There are plenty of exciting and diverse ways that you can be splattered. Maybe you stumble in front of a semi and become roadkill. Perhaps you forgot the window was open in your high-rise apartment and you took a fatal tumble to the less than forgiving street. Hell, you might have pissed off a scanner and felt that blood pressure rise in your head before the inevitable psychic explosion of your cranium. Whatever way you end up finding yourself splattered across the landscape, I can guarantee that it won’t be as memorable or enjoyable as blasting California-based brutal death metal band Splattered’s selection of LPs and EPs.
Mainly the band is more memorable because you’ll, hopefully, survive the experience but also because the group has been consistently pumping out quality releases since dropping their debut EP, Liquefied Embodied Dissonance, a decade ago. Since then, the band has added two LPs, 2014’s Guttural Species and 2019’s Carnivortex, as well as a 2018 split with Stillbirth, Crepitation, and Gorevent called Worldwide Slamicide, and a new EP, Repugnant Virtuosity, which dropped in February of this year. The band recently completed a slew of dates supporting Defeated Sanity, Skeletal Remains, and Vitriol across the States. I caught up with the band after their Iowa City show in mid-March to chat about the band’s history and what fans can expect from the group going forward.
How did Splattered get started?
Travis LaBerge (guitars): I was in a few different metal bands. I started out doing some punk rock stuff and some other little metal bands and it was kind of like a deathcore thing going on and that kind of broke up. I really wanted to start something extremely fucking heavy and gross. That was kind of right around the time I found bands like Pathology, Abominable Putridity and stuff like that. Long story short, my buddy, the original drummer Andrew Miranda and I basically had a three-track demo and our original vocalist, Christiani Peluso, put some vocals on it, helped us out, and we got it out there. The main goal was just to tour and play shows but then we found (vocalist) Andy (Smith) very soon after that, like six months after that, so that was kind of the beginning in a nutshell there of how we got rolling. The entire reason why we started the band was just to tour and play shows and just have fun, to experience it. The minute (Andy) hopped in it was go-time.
How did you guys get into death metal in the first place and who were some of your influences starting out?
Travis: For me personally, I knew who Metallica and Pantera (were) and then I was in the punk rock game for like, dude, five or six years but 1999, when I heard Slipknot, I downloaded Eyeless from Limewire and was like, holy fuck. After that point it was just the snowball effect of trying to find things that were heavier. You know, obviously we all love, everybody loves, Cannibal Corpse and that was basically, you know, that was what I liked and that was what I wanted to do. To be honest though, we listen to everything but as far as my own personal journey, that was me.
Andy: I used to listen to mostly just classical and fucking movie soundtrack shit when I was younger because I didn’t really get exposed to music. When I was in elementary school, they did the band test thing and they put me in choir and that sort of thing. I never really felt like I had a sense of rhythm or even cared about music so much and then when I was like fifteen or whatever I found Black Seeds of Vengeance by Nile and it happened to coincide with when I was going through one of those obsessive nerding out on Egyptian mythology types of thing and was like, “Oh my god, this is so fucking cool!” Then I heard Cannibal Corpse and the rest, you know, there it goes.
Travis: It’s always about Cannibal Corpse. It always comes back to Cannibal Corpse!
You released the debut LP, Guttural Species, in 2014. What was that process like?
Travis: Like I said, we just wanted to get the record out and we wanted to tour. I was basing a lot, because I wrote basically all of Guttural Species as far as guitar and bass, and I was basing a lot of it on the Pathology thing where it was a little more on the simplistic side but very menacing, very punishing, very heavy and with the guttural vocals, the whole puke fucking low guttural vocals. Just finding a person who could do that was difficult.
How about the follow-up, Carnivortex?
Travis: After we accomplished a bunch of goals, the musical side of me was like “Yo I want to progress” and obviously Justin Sakogawa, our other guitar player who’s also in Defeated Sanity by the way, he is an exceptional guitar player and extremely knowledgeable about theory and all this stuff. He was a good friend and we met each other because we were wearing Cannibal Corpse shirts at In and Out, that’s how we met. He hopped in and so that second record, Carnivortex, was kind of him coming in and trying to write a little bit of what he thought Splattered was as well as his own take on some stuff. We really wanted to do the guitar solos and we wanted to expand the sound and you know, throw in a power metal riff or throw in a solo riff for fun, do an homage to some old school death metal death riffs here and there. I only wrote a couple songs on that one but you know, (Justin) really took the reins. That’s kind of how it altered and changed but obviously Andy’s still the main vocalist so it’s always gonna sound like that. The drummer, though, left after the first record so the drumming on Carnivortex was a little bit more in the pocket but it was simplistic and it worked very well because the guitar work was more technical and busy.
You released the EP Repugnant Virtuosity, earlier this year. What was the thought process behind that record?
Travis: The last EP, Justin wrote all three of those songs and then we obviously did the (The Black Dahlia Murder) cover. We all are huge Black Dahlia Murder fans; we all love that band. That’s kind of how that worked and we are kind of getting ready to start even talking about what we want to do for the third record and how to kind of do what we’ve already done and expand on it.
The EP probably has the most different sound of anything you’ve released so far with more atmospheric parts and more thrash-inspired parts. Is that something you are looking to incorporate going forward?
Andy: I’m not sure. I think we’re going to have some elements of that but I don’t think it’s gonna be an overall theme within the album. We kind of were using the EP to experiment with stuff. It’s gonna still be brutal death and kind of slamming stuff but with flavors of other genres in it.
Travis: The crowd response to the songs that are a bit thrashier…we love it cause I love the fucking riffs…but people in the crowd seem to get more into the slamming fucking heavy stuff.
