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Converge Rock Compassion: A Q&A

The four-piece powerhouse opens up about how hardcore music and meat-free living go hand-in-hand.

At its most chaotic, their music is a loud, frantic, violent current of energy channeled through barking vocals and texturized guitar thrashing. Other tracks dial down the insanity—but never the intensity—to express a similar well of emotion with quiet, haunting sincerity. For almost 20 years, amidst line-up changes and watershed shifts in sound, Converge have thrilled audiences with their own brand of hardcore metal. Their latest album, Axe To Fall, has been met with glowing reviews. Pitchfork's Cosmo Lee recently named Converge this generation's Black Flag. While the band's sound and history may mirror these hardcore punk idols, their compassionate lifestyle choices err more on the side of Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler. Yes, like Butler these mosh-pit pleasers are meat-free rock stars. The four-piece powerhouse recently took a break from their current tour to talk with VegNews about their aural and animal-friendly history.

VegNews: How did the band come to collectively adopt vegetarian lifestyles?
Nate Newton: I got the Smith's "Meat is Murder" t-shirt in junior high school and realized I'd be a poser if I wore the shirt and ate a burger in front of the girl I liked. So it was to impress a mousy goth girl.
Kurt Ballou: When I was 18, I dated a girl who was vegetarian and she kind of forced me into it. So I started for a pretty insincere reason. But sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reason. And I also believe that it's hard to evaluate if something is right for you if it's part of your daily routine. I think it took not eating meat every day for me to actually be aware enough to choose if it was something I wanted to do. When she dumped me, I went on a spiteful sausage-pizza binge, got really sick, and then went vegetarian the next day. I became vegan about a year after that.

VN: How has the band's sound evolved over the past two decades?
Jacob Bannon: Since we started so young, we've essentially had our musical progression as individuals documented within this band and within our songs. As to how we've evolved? Aside from improving as musicians and just finding our collective voice, I'm not really sure. That would be up to our listeners to decide.
KB: It's always been important to us to not remain stagnant and to always push our music in new directions, both as a personal challenge, and to maintain a fulfilling artistic experience.

VN: What are your go-to foods when on tour? What's your favorite veg-friendly city to visit?
NN: You mean aside from Baked Lays and apples? I like going to Norfolk, Virg. to eat at Tortilla West.
KB: I just got an iPhone app called "VegOut" which knows your position and shows you restaurants near you with vegetarian options. It works really great! You read menus and reviews, decide where you want to go, then click on the address and get driving, walking, or public transport directions right on your phone. I usually just ride my bike! Right now, I'm way into eating in Chicago. They have a lot of vegan-friendly American and Mexican fare. I'm also heavily into the smoked tofu and seitan fajitas at the Cantina Los Caballitos in Philly. It takes three people to finish an order!

VN: What are your favorite veg-friendly restaurants at home?
KB: For lunch I love New England Soup Factory and Boston Hotdog Company (BHC), both of which are a few minutes walk from my house in Salem. BHC has Field Roast sausages now! For dinner, I really like the raw pasta dishes at Chianti Café in Beverly, Mass. I'm also digging Red Lentil Vegetarian Restaurant in Watertown, Mass., and Peace O' Pie in Allston, Mass. For desserts and Kombucha cocktails, I'm definitely going to Grezzo Restaurant in the North End of Boston. I also recently discovered a place called Udupi Bhavan in Lowell, Mass. They have this thing called a Chili Vada that is like an Indian jalapeno popper. Amazing!

Photo courtesy of Matt Miller

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