Somewhere in the middle of Upland on an idyllic spring day, Pathos sits in a dimly lit den: a makeshift studio that is littered with tools for melodies and syncopations from old keyboards, vintage amps, basses, effect pedals, to a drum kit sitting comfortably in the back corner of the room. The towering wooden shelves on the back wall are flushed with aged hardcover books that an antiquarian would be anxious to excavate, and in between the two shelves is a solitary window slightly ajar, cooling the hot room with a gentle breeze that sways the window covers, speckling soft light around the room.
Ironically, Pathos is unlike that tranquil image of the den. Their shows are filled to the brim with aggressive tones and raging attendants who jump into each other in a state of release from their own repression. Lead singer, Arturo Ramirez, also known as Art, strides around the stage like a raging ringmaster, often leaping off stage to chant in the whirling mosh pit. Behind him is a rancorous orchestra with lead guitarist, Brandon Aviles, shredding his shrieking Fender in a sediment of fuzz, Rodney Cox grooving elegantly on his bass, and Cameron Fonacier fiercely striking his drum kit where together they create one maniac punk concert. Many show goers who began spectating and standing around from earlier artists are suddenly found in the pit, where they, too, flail to the tantalizing sounds of furious fuzz. By the end, I can tell I am sweaty from having joined into the mob of the mosh.
Pathos is a garage post-punk band from the Inland Valley that sounds like they want you to thrash your perpetual existential crisis away. Their Bandcamp info states, “Making music that doesn’t matter for people who don’t matter,” as though an epigraph to their music that discloses their theme: the perplexing pains of existence and the discharge of repression. What began as a two member duo quickly became a four man entourage with members coming from all around southern California, and their new addition of members not only provided them new ways to play, but added to their electrifying spectacle of cacophonous fuzz and distortion to defibrillate you from the torpid torture of being.
Their first release, Influence, was entrenched in a sentiment of meaninglessness caused by modern society and normality. With lyrics such as “It is time to disguise the fate of my demise,” in No Bodies to exclamations like, “Are you okay?” and “California’s dead” in RUOK, it seems that Pathos captures the bitterness of “slaving away,” in the golden state of California. Yet, their music is diverse in tone, with songs like “Leak,” emulating an opioid-induced daze where one tries to escape the desolate nature of daily life with a reprise of “Sing out.” Pathos dispels all these vexation with their dark, grim sound, with each song creating a unique temporality of infuriation, and Influence is ecstatic with layers of aggravation on top of fuzz, contriving a noisy dream of yearning and demise to auditory life.
After one year of dropping their first self-produced album, Pathos has returned harder than ever with their second independent project: Examined Life. This five song EP includes new members, Cameron and Rodney, which has allowed Pathos in creating the tone that they have been working for: a heavier and grungier timbre that delves deeper into the depths of repression. These five songs carry more weight than the songs in Influence and the inclusion of live drums and bass in the recording have allowed the band to elevate to new territory. While the feeling of torment emanates from the music, the lyrics are more introspective. The title track, “Examined Life,” reveals a more personal side behind the lyricist, Art, stating, “I know I’m self-destructive” and in “I Think I Figured It Out,” Art unveils his disorientation of his own identity, exclaiming “I thought I was me.” Overall, this album pushes their limits further and represents an evolutionary step for the band, where instead of being influenced by other sounds on Influence, they have scrutinized themselves and have discovered a new plateau of idiosyncratic noise in Examined Life.
When I entered the sanctuary, Brandon, Art, Rodney, and Cameron were by the bar inside the den fooling around and conversing about anything from tacky tattoos to music equipment. Then, Art begins joking about a music video idea where they are watching their own music video on Youtube and leave disparaging comments, or as he says, “talk shit,” on their own music video. In the hilarity that ensues this discussion, I find that Pathos is a strange cohort of eccentric characters with profound incite.
For the interview, we headed outside to the backyard.
Q: What is the Examined Life?
Art: It’s like 5 songs we put together that we’re gonna release.
Q: Is there a meaning behind it? Why is it “Examined,” and why is it “Life?”
Art: Well, the last track is called Examined Life, and I feel like all the songs deal with the same kind of introspection and figuring stuff out and learning about your life; learning about yourself.
