Vocalist Aaron Heard discusses the intersection of subculture, venturing outside of their genre and refining their heft on their latest record.
Story by Kevin Diers
Onstage, Aaron Heard is an uncorked bottle of aggression. Sweat drips from his bare chest as he sends the crowd into a limb flailing frenzy. His enthusiasm can’t be contained as he leaps from the stage into the outstretched arms of the crowd, all while screaming into a microphone as the band behind him plays crushing metallic riffs.
As someone who has attended hardcore shows for well over two decades now, it’s obvious there’s a refreshing sense of excitement sprouting up from the underground. Just weeks before seeing viral clips of Knocked Loose crushing it at Coachella in what will surely go down as a historic moment, I witnessed this first hand with a sold-out Seattle show featuring Heard’s band, Jesus Piece, playing alongside the eclectic mix of Scowl, Show Me The Body, TrippJones and Zulu. All around me were teenage kids circle pitting and singing along.
Reflecting back on that tour from his home in Philadelphia, it’s obvious Heard appreciated the diversity of the lineup.
“I always thought it was so weird to have all these like subcultures and everything riding next to each other and nothing ever intertwined,” Heard says. “Not that things need to be this like music mashup all the time, but you know, I think we’re all outcasts in some way, shape or form. So that’s why it was really, really cool to have all these different groups together and hanging out interacting. At the end of the day, we’re not too much different. I think moving forward, if we’re gonna grow as a community, welcoming some more people in is a good idea.”
Jesus Piece are no strangers to mixed bills, though. Back in 2019, they played three shows alongside Harm’s Way as openers for the incredibly popular, genre-bending renegade, Ghostemane – who at the time was still leaning very heavily into his industrial-tinged take on hip hop.
“Doing things like that, it could go one way or another,” Heard says. “But I think the gamble was a fun gamble. You can really open somebody new eyes to this shit. To something they’ve been looking for their whole lives, you know? I think that’s really cool. I also think it’s cool that the rap world is so open to listening to metal nowadays and a lot of those dudes want to be metal guys and they dress like metal dudes. I’d rather them know where it’s coming from then not you know what I mean? If they take in some of this shit, I think we can only gain that.”
Heard describes that same exact kind of energy I experienced in that sold out Seattle show from just a few weeks back.
“The three days that we did with him, it was three of the coolest shows we’ve ever played,” Heard says. “I think that opened our eyes to what was possible. Those kids aren’t only there for rap music, they’re there to just spaz the fuck out. I’m with that. That sounds awesome.”
Less than two weeks ago, Jesus Piece released …So Unknown a 10-song dose of aggression that finds the band in the sweet spot between ultra-heavy metalcore, death metal and deathcore. With this being their first album in five years, and their debut on the legendary metal label Century Media, Heard says the band had a slightly different approach this time around.
“I think the question of wanting to get heavier… that conquest has been done so many times,” Heard explains. “I feel like that kind of killed the metal scene for a second – everybody trying to get heavier and heavier and things got simplified and more simplified. I think we wanted to not lose that since we already got the heavy down, but it’s more so how do we put this into the right package? How do we use these powers for good? How can we become better songwriters and better with arrangements? How do we sharpen our sword?”
The album received praise from such taste making online outlets as Stereogum and Pitchfork. Heard seems honestly humbled by the reviews and reactions.
“I just wanted to go into a totally clear headed and neutral about things,” Heard says. “God forbid I go into it and I’m like ‘This is my best shit ever’ and no one cares or something like that. I would be crushed. So I tried to go into it mild and watch to see what happens. It feels good to see what’s going on. It seems like people like the record.”
Writing this album didn’t come easy for Jesus Piece. While some bands flourished during the pandemic with a massive amount of inspiration, on a recent episode of the Garza Podcast, Heard says the band experienced a bit of writer’s block. But as the world started to open up, Heard describes a major shift in the band’s creativity.
“Once things started kicking back up and you’re seeing things starting to really get after it again, it really lit a fire on everybody,” Heard says. “Maybe live music isn’t dead you, you know? Maybe this is something that can still happen. At least that’s how I thought about it. I thought the fucking world was gonna end totally.”
After the band had recorded their parts for the …So Unknown, Heard ventured away from the typical pressures of the studio and spent some quality time in a cabin alongside co-producer Randy Leboeuf to focus on perfecting his vocal output in a more natural and relaxed surrounding.
“It was awesome,” Heard says. “We just chilled and made breakfast and worked on the songs a little bit and just took it through step by step. We would do a couple songs a day sometimes. I would go back and comb through some stuff and run it back and give it a listen and then let us sleep on it, then come back and see how we’re still feeling about it. It was the first time I got to sit and pick things apart and really dig into what I want to do.”
Though they’re sure to fill their calendar with a ton more tour dates this summer, Jesus Piece already have a number of big performances to prepare for, namely the UK’s premiere hardcore showcase Outbreak Fest and Resurrection Fest in Spain. They will cap the summer off with a set at Kentucky’s Louder Than Life Festival alongside Pantera, Avenged Sevenfold, Falling in Reverse, Parkway Drive and many more.
…So Unknown from Jesus Piece is currently available vis Century Media Records – HERE
Jesus Piece will perform a special hometown release show May 19th at Union Transfer in Philadelphia before headed abroad for their UK shows, including a massive appearance for 2023 Outbreak Fest. Check the list of immediate dates below.