Interview: Societal Siege

Societal Siege crowdsurfer (Emma Harris / Counterpoint)

Societal Siege is a three-piece, Montreal-based band made up of McGill students: Jacob Barton on vocals and guitar, Antoine Guimbal on bass and Drew Miller on drums. Their debut EP, Joseph Ziggler is available on all streaming platforms (so go listen to it!). Their genre is defined by Jacob as “Indie/Midwest emo”, but their sound is heavily influenced by Montreal.

Alright, so, tell me the origin story.

Jacob: I recorded music for my friends to listen to and put it on Soundcloud. When I moved to Montreal I started doing live stuff with another drummer. Then at a soundcheck, my drummer couldn’t be there, so I asked Drew to come.

Drew: We jammed for half an hour, felt pretty good. Got a text over spring break that said: “I just kicked out my old drummer, you’re my new drummer now”. And then we realized we needed some bass, some other business, so we brought in Antoine.

Antoine: I was just one of Jacob’s friends and I kinda played the guitar. Our first year together in residence sometimes Jacobs would be like “Yo, can you play these chords.” and I wouldn’t be able to. And then he kept doing it until I was able to play the chords.

You seem like you treat each other with so much kindness and tenderness. How you maintain that energy within the group?

Drew: I would say we were musicians first when it started. I just wanted music and I wanted it to sound good. Then we developed a relationship over time. It’s just how we are. We like to keep it lighthearted and easygoing.

Jacob: Every decision we make we always put in the group chat. Make sure everyone’s on the same page.

What’s the deal with the album artwork?

Jacob: I was driving home from Osheaga with my friends. It was a long drive and I was so tilted. My friend was drawing something on his phone. I sent it to Drew and said, “we should make this an album cover.” Drew added the text and then he was like, “I want it to look like we’re on acid”.

Drew: I said I wanted to fuck it up! Cause I got it, and the text said: “This is the album cover.” and I was like “Oh.” 

Original album cover drawing.
Official Joseph Ziggler album cover.

Tell me about the recording process for your EP.

Drew: The EP goes from blaming the world for your sadness to accepting it. It’s kind of uplifting in the end. Jacob told us we were gonna make an EP. We picked five songs like pretty quick and started dividing it up into parts. We’d built them up beside each other and send stuff back and forth.

Antoine: I was in France. So while they were doing this I’d be asleep and I’d wake up in the morning to like 25 voice memos. I’d sit down for like two hours and have to listen to them all.

Are you satisfied with your sound right now and do you see it evolving?

Jacob: I think when we write the songs we’re satisfied. But I feel like it’s always changing a little bit, like the two songs we’re playing tonight are kind of different from the slow, sad stuff. Cause the shows aren’t like that, and it’s a problem because every song we have online is emo shit. But now it’s like, I’m sad but I’m pissed!

Jacob and Antoine (Emma Harris/ Counterpoint)

How has Montreal  influenced your sound? 

Antoine: I think part of it is like, we all moved here from somewhere to go to university. It is kind of like you get to meet a new person. I feel like I’m interacting with the city so differently than any other place I’ve ever been before. We’ve all gone through shit in the last two years that have shaped how we see the city.

Drew: Everyone comes here with some sort of vision of what [the city] is, and everyone finds their place, which is cool. But I think a lot of it has to do with this place kind of beating you up sometimes. This place kind of shit on me last year. And it’s not Montreal’s fault, it just happened here so you can blame the place for it.