Q: I feel like your last album there was more angsty, while this album sounds angrier. Is there a reason for that?
Art: There’s definitely some anger in there.
Brandon: Producing it was crazy. It was just another way of approaching music, like more heavy, especially adding them [Rodney and Cameron] in it gave it more a feel. We started to experiment with heavier, faster, different tones. That’s what came out.
Art: I think my writing has stayed the same. It has always been angry for some reason. And angsty.
Brandon: just minor chords bro… *everyone laughs*
Q: In the song “Examined Life,” what is the point you’ve dragged on?
Art: Oh basically that, what’s the point? Why do I keep talking about this? Why am I addressing this? Why am I trying to figure stuff out? Yeah. I don’t know. That title track definitely like embodies the whole feel of the record, like dark, you know, kind of in my thoughts.
Brandon: That’s also the title track, Examined Life.
*In the middle of the interview, one of the residents of the household pops their head out the window.*
Window Guy: Hey guys, hey I’m naked.
Brandon: Dick out.
Window Guy: I hope I’m not interrupting.
Art: This totally makes it more intimate.
*Naked man fades away back into the window.*
Q: So back to what’s the point you’re dragging on…
Art: Yeah that lyric is kinda like a slap to the face. Kinda why like…
Q: Why am I doing this to myself?
Art: Yeah! I’m very in my thoughts all time. That’s what a lot of my lyrics are. Just kinda like…
Art: I’m always thinking like bigger picture stuff. And that’s not good for me. It’s like a very depressing state that I can be in sometimes you know. Also, it was either Socrates that said it, quote unquote, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And I think that’s really cool. I think it’s true. And yeah, so that title track, but also like I said it embodies the whole record and the themes and tones of it. So I think, you’re asking “what’s the point I’ve dragged on.” So onto that question. So I’ve examined my life thus far, still like, what’s the point? You guys didn’t know it was that dark.
Art: I’m kind of very emo.
Q: What was the creative process behind this album and how was it different from the previous one [Influence]?
Art: Very different.
Brandon: Very, very different. The first record was just me and Arturo, and a drum machine in my bedroom. These songs started off the same. We got Cameron in the band, we started working with him a lot; we finally took the time to like, actually work on new shit I had demos of. My laptop: just hidden gems. And then we found Rodney and then he came in and we started writing more tracks.
Rodney: Heh, through Facebook.
*Everyone bursts into laughter*
Brandon: Craigslist and Facebook.
Art: That’s the way to do it.
Brandon: It was insane, and so these were all tracks I had on my laptop except one of them: “I Think I Figured It Out.” We all like literally jammed it out.
Cameron: Yeah I think that jam… We jammed it out with Rodney.
Brandon: In my kitchen. It was sick.
Cameron: Yeah that was a good one.
Brandon: It started like ‘yo, I kinda came up with a track last night. Here’s like the beginning tracks,’ [Rodney] started playing them, [Cameron] started doing drums, and then I just improvised. Then Arturo was like ‘AHHH!’
Art: I think I kinda improvised the chorus part of that.
Brandon: I also texted you like we should have a song called “I Think I Figured It Out.” Literally texted him saying that.
Art: And that was like in the back of my head when we were jamming that out. So like, I was singing that for the most part. ‘Cuz when their jamming, I kinda just want to ad lib some stuff even though if I’m not saying anything or if it’s not coherent. And then I built around that idea and yeah I don’t know, but the process is completely different, it’s like more of a group effort rather than just two dudes in a bedroom. So like hopefully people notice that. You know. Influence. It’s called Influence for a reason. We were influenced by so many different things at that point of our lives and we were like a lot younger and people listening back to that what… thirty minute record? It’s like there’s a lot of sounds on there and I feel like this Examined Life EP is more structured, straight forward, there’s more of an overall theme. Which is…. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but like, very realistic and can be nihilistic at times. But yeah, it’s very different. It’s a lot better now.
Cameron: When we have a collective of like a bass, a guitar, I think the pieces just come together. I think for sure, for “I Think I Figured It Out” that was a major bass influenced song.
