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This is Serious Business: Playing Rock Band with the Acacia Strain

On a cheery bright Monday morning a few weeks ago, our offices were graced with the awesome presence of one Mr. Vincent Bennett, frontman for The Acacia Strain. The guys from AS recently brought their first track, “Dr. Doom” to the Rock Band Network. Vincent and I sat down in the Star Chamber to do our best early morning talk show host impressions and discuss the band’s upcoming summer tour (and lots of things that were deemed inappropriate for airing). We also gave Vincent the chance to give “Dr. Doom” its first official Acacia Strain playthrough, done lounge style. Watch the reaction of Scott, The Acacia Strain’s manager, as we give old “Dr. Doom” a whirl.

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HMXThrasher: Hey Rock Band fans! What's up? We're here with another interview with awesome RBN band the Acacia Strain. And I am here with the lovely lead singer of the band.

Vincent Bennett: My name's Vincent.

HMXT: And we're gonna talk about all sorts of awesome stuff including the Acacia Strain's Rock Band debut with their RBN track "Dr. Doom."

[Vincent playing "Dr. Doom" in RBN, lounge singer-style]

VB: That's what we're gonna talk about.

HMXT: Awesome. So, can you tell me a little bit about how you chose "Dr. Doom" as your premiere track?

VB: "Dr. Doom" is the song that we debuted off the new record first on the internet and stuff like that, and we think it's one of our favorite songs to play live. We enjoy the dynamics that go on with the song. It's fast and then kinda slow, and it builds to the end, which is the tome of all brutalness. I don't know. It just feels like it would be good for Rock Band. It's got the solo in it and everything.

HMXT: Yeah, it's a nice fit.

[Another clip of "Dr. Doom" performed by Vincent at Harmonix]

HMXT: Are you guys Rock Band fans?

VB: Uh, yeah. I am, my drummer is, but the bass player doesn't really do anything fun. And my guitar player doesn't like anything except Sevendust. He likes Sevendust and he likes the Red Sox, and he doesn't really care about video games that much. But he's excited, well obviously he's excited that our song's in the game. But as far as getting him to actually play it, I doubt he ever will.

HMXT: That's a bummer. You could trick him into it.

VB: Probably.

[More footage of "Dr. Doom" at Harmonix]

HMXT: So you guys are going on tour this summer, the Cool Tour?

VB: The Cool Tour. It's going to be ultra-cool.

HMXT: [laughs] The Cool Tour for the cool kids? There are a lot of awesome bands - can you talk a little bit about the lineup and how you guys got involved in that?

VB: We actually got asked to do, well it was in talks for a while and we found out about it. We weren't even supposed to know. It was all a big secret. It was supposed to be the next big thing.

HMXT: The next big cool thing?

VB: Yeah, the next big tour to be on. And the fact that we got asked to do the first one is actually really awesome. There's a lot of really good bands on it. I mean, As I Lay Dying and Underoath alone could just sell out huge venues, plus you've got all these other bands on the tour too. So it's gonna be a good tour. The only thing that kind of bums me out is [that] it's only eighteen days, and I feel like I could be on that tour for eight months and not get bored. I'm really excited for it. It's going to be our first real tour of 2010, so that's even more exciting for us, and we've got this Rock Band thing.

[More footage of "Dr. Doom" live at Harmonix]

HMXT: And you have a DVD right?

VB: Yeah, the DVD came out in February after over a year of piecing things together and, you know, the audio wasn't right on this one, and the video's kinda weird on this one, so it just took a long time to get it all pieced together. I'm so happy that it's finally out because for an entire year I heard, "When's the DVD coming out? When's the DVD coming out?" and even after the DVD was out for like a month, I still heard the question, "Hey man, when's the DVD coming out?" I'm like, "Go to the store and buy it."

HMXT: [laughs]

VB: It's out now and everybody seems to like it. I mean, music DVDs are kind of boring, and we tried to put as much into it as possible, it's two discs filled with all sorts of good stuff, so if you don't have it, and you feel like being bored for almost three hours, go get it.

HMXT: Now, let's talk a little bit about the new album. Can you talk a little bit about what's your writing process like? How do you guys work in the studio?

VB: Every album is different for us. I mean, The Dead Walk we wrote all piece by piece because we were on tour, then we were off tour, on tour and off tour, and we had to get this record done. So we kind of wrote the songs all as we could piecemeal. The last record, Continent, we wrote, we took three months off of our entire lives. We didn't do anything for three months except go into the studio in the middle of the woods and just write the entire album. It was helpful because the studio we were at we could record every single thing we did. So if we liked one thing and didn't like the other, we could just take it and move it and drag it. And it was kind of cool.

And this record [Wormwood], it's kind of weird, because we didn't know what we were gonna do. Because our guitar player DL found out his girlfriend's pregnant and that's kind of a big wait. And he realized he needed to get a job, he needs to work for his child and his family. And we were like, "ah, how are we gonna get this record done?" And he just started a little studio in his house. So what he did was on his downtime, which is very rare, he wrote songs. He just wrote songs on his downtime with his drum program thing, and he played guitar. And he would just send me the songs and I would write words to them. And I went to his house and recorded the words. And instead of practicing the songs, we just kind of listened to them in our brains over and over and over again. And it's like 2010, 21st century-style writing. It was kind of cool to be able to do that, but it was really stressful because we never knew when he was going to have time to write songs. The album got finished. We finished recording about three or four days ago.