Andy: At the end of the day, it’s kind of like you bite into a hamburger and you taste a BLT, it’s gonna be a little fucking weird, you know? Both are good but not what you expect. When we make our music, we’re just kinda doing what we want and then you see something, the way the crowd reacts to something, and you’re like “Oh wow that kinda sucks, that was a fun ass thing to do.”
Travis: One of the songs, “Atrophied,” is the funnest for all of us to play but at the same time, I don’t know, you can kind of tell…it’s not a bad thing at all but I’m just saying (the crowd) react(s) more to the stuff that’s on Carnivortex.
How do you come up with lyrics? Across all your releases, you have some really great and gory stories in those songs.
Andy: I watch a lot of horror movies, read a lot of horror books and then try to think of fucked up situations or base stuff off of movies. I kind of like the gross out feel. It’s just fascinating to me and it looks cool. I’m big into gore shit, funny enough not real gore, but movie gore. I just can’t fucking get enough of it.
Travis: I think there’s a little cheesy funny kind of aspect to it as well.
Andy: Sometimes something will happen in a movie and you’re like, “Oh damn! What the fuck?” and just start laughing becuase it was so cool.
Travis: It’s just so out of the ordinary. It’s so shocking, or maybe it was a long time ago but we all enjoy it.
Andy: I’m a huge fan of Aliens, like I feel every metalhead is, and then The Thing obviously and then tons of random classic movies that I could spend a long time naming.
Travis: Everyone in the band is into (horror) and we watch it and talk about it and nerd out about that stuff all the time.
All of your album covers really stand out. Guttural Species and Carnivortex both have really awesome looking monster covers that also have sci-fi feelings to them and then Repugnant Virtuosity almost feels like a shot from a home invasion horror movie. How do you decide on those covers?
Travis: I had this whole foundation gameplan in my head when I started the band. I was 28 and was like, I’m not getting any younger and this is what I want to do. I had a whole vision in my mind. We found this guy, Pär Olofsson from France, and we hit him up. He does a lot of covers and he had some pics for sale that were like 600, 800 bucks or whatever and we chose one and ran with it. At the same time, before I go any further, we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into that. A lot of bands that are similar to us or that are in the slam genre use the whole monster thing so that’s why we ended up going with the cover for the EP, which is literally a cellphone picture of our really good friend JR in this pig costume from our music videos. That’s him just fucking around and we thought it’d be kind of cool to do something different so that, again, we don’t get stuck into this same thing, which isn’t a bad thing but there’s just too many bands doing it. We went with Pär for the (other LP) covers and we had some simplistic ideas and just let him run with it. He’s a phenomenal artist and we really enjoy working with him and talking with him. For the EP cover, I look to Carcass with Surgical Steel. It’s an actual photograph, right? You look in the ’70s, ’80s and these big albums and LPs and I just want to do that shit. Maybe for the third record we will kind of possibly try to go down some road like that. It’s all up in the air but then sometimes the imagery of the records helps us lyrically or naming the record or whatever helps out that way sometimes.
How badly were you affected by the pandemic? It kind of changed everything for everyone overnight and really hit the music industry pretty hard.
Travis: There were a lot of bands doing the live in studio thing or whatever. I don’t know man, we’re lazy! Things are still opening back up though. We ended up taking a big break and we both ended up having kids. Andy and I are dads now and it kinda worked out well that way. We got to kinda do the dad thing for a couple years there.
Andy: I mean, we didn’t see each other for like two years but we kind of kept in touch. I guess we saw each other a couple of times but we didn’t see each other as a band for two years. His son and my daughter get to grow up together, basically, because he’s like two-and-a-half and she’s like two-and-three-months. Not even planned at all, just happened.
Now that things are starting back up again, what has the tour been like?
Andy: It’s been really good. It’s been a lot of fun just (playing) killer shows every night. All the bands are great musicians and great dudes. It was one of those packages where I don’t go as a fan to too many shows where I’m actively a fan of all the bands that are playing but this time I’m on a tour where I (was) actively a fan of Vitriol, Skeletal Remains, and Defeated Sanity before we even left. It’s just getting to watch bands that I enjoy every single night, which is really cool and awesome. Of course every tour that I go on I end up enjoying every band that I tour with, but this time I knew the bands and who they were before going.
At this point in the interview, Justin Sakogawa joins us in the van and, after giving some recommendations for who him and the rest of the band have been listening to (Burning Palace, Laceration, Frozen Soul, Cartilage, Stabbing, Sanguisugabogg), I ask him about playing in the variety of bands that he is currently in.
Justin: It’s actually pretty cool because in the beginning, when I was writing for just Warscythe, I had some songs that, not that they wouldn’t fit but you know you have different things that pop up. I ended up joining Splattered and so Carnivortex was an old Warscythe song that I just didn’t know what to do with. When it came time to do that record, I just kind of dug through the archives and had this shit sitting around for the last four, five, six years or whatever. It’s really cool because although it’s all under the umbrella of death metal, Splattered is definitely more groovy and slammy and more guttural and brutal. Warscythe is a little more melodic so it just depends on the project.
So what’s next for Splattered? What can fans expect from the third LP?
Justin: Album number three is gonna be a lot of fun. (We are) seeing what new things we can do as far as incorporating a lot of different movements. Splattered started as something that was a little more straightforward and slammy and then I ended up joining the fold a little after that. It’s funny to hear people who both love the new sound and some people are just like, it’s not like slam. Speaking personally, you don’t want to be pigeonholed into a certain sound. We just keep it fun, keep it interesting. That’s the goal, to just push the boundaries.
Travis: You get bored of what you’re doing and you want to try things but at the same time you know, I think we are all pretty on the same page as far as what we want to do. I don’t even think there’s a riff written yet. We are just talking about it now.
Photographs of the live show taken by the author.