Rodney: Yeah with that song… I’m not the really biggest… I don’t really care about the pedals necessarily, but randomly I was like let’s just try the octave pedal and see where this takes us.
Art: And it like totally…
Rodney: And it just changed the song entirely. Just made it heavy.
Brandon: Insanely heavy. We literally like… he dropped it and it was so heavy that it like shocked us. We were, like, we stopped, “HOLD ON.” And we went from there. Production’s been crazier and crazier. It’s just getting progressively heavier. We’re getting older. We’re not into like teeny bop shit anymore.
Art: I mean I still like teeny bop shit. You know also the songs on Influence, there was no set time. Like ‘oh we gotta finish this by this. And with Influence, it wasn’t like that either, but with Influence it was like a two-year span. You know what I mean? Examined Life like yeah it’s like only 5 songs, it’s like obviously less songs than whatever thirteen we had on Influence, but these, they came a lot quicker. ‘Cuz we were in [Brandon’s] room and we could knit pick everything. You know what I mean? And I’m over that. I kinda like trust his production style now and I don’t need to be there for that. Yeah. I hope people hear that. If people listen to Influence and then listen to Examined Life, they’re gonna notice a huge difference.
Brandon: Especially like with mixing.
Art: and I’m like really proud of everyone’s work on this.
Art: Just like as proud as I was on our work. We banged that out: Influence. So yeah. Just everything. All of its different.
How do you want people to feel after they leave your show?
Rodney: Hurt. *Everyone bust up laughing at Rodney’s remarks.*
Rodney: Physically, not mentally.
Brandon: Daaaaaaaaaang! They gotta go to the hospital after.
Art: If we can make them feel anything, that’s great.
Rodney: Hurt with a smile.
Brandon: I mean that was like the main intent of Pathos.
Art: Dude yeah we like…
Brandon: It was like Pathos has to do a lot with emotion or a lot of feeling… the music… when I was producing a lot of this shit I was like “I want people to feel this.” You know what I mean?
Art: The songs are like really heavy but also the lyrics are also really heavy and… I don’t know… its cathartic for me.
Brandon: “I JUST LOST MY JOB!”
Art: Yeah and like when we play, I do know the live show experience is obviously completely different from the recording.
Cam: One thing: energy too. I want people to see that we have energy. I mean that one show we played in Coachella.
Art: Oh yea we played a show for like two people.
Brandon: But we killed it.
Art: And it was one of the most insane shows we’ve ever played and ‘cuz you felt that you know?
Q: What’s the deal with the artwork behind it? And why does it look like Cam?
*Everyone laughs a bit*
Cameron: Is that why I had to get naked in the portrait?
Art: the artwork is actually pretty funny. So that Cam model thing, whatever? I went to a show when I was 13 or so, I was really young. It was a hardcore show.
Naked window guy comes out asking for them to do an acoustic show.
Brandon: PATHOS UNPLUGGED…. CUT MY WRISTS AND BLACK MY EYES!
Art: I was at this show and I got knocked out. Long story short, I got knocked out and I woke up in the hospital and I like I had short term memory loss. I didn’t remember anything. That picture… there’s like files…. the medical files that tell you what happened to you and then they have some portraits… some illustrations of where you were bleeding and where you got hurt. So that outline that looks like Cam, is supposed to be me, and if you look closely it’s bleeding from the nose and the lip and shit. And that was like “Oh this is what you look like.” So I thought that was cool, so I just traced it on some thing and put it out. Added different colors. I don’t think you’ve seen the original, but the original is pretty funny.
Q: So how does the artwork and album come together?
Art: I want people to feel like that cover.
Art: it’s also representative of the…. We were gonna call it fight riff for like…
Brandon: yeah, it was a joke thing.
Art: It was a joke thing, but I interpreted in a way. Cuz a lot of the songs have to do with inner struggle, right? Examining your life, where you’re at. Inner struggle, that constant fight you have with yourself every day. I’m sure that we all feel that? I don’t know. I feel that. I feel that, but I feel like that illustration of the cover is representative of that whole feeling. Of that feeling. Of beating yourself up. You can interpret it in so many ways. It all makes sense to me, it can all make sense to you.
Examined Life is out now. You can find them on: