Today Is the Day's Steve Austin Discusses the Very Personal Inspirations Behind 'Animal Mother'
Published Oct 28, 2014Nashville experimental noise rock trio Today Is the Day have recently released their 10th LP, Animal Mother, via Southern Lord. The hour-long album features 15 devastatingly aggressive and emotionally intense tracks, including a cover of the Melvin's "Zodiac," and sees mastermind and frontman Steve Austin joined by new members, bassist Sean Conkling (Regression, Burn Your Halo, Sprawl) and drummer Jeff Lohrber (Enabler, ex-Harlots). As Austin explains in a new Exclaim! interview, Animal Mother also stems from some deeply personal experiences.
"I found myself this last year — after about a four-year period of having to look after my mother, who had gotten old and gotten ill and developed Alzheimer's and dementia — of having this split life going on where it's like I'm trying to work on music and trying to get things done, but then I'm also a caregiver to someone," Austin explains. "Then when she passed away, a lot of family secrets, a lot of weird things that I never understood, came to light."
Austin explains that the death of his mother left him with a lot of questions about himself.
"I realized after she died how a lot of my life had been a lie. So it was really fucked up because, you know, you've got to have confidence in yourself to get up out of bed and go live your life every day. After she died, I kind of had this huge void in my chest where it's like, I didn't know, in some ways, who I was, what I was all about, what I stood for, what my relationship to the earth and to the other people around me meant. So I started to look inside and I basically was searching for answers to 'Who is the real me? What's going on?' And that's kind of where the whole concept for Animal Mother comes from."
The title Animal Mother embodies both something wild and something maternal in one term, which Austin says are two words that do not match together.
"When you think of a mother, you're thinking of someone who cares for someone and then when you think of an animal, you think of something wild with no morals. It's like the duality of life that I think everybody lives, which is that, you know, you're supposed to love your parents, you're supposed to care about your family, and some people would go as far as to say, 'No matter what.' But what if your family is your enemy? And what if your family does things to hurt or destroy you? Yet you still love them.
"So we all create facades, we all create exteriors that are bulletproof to the bad things that hurt us. And so my armour got destroyed and I was just left naked, trying to figure out who the fuck I am. So in doing that, a lot of it was like, channelling and reliving through the death experience of my mother, reliving through a lot of things of like growing up that were really fucked up and confusing. It was some really hard shit, you know? Thankfully I had music to use as some kind of an outlet to explore these topics because I just felt like an absolute empty shell after it all happened."
For Austin, using personal experience as his inspiration for Today Is the Day is an emotional release and a way to help find meaning in life, while sharing it with listeners.
"My situation is not necessarily unique, in some ways it's kind of universal: black sheep, outlaw, tortured freak. You know really, it's like when it comes to this kind of music, it's shocking and disturbing and intense. I can't find a better subject matter than my fucked-up life to use to expound upon something."
Austin says that he wants people to connect to Today Is the Day's music on an emotional level.
"I like the fact that a headbanger or whoever listens to our shit will get off on it and rock their brains out, I think that's fine," he explains. "But like, really, on a much deeper level, it's about sharing the human existence experience with a large group of people. Of that group of people, there's a certain percentage of them who really don't have a direction or a place to look to in order to find some kind of conjunction between themselves and something else. And I think that everybody walks through life like that.
"I think that's the important thing about art. It's that inspiration that it gives other people to have tools, self-medicate themselves ideas-wise and to take their life where they want it to go and not feel so alone in the emptiness and the darkness. I am thankful beyond belief to be able to be given the opportunity to make music for other people and to go play music in front of them. It truly is an amazing gift and I can only promise that as long as I'm alive, I'm going to be doing this until the day I die."
Stream all of Animal Mother below and see the band's upcoming U.S. dates here.