Last year, on the eve of their summer tour, Suicide Note came close to missing it altogether. On a makeshift stage made of skids and plywood at an outdoor party, the band set their equipment up with uncertainty as it felt like rain could pour down any moment.
Five songs into their set, it did just that — and hard. Thunder was booming and lightning streaked across the sky. It didn’t help any that the stage was beneath two very tall trees. The rain struck and vocalist Casey Donley threw his mic down and the band made a mad dash to get their equipment into the van.
Lightning hit nearby and everyone jumped. Guitar player Jay Golday’s amp was getting soaked while bassist Bob Peele got a hand from a drunken redneck with moving his equipment. Trying to leave, the van got stuck in the mud as fights broke out between partygoers.
All in all, the instruments dried out and Suicide Note left Indy to hit the road and promote their second album, You’re Not Looking So Good.
Suicide Note’s style has been compared to Drowningman, Isis and Cave In but since forming in 1998 the band has continued to raise the bar for metal with their progressive writing and performing.
For a guitar player that’s heavy on technical skill and never short on riffs, it’s not surprising that Golday is only a few weeks away from a masters degree in jazz guitar. He and ’Note drummer Jason Gagovski have been playing together for the last decade in a few different bands, most notably Failsafe. Their style wasn’t all that dissimilar than Suicide Note’s, but it wasn’t until bass player Peele and singer Donley joined the band that everything clicked.
Now with a new split EP with fellow indie band Breather Resist, Gagovski (also co-owner of Hawthorne Street Records) talks about the band’s plans to take the next year to commit full-time to Suicide Note, something they’ve yet to do. “We’re split up all over. Jay is in L.A., Casey’s in Florida, Peele is in Indy and I’m up here [in Valparaiso] so it’s been tough with everyone’s schedule.”
On CD the band changes time nearly as often as they do chords, but watching them pulling it off live with such cohesive intensity is what’s truly unique about Suicide Note. “I get winded pretty early but fall into it soon after,” Gagovski says, describing the band’s neck-break pace. “And while some singers will just chill out and scream, Casey is usually rolling around on the floor and really getting into it.”
Another characteristic the ’Note is known for is the double team of Donley’s spastic screams and Golday’s more melodic vocals, a style that made last year’s “Midnight and Bright” from Old Devil Moon such an interesting listen. While it still packed a punch, the songs were catchy and less abrasive. “Me and Jay moved from Bloomington back up to Valpo and did Old Devil Moon with [ex-Failsafe bassist] Jeremy Campbell as just a project,” Gagovski recalls. “But we already have [another album’s worth of material] written and a possible tour later this year.”
Suicide Note also plans to tour this summer and have a new full-length out this fall on Ferret Records, but fans shouldn’t overlook the split EP which has two new ’Note songs. “Trigger” is a fast-paced rocker while “How Not To Care” takes a step or two sideways with a Hammond B-3 humming throughout while the band slows into a gut wrenching grind and builds to a convulsive climax. When you pop the disc into your CD-Rom drive, you can also check out a video for the song “Gag Reflex” directed by local artist Elizabeth Cline.
“She filmed us playing live from three different angles and threw that in with landscapes and cityscapes.”
Also included are two covers originally recorded by Chicago punk band The Didjits a decade ago. “We were on tour driving through the ghetto in Baltimore singing along to the Hey Judester album and it clicked that we were all fans.”
Gagovski’s Hawthorne Street is one of a few indie labels at the forefront of modern metal, with an impressive roster that includes Majhas, You Will Die, Stabbed By Words and Bloodlet. But the drummer-turned-entrepreneur doesn’t sound the least bit jaded when describing his label’s approach to signing bands. “Some labels sign and promote bands based on hype. We’d rather put out a band we believe in. We don’t care if someone only sells a couple hundred albums, we don’t see that as failure.”
When asked about whether metal can continue to be innovative and stay fresh, Gagovski laughs. “As long as Slayer is out there, metal will be just fine.”