Progression Session

6 July 2012 | 4:18 pm | Dan Condon

Some people hate the new direction Ceremony have taken, says frontman Ross Farrar, but there’s no way this band is changing for anyone.

For a band as dark and as heavy as Rohnert Park, California's Ceremony tend to be, their frontman Ross Farrar is one chipper sounding guy. As he sits in his house, sipping a cup of tea having just finished a shift at work, he speaks over the phone about the fond memories he holds of our country.

“It was my favourite tour that I'd ever done since being in Ceremony, was being in Australia,” he recalls. “I skated a lot, I got to meet all these really cool kids, the women were beautiful and everything was fun. I got to go in the ocean a bunch; it was just like vacation but I played shows at night.”

The darkness is there at his core, though; remembering it's winter on the other side of the world, his eventual destination, excites Farrar.

“I like it dark and gloomy out,” he says. “I don't like Californian sun that much.”

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The band were last in Australia in 2008 and at that point in time, from a music fan's perspective, Ceremony were a very different act to what they are now. Their Violence Violence and Still Nothing Moves You LPs of 2006 and 2008 respectively were as harrowing as their more recent material, but executed at a far more furious pace; old-school thrash hardcore rather than the more muscular, perhaps more considered, but still as dark and angry Rohnert Park of 2010 and Zoo, released earlier this year. Musically, this band have changed a great deal, but that's about where it stops, says Farrar.

“It's still the same,” he considers of what it is like being a part of Ceremony. “We pretty much work the same way, we like to play with good bands that we respect and enjoy, it's pretty much the same. It's just the music has changed a little bit, that's all.”

The band have always been favoured critically, but with the somewhat more marked shift in sound on Rohnert Park they received a new level of praise. Zoo, which changes things up yet again, is being given similar plaudits.

“There's been a very positive reaction so far,” Farrar agrees. “At first people didn't know what to think about it but that was the same with Rohnert Park, people thought it was kind of strange but they got to really like it and enjoy it after a while and I think that's kinda what's happening with Zoo. But I think we're gonna be throwing people off no matter what, every time we write a record. Because there's two years in between each record and what you do in that two years is a lot of stuff, a lot of things happen to you; you might do some bad drugs or you might break up with a girlfriend or someone in your family might die, you're probably gonna hear like 1500 different bands in that time and no matter what, those bands that you listen to are going to affect you in some way. You're gonna take a little from each band, no matter what; things are gonna change for you in two years, that's just the way life works.”

But that doesn't mean the band have changed the way they create their music.

“No, I think we always write the same exact way, we just get into a room for about a year and try to write as many songs as possible,” Farrar says. “Everyone is so different in the band that's why the record sounds, I guess eclectic… there's all sorts of different sounds coming at you.”

But passionate music fans can be tough, and one would imagine that the change in direction from Ceremony's earlier powerviolence hardcore to their more recent fare wouldn't have exactly been embraced with open arms by everyone in the punk rock world.

“Yeah, definitely not,” Farrar confirms. “Some people hate it. They want us to put out Violence Violence eight years in a row. But I don't think that's possible for us, we're always changing. Trying to do something new with our music is like a baby trying different food as it gets older; you're not just gonna eat pizza your whole life, you can't do that, you've gotta try different stuff.”

But the difference of opinion isn't an issue for Farrar.

“No, it doesn't annoy me. I've been in a punk band for so long that I talk to kids and have interactions with kids and I know that a lot of them want some kind of concrete band in their life or something, but lately I've also been meeting kids who really like the progression and how we change up our style. I'm not really affected by it, I just let people be who they are; if you don't like it you don't like it, if you like it, you like it.”

One thing that hasn't changed all that much over the years is the thematic territory of the songs, both in a musical and lyrical sense. Farrar and his bandmates construct pieces that are dark, angry and somewhat foreboding, pretty much across the board. There's a certain attraction humans have to the darker side of life as well as a certain inherent beauty within that darkness, Farrar says when asked about the band's thematic ground, and it's not lost on him.

“I think I've always had a strange undertone in anything that I write, where I focus on stuff that is a little dark but at the same time has a tinge of beauty in it,” he considers. “I think things that can be dark and bad and depressing and scary at the same time have something that appeal to you. People would rather hear about you doing something really bad and weird than hear about you doing something really good – that's just human nature. People would rather hear the Devil's story than Jesus' story; the dark stuff is what grasps people, that scariness, I've always kind of been in tune with that, I guess.”

No matter which side of Ceremony you're into, you can rest assured you'll get a slice of that era at their live shows.

“We play songs from every record,” Farrar informs. “I think it works great, I love it. Sometimes we play really fast crazy songs and I'm getting beat up, but then we play slow songs and I get a break from it, I kinda need that sometimes.”

As far as whether their approach to playing live has changed, it seems as if the overall feeling in the room might be fairly similar to their last dates over in this part of the world, though Farrar hints at some new stage moves he's taken on board.

“I just do a little bit more of a freak out on stage, I get a little freakier,” he tells. “It's hard to explain, it's kind of a pulsating crazy thing. It's pretty much the same vibe though.”