Ceremony bucks hardcore orthodoxy to embrace authenticity 

Northern California hardcore quintet Ceremony ditches ritual for righteous, stylistically rich progress

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JIMMY FONTAINE
  • Photo by Jimmy Fontaine

CEREMONY with Iron Lung, Nothing, Gross

7 p.m. Thursday, July 24 | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | thesocial.org | $12-$14

Run a Google search for “ceremony,” and you’ll get a wide variety of results: a Wikipedia page for “an event of ritual significance,” the IMDb entry for a 2010 romantic comedy starring Uma Thurman, a summary of Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1977 novel, an “indie bridal salon” in Boston. Add “band” or “punk” to that Google search, however, and you’ll come face to face with the Northern California five-piece that started life in 2004 as an aggressively brutal hardcore band named Violent World.

Since then, Ceremony has changed far more than just their name – which, by the way, pays homage to indie-rock pioneers Joy Division. Across four full-length albums, their songs have evolved from anarchic one-minute blasts of radiation to sludgy two-minute knuckle-draggers to four-minute post-punk dirges. Ross Farrar, Anthony Anzaldo, Andy Nelson, Justin Davis and Jake Casarotti scorched the earth with 2008’s Still Nothing Moves You and 2010’s Rohnert Park, both released on Bridge 9 Records – and then brooded over the wreckage by signing with indie stalwarts Matador and releasing 2012’s experimental Zoo.

As one of the most insular subcultures in music history, hardcore does not take kindly to beloved bands bucking orthodoxy. Yet lead guitarist Anzaldo says Ceremony has never bothered with the genre’s notorious strictures. “We don’t think about anything other than doing what we like,” he tells Orlando Weekly while driving from one gig to another during the opening Mountain West leg of the band’s current tour. “We’re a punk band that comes out of hardcore, so that mindset is instilled in us. But we’ve progressed as people and musicians so much from 18, which is how old we were when we started the band, to 28. Those were 10 really crucial years for us.”

Lucky for Floridians, who last got a look at Ceremony in August 2013, the band returns to Orlando only a few weeks removed from recording the follow-up to Zoo – and on their only tour of 2014. “We toured so much after Zoo – like 180-200 shows – that we had to take a break,” Anzaldo says. “But we didn’t want to go away, so this tour is meant to remind people that we’re still out there before we don’t do anything else but work on getting the record out by January.”

Although he resists discussing any artistic slant of the new material, Anzaldo says the band hopes to incorporate two or three of the songs into their live set before crossing the Florida border. “We think it’s important to show people what’s coming next, especially since it takes people a while to contextualize our new material,” he says. “Everything we do is such a big departure from our last release because we write in the moment – only thinking of what we’re doing, not what we used to be. We want every record to stand alone without taking into consideration how it fits in with our past stuff.”

Yet Ceremony’s street cred hasn’t faltered a bit – even the 40-something lifers I know from East Coast hardcore epicenters in Philadelphia and New York City grudgingly accept the fact that the Californian youngsters have, along with bands like Canadian labelmates Fucked Up, re-energized the tight-knit scene and flung it open to more mainstream listeners. But Anzaldo says the band refuses to take too much credit for that.

“It’s just the nature of the times,” he laughs. “Everything is so cracked open right now, with so many bands incorporating so many different styles in with strains of punk and hardcore. For the longest time, things were segregated and cut and dried and that mindset has finally been eradicated.”

When asked about how Ceremony’s fanbase has evolved, Anzaldo acknowledges the band’s much-broadened horizons after the release of Zoo. But like any true punk, he emphasizes the importance of authentic individuality – even if it’s constantly changing.

“Attracting a wider audience is awesome,” he says. “But at this point, if you’re on board with us, then you expect something unexpected. You trust that we’ll do something honest. And that’s that.”


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