HMXT: Wow.

VB: Just got finished mixing yesterday. And the final touches are being added right now. As we're doing this interview. And I'm not there. And they're all mad at me.

HMXT: [laughs] Sorry!

VB: Sometimes we have stuff to do. You know.

HMXT: This is serious business.

VB: Most definitely. You know, it's Rock Band.

HMXT: We're gonna play video games.

[more footage of Vincent playing "Dr. Doom"]

HMXT: When you guys are on tour, do you have any crazy tour rituals or are you guys into pulling tour pranks or is it just out there performing?

VB: It's funny you ask that because one of my friends is on tour right now and he said something on his Twitter - talk about being nerds - about how if people can't take a joke, then they shouldn't tour with his band. And I said that's exactly what Acacia Strain is all about. We've had some bands that just can't take us. Like, I've had dudes in bands that tell my bass player, "Can you tell Vince to chill out? Because I'm gonna fight him." Because I'm just joking around. My personality is just that I mess with people all the time. Because I was picked on a lot when I was in high school and now it's my time for revenge, you know? I'm just picking on everyone else. And, I don't know...one time we lit a smoke bomb off under another band's van and they thought it was on fire. And they got out of the van and they're all screaming, and we were all [laughs]. And one of the dudes used to be in the Marines and he was like, "You're all dead."

HMXT: [laughs]

VB: Uh, okay. We need to stop screwing around with people. As far as rituals are concerned, we don't really have many. I mean, we wear the same clothes every night on stage, but that's about it. It smells, but it's not for luck or anything. It's just because we don't want to wash our clothes.

HMXT: Yeah, if you're just going to go out on stage and get gross and sweaty anyway.

[more footage of "Dr. Doom"]

HMXT: What would you say is the best part, for kids who are going to get into you maybe from Rock Band Network and maybe go see you this summer on tour. What's sort of the coolest thing about seeing the Acacia Strain live?

VB: We are 100% high energy. If you come to an Acacia Strain show, you should probably be ready to either get hit, hit someone, or stagedive. That's it. I mean, I don't really promote violence of any sort - yes I do - [laughs] but if you're at one of our shows, it's high energy and the crowd really gets into it and if you're not prepared for it, it's gonna be kind of a surprise. I mean, we're not ICP. It's really high energy. It's really aggressive. We try and put everything we can into our live set. [more footage of "Dr. Doom"]

HMXT: So have you guys gotten to play your Rock Band track yet?

VB: No. I have not. I brought my Xbox - like I said, we were just in the studio - and I brought my Xbox to the studio, but I didn't bring any of my Rock Band stuff. So I've kind of just been sitting around waiting to play it.

HMXT: So we're going to play it today, I think.

VB: I'm gonna fail.

HMXT: Do you always play vocals or do you [switch around]?

VB: I do everything. I hate the drums. It's the only thing I'm not into. So you'll probably have me play drums right now.

HMXT: No, well we'll say it's your choice. You're the guest.

VB: I'm gonna do vocals, just 'cause, that's what I feel I should do.

[more footage of "Dr. Doom"]

HMXT: Do you guys have any plans for any other tracks to come out on RBN?

VB: Honestly, I have no idea. I mean, I was surprised when we even got this one on, because it was such like a not...we're not like a Rock Band band. We don't shred all over the place and we don't have crazy parts and we're not really commercial. But I think this is awesome. So we'll see. Maybe this will segue into other things.

HMXT: That's probably the coolest thing about RBN. We actually have a lot of your label-mates.

VB: Yeah, like Skeletonwitch and stuff like that, right?

[more footage of "Dr. Doom"]

HMXT: In an interview we did with Skeletonwitch a while ago, our friend who was interviewing them was talking about the metal scene in Massachusetts and how it's kind of unique to this state. And you guys are local. For you, how does that kind of shape the way you sound as a band?

VB: Oh, it definitely influences us, and it kind of puts some pressure on us at the same time. Because we're trying to live up to the expectations of, "hey, this band's from Massachusetts. They probably sound like Killswitch Engage."

HMXT: [laughs]

VB: But we're trying to do it our own way. Obviously we don't sound anything like All That Remains or Killswitch Engage or any of those bands, but we're still trying to keep it... When this whole thing started, it was really underground and it was all really extreme, and there was no singing and there was no pretty parts or anything like that. And we're trying to keep it kind of like that. Like, we respect bands like Killswitch Engage and All That Remains because they're breaking ground for bands like us, but we're still trying to keep it pissed off.

HMXT: Yeah, keep it raw.

VB: Yeah, exactly.

HMXT: Yeah, it's interesting 'cause some of those bands are a little bit, as they release more records you find they're more like lyrical and a little bit more technically musical, whereas you guys it's still like metal.

VB: Keep it real.

HMXT: Yeah. And it's loud and it's in your face. Cool. Do you have anything else you'd like to say to the good people inside the video camera?

VB: You should buy our song on Rock Band Network. That would be great. And you can see if you can bust that solo. Do a hundred percent. I dare you. [takes a sip from his juice box] Also, I need some more apple juice.

[final footage of "Dr. Doom"]