long time to make it, though that could just be my own insecurity. I know plenty of bands who go into the studio with nothing, and in three weeks write and record a record that crushes. That’s just not something I’m capable of, I don’t think.
All the promotional material around this record describes it as MORE — bigger, meaner, louder. In your mind, what did this record get more of from you? Where did you push your limits?
At least personally, I knew this record I wanted to really push myself and my capabilities vocally. Something that we’ve heard and that we’ve also thought internally is that there isn’t a recorded version of us where I sound like me, like how I do live. So there was a very concerted effort — not from anyone else, no one was pressuring me — to record in a way where I knew I could be proud of it. Not just temporarily, because you’re always excited when new music comes out, but I wanted to make something that was personally timeless. Rather than just record a dozen songs a day and then re-pace them out slower, I did maybe two songs a day. And I pushed harder. And I was a lot more vocal about takes I didn’t like or takes I thought I could do better. So that came from me pushing myself and me calling out takes that everyone in the room liked but I didn’t. I just had to trust in myself that I had a better voice and a better abilities, in the same way that when Cory writes a bunch of instrumentals on the songs, I’ll say, ‘That’s good!’ and he’ll say, ‘No it isn’t.’ He’s more knowledgable. So just because something sounds good to me doesn’t mean it makes sense in his mind.
Do you guys trust each other on those judgment calls, or do you ever have to sit down and talk something through?
Oh, we argue constantly. There’ll be times where we’ll get to some big melodic bridge, and I think it’s pulling all of the steam out of the song, but [Cory] thinks if the song just keeps being heavy it’s going to get boring and needs to be more dynamic. It’s not a matter of, ‘Hey, this sounds great,’ it then becomes, ‘Well, what do we want this song to be? What should it sound like?’ It breaks off into this higher conversation — ‘What will this song be on the record? Does it work lyrically to have a big melodic section?’ We’re constantly checking each other, which is perhaps how we make stuff we’re so happy with. It might even be a benefit that I know bullshit about music, because I get to sit there and say, ‘Nah, doesn’t sound good.’ And then I don’t have to explain myself, because I can’t!
Is there a track where you think you finally sound the most like yourself?
For me, it would probably be “I’d Rather Not Say.” That song, to me, is the full embodiment of myself as a creative person. Both through the ranges that it goes through, and lyrically, it feels like personally my most completed song, my most standalone track that doesn’t necessarily need to be contextualized by being in a record. Like, the single, that you would show someone and say, ‘Hey, I think you’ll like this song!’ For me, it’s that.
You recorded this record with Randy LeBouef, known for his work with The Acacia Strain, Chamber, and a ton of other bands. What did he bring to the table?
Randy was excellent. I hadn’t met him before — I don’t know if any of us had — but friends of ours had and only said good things. We did the previous record My Body In Bloom in Nashville, and we weren’t against going back to Nashville to do it again, but Nashville is 15 hours away. So we were starting with, ‘Well, what’s closer and dependable?’ And that’s how we found Randy. And he in a way that no other producer I’ve worked with really pulled the best out of us in his honesty. His ear for hearing something that’s so slightly off that you didn’t notice is insane. That was the step up, from me and Cory in his basement making our own EP and demos to a professional engineer going, ‘This take is bad. You dragged too hard on this last note. We did it ten times, but the tenth time it wasn’t right. Your hand got lazy. We have to redo this whole thing now.’ And it was a lot of that — just pushing us to get perfect takes. Just being honest, not saying, ‘Hey, great job, next song.’ He’d say, ‘Hey, you can do this better.’ Which was a check and balance we needed. We were nervous just to be there in a studio that size, with an engineer we respected, a place that’s made a bunch of records we loved. We needed him to be the one to say, ‘You’re not allowed to be nervous or shy. We have to make a good record.’
This record begs to be experienced live. Do you guys have any plans for something in the future? A socially-distanced show, or a livestream?
As far as shows, the consensus with us is, we’re not gonna bother. We would love to have a release show, and if the release show is eight months after the record came out, so be it. Because we want to have some kind of ceremonial show surrounding the release of the album just to make it special to us. But as far as a show with 50 people standing apart, or seats, or in cars — no way. No fucking way, at all. Livestream stuff — maybe? That’s so far removed from the atmosphere of an actual show that it doesn’t even feel like a replacement for the other. It’d just be something to do to kill time.
Boundaries Your Receding Warmth comes out November 13th on Unbeaten Records, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin