UNIFORM’s Michael Berdan on ‘Shame’, what happiness means to him, and more

This week at Soundsphere towers, Dom Smith chats to the incomparable Michael Berdan about his band UNIFORM. We talk about their upcoming record entitled Shame, what happiness means to him, potential future tours and what horror film he would want UNIFORM to score.

With a new recording incoming from the New York band, there is talk of a tour, Berdan talks about plans to tour perhaps in 2021, depending on Covid- 19 restrictions. “We have tour plans, we’re very much hoping to get back on the road and looking forward to playing again once it’s safe, and I think we’ll have a better idea about what safe looks like in a couple of months hopefully.” Although Berden is looking forward to touring again, he admits he is somewhat of a home bird, “I have enjoyed my time at home with my dog, my partner and a stack of blu-rays and books.”

Formed in New York City in 2013, the American noise rock band has released three albums to very favourable reviews from the likes of Pitchfork. They came together when Michael Berdan and Ben Greenberg started living on the same street, just two years later they released their debut album ‘Perfect World’ in 2015. It was followed by ‘Wake In Fright’ and ‘The Long Walk’, before their new album ‘Shame’ coming in September.

The new record was a tonne of fun to create as well, “This records been a blast man, this records been so much fucking fun from beginning to end,” enthuses Berdan. Delving deeper into this process he mentions hiring a new drummer for the band, “it’s the most like overly collaborative record that we’ve done, we started playing with a new drummer, Mike Sharp in the summer of 2018 and we just clicked with him immediately.”

This collaborative process produced a steady stream of material, which they had been trading back and forth with each other. Mike and Ben flew down in early December to get the outline of what the album could be, this led to demos on Ben’s iPhone, and then Berdan wrote lyrics based off of the MP3s. Speaking about the album as a whole Berden says, “It’s just cool to get more hands-on-deck, and more trained ears and opinions as we kinda went through this process, and in the end, I think it came out very strong.”

 

Given the new album is called ‘Shame’, does it have a mission statement? “For me personally the record came about at a time of intense anger and entropy, towards the world and people in my life, and feeling like things were not going my way, and things would be so much better if people did what I wanted them to do.” That is what this new album is about, or as Berdan puts it, “If I can chip away at that shit then maybe I can unlearn some of this recessive bullshit that I taught myself, or was taught to me.” Throughout the interview, Berdan has unveiled that he has learned over the years to become more self-aware as a person, which is very admirable and something we could all do a lot more. He also shares the news that his father passed away from pancreatic cancer, “We had a small service, he was cremated, and that led me to spend a lot of time thinking about the idea of someone’s existence being rendered to ash in a very physical, literal way.”

Happiness and success are often interlinked, but what do these mean to Berdan personally? “I know people who have sold out Madison Square Garden here in New York City who are miserable doing it.” He goes on to describe happiness, not about the number of plays you get on streaming, but rather very personal experience. “Happiness to me is finding some kind of equilibrium and peace within yourself and within your world.” He believes the same for success as well, saying that “I truly believe in art as exorcism, always, and as long as you’re doing that then you’re successful.”

On a slightly lighter note, we ask Berdan what horror film he would score, seeing as he is a huge horror fan, “I would like to score something completely new, and I think that’s something we’ve talked about actually as a band for a very long time now and that’s a project that I think we all very much want to tackle.”

Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlingshaw

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