It’s been one year since X Will Mark The Place released Babble — an energetic four-track EP that attacks listeners’ ears with dancey punk grooves — but just three months since the band made their live debut. In this interview, vocalist/guitarist Eric Centeno discusses what was running through his head when he wrote the lyrics to the songs he released a year ago; the band’s transition to playing live shows; his vision for the project’s future releases; and more (including his thoughts on the latest releases from Turnstile and Knocked Loose!).
You just started playing your first shows with X Will Mark the Place this summer, but this project began long before that, right?
I started writing with my buddy, Paulie, in the middle of last summer. From there, we teamed up with my brother, David, and my buddy Marco, who does engineering stuff. Collectively, we all wrote, pieced together, and recorded everything together. By October, I got the EP out. My brother David and I play in a band called Death of Massive Stars — it’s still active, we’re just in-between writing and this project. I wanted to do something different, because DOMS is progressive post-hardcore and I wanted to do something more punk.
Everything on Babble feels very intentional to me; it’s not just four random songs you released at the same time. What was it like writing that release?
When my buddy Paulie and I started writing, we wrote the first two songs off Babble first — the EP is listed in the same order we wrote the songs in. As we were writing it, I wanted to break the EP up into halves. Originally, “Byrne” and “Hard 2 Feel” were one song, and that’s why they seem so seamless — they were written as one song, but I wanted to split up the lyrical theme between the two. I didn’t want it to be one, continuous drawn-out song; I wanted them to each have their own feel. The other two songs [“I Am Untethered and My Rage Knows No Bounds” and “Claymation is the Devil’s Work”] followed after. I wanted to get a little bit more experimental with the last track, which is why there’s more synths and stuff.
That Claymation title is hilarious.
Honestly, I think it was just something that I said to my girlfriend, Z. I normally like pulling quotes from the shows and movies I watch for song titles, but that was somethingI think I said, because me and Z joke about claymation a lot.
Can you tell me a bit about your creative process while you were writing Babble?
As far as writing goes, it’s me and my buddy Paulie that wrote the drums and bass, and I would throw on vocals after the fact. It just started with bass and drums, and then we’d get a song structure going, and then after the fact I listened back and tried to lay some lyrics over it in a way that makes sense to me. It was really tricky though, because I had so much I wanted to say on this EP, which is why I entitled it Babble — because it was just me spewing all these words out, all of my thoughts in a span of seven minutes.
Lyrically, I wanted to touch on a few different things. On the first one [“Byrne”], I guess I’m speaking from my point of view towards anyone who might perceive me in a different manner, maybe based on my social media presence. When I wrote that song, I wasn’t really active on social media. When I was active prior to that, I feel like maybe people might misconstrue who I am online versus who I am in person.
So I backed off social media for a bit, I wanted to channel my energy into writing music as opposed to posting online. The second song [“Hard 2 Feel”] is speaking against sexual abuse. It’s not right, and I wanted to address that in a song. And then the third song [“I Am Untethered and My Rage Knows No Bounds”] is a goofy one. It was the one I had the hardest time writing lyrics to, so I decided to switch it up and made it a little laugh at bad drivers. It’s really straightforward, a jab at dealing with my road rage. Then the last song [“Claymation is the Devil’s Work”] is dealing with anxiety. Whether it’s anxiousness, anxiety, or hard thoughts you get fixated on, I wanted to address how it’s easy to get stuck in that mindset in that moment, but you’ve got to find a way to break out of it.
What was it like finally getting to play your first show with this project after waiting nine months to make your live debut?
It was strange because I was so used to releasing music and playing shows all in the same sort of flow. With XWMTP, I had time to set myself up for having material out before I played a show. It was nice to have that time to be a little bit more prepared.
But it definitely felt crazy after a year and a half of not going to shows. July was the first month back where I was going to shows actively, so that was my first indoor club show back, because the couple others that I went to were outdoors. It was a crazy feeling to be back on the stage, especially at Beat Kitchen. I’ve played there a handful of times with DOMS, and it was cool to be back on stage with all my friends there, and playing with all these bands that I’ve wanted to play with like Porcupine and Payasa. It was also Si Dios Quiere’s first show and Ozone’s second show.
As someone who goes to a lot of concerts, what do you aim to bring to live performance?
I write from the perspective of a listener or a concert goer because, for me, I love energetic stuff. I love when crowds go nuts to bands that they’re seeing live. And I’ve always vibed with that, ever since I was 14 or 15 and started going to shows. As a writer, I always want to gear towards that and create an experience that people are going to look back at and say, ‘Oh, remember that show? That was crazy.’ Even if the crowd doesn’t respond to my music, the fact that I’m playing it for people and people are just receiving it in any way, shape or form is cool to me. It’s rewarding to do that.
You’ve played more than the four songs off Babble at shows. Will you be recording the new ersongs soon?
Before playing that first show in July, I wanted to write and put out a couple more songs so that we would have a longer set. So we do have two new songs coming out. One is a brand new song that we wrote together as the three of us, and that includes guitar, which was absent pretty much completely on that first EP. After that first show, I realized there were empty pockets of sound on stage; I noticed where little parts could be fuller and a little heavier. Now when I play Babble songs live, I’m throwing guitar into the mix just to fill up the space.
But with the two new songs, one has bunch of guitar in it and it’s gonna have some glitchy parts to it that haven’t been present in our live shows yet. And then the other song is “Pain,” a Boy Harsher cover, and those are going to be collectively coming together as one drop.
When will fans be able to hear these two new tracks?
The way I like releasing music is in the order of how I write it. I don’t like sitting on material for too long, because then I feel like it gets stale in my head really quick, and I want people to stay excited with it when I’m excited about it. That’s why I’m really iitching to release these two songs, because they were reflecting upon that time when we’d played our first show and the excitement I went into. I want to get those out like just as soon as possible for everybody and to show there’s a different sound to us to than just bass and drums. These songs have definitely different textures and sounds and energy levels compared with other songs on Babble. I’ve been setting little deadlines for myself, and there’ll be a merch drop that will come with it, too. I’m doing everything DIY, from merch to stickers to flyers.
How would you describe XWMTP to someone who’s never heard you before?
I’ve been telling people it’s a dancey, aggressive punk. I’m not necessarily a fan of throwing genre labels on it, but it’s punk at the heart of everything. I also want to incorporate different sounds of new wave or dark wave, get a little bit more industrial and noisey. The cool thing about this project is it’s not always gonna stay the same; every release is going to have a different feel to it, a different aesthetic. I love planning out releases because, as a listener, I really look forward to seeing how an artist pans everything out, how they merge their aesthetics. For example, New Morality just put out Gleue, and the aesthetic alone was enough to draw me in and it matches perfectly.
That reminds me of the way Turnstile released their latest record, Glow On.
The thing about that record is it’s a little bit longer — I think it’s 13 songs? So they released over half the record before it came out, which is a big beef of mine. If bands release too many singles before the album comes out, it doesn’t ruin it for me, but it definitely changes how I receive the record when it comes out. It feels almost like a speed bump in the tracklist because [instead of listening] I’ll think, ‘Oh, I know this one. Okay, now I want to hear the newer stuff, etc.’ But with Glow On, somehow it worked because I still ended up really loving the record and the flow of everything, despite having known half of it already. Another thing I’m a big fan of is the four-song EP that Turnstile did that had a film screening for it, and then Knocked Loose dropped a six-song EP that had a theme and a short film accompany it. I love stuff like that.
Do you have any plans for XWMTP videos in the works?
I have some really cool ideas. I think I’m gonna do a music video for the Boy Harsher cover. I have an idea of what it’s going to be… I want the aesthetic for this to be kind of dark and spooky. I mean, Halloween is coming up, but overall I’ve always been drawn to anything goth, spooky, etc, so I think you’ll see a lot of that stuff from X in the future. And some stuff with a glitch aesthetic, too.
This is always a cliche question, but I’m genuinely curious: what’s the meaning behind “X Will Mark The Place”?
I collect records, so I was looking at liner notes of some Radiohead records — they became one of my favorite bands over the last few years. So I thought, ‘let me find something from here, see if I can draw some influence.’ They have this album called Hail to the Thief, and their artwork is really just a bunch of painted words stacked on top of each other, and in the liner notes, there was one that said “X Will Mark The Place,” and I thought that was pretty cool. I ended up finding out that that was actually a lyric that he says in a song, “Where I End and You Begin.”
To keep up with X Will Mark The Place’s upcoming releases and future shows, follow the band on Instagram.