Ceremony will release their new album, The L-Shaped Man, on May 19. It's the band's fifth LP overall, and confirms the NorCal punk quintet's commitment to musical evolution.
Debuting as a brutal and relentless hardcore act nearly a decade ago, the band has dramatically refined each successive release to the point that they're nearly impossible to define.
Following in that tradition, "The L-Shaped Man" continues Ceremony's move away from their ferocious beginnings and toward a more nuanced sound. The album also has local ties - it was recorded in San Diego and produced by hometown hero John Reis (Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu).
Inspired by a devastating breakup, vocalist Ross Farrar knew the record would be the band's most personal to date. But he also knew it could help put his pain in the rearview.
"That was a huge part of it," he recently told DiscoverSD from UC Berkeley where the singer is completing his undergrad studies. "To me, that's what this whole record is - a catharsis. I went through this thing, and then went into the studio and made a piece of art around it. It's really all I've been thinking about for the last two years. But making this album has helped me through it."
The singer also is prepared for the inevitable barrage of questions surrounding his band's constant sonic revision.
"It's always there," Farrar said. "What's the deal? Why the change in sound? But you are what you surround yourself with and that is constantly changing. I don't want to be one way all the time. And I also wanted to make something that spoke to emotions in a way I'd never done before. But more than anything, we just really liked the way the songs were coming out."
Enter John Reis. Admittedly unfamiliar with the band's music before working with them, the local musician/producer loved the idea of helping Ceremony redefine themselves again.
"For me to do the best job I can," Reis said, "there needs to be a connection to both the music and the people making it. The band wasn't interested in anything they'd already done. That was old news to them. Just like this record will be old news to them in a year. And that made it really exciting for me. It shows they're incredibly brave artistically and have a very specific vision. They don't care if anyone likes it or not. And I was completely on board with that."
A departure for everyone involved, "The L-Shaped Man" seems poised to stand out in the joyously varied discographies of both Ceremony and Reis. For the band, the album serves as another step in their constantly evolving expression. And for Reis, it's a testament to his ability to expertly hone artistic visions of disparate styles.
While the future is uncertain, the overwhelming success of their partnership bodes well for another joint effort down the line.
"We feel blessed to have worked with him," Farrar said.
"Obviously things change, and I don't know what we're going to do next. But right now, I can't imagine doing a record with anyone else."
Ceremony plays at Legend Records in Pacific Beach on June 13.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.