Ceremony: One of Punk's Most Unpredictable Outfits on Rising, Raging and Changing
Jimmy Fontaine Ceremony
By Reyan Ali
Finding a young, lesser-known band in the pages of Rolling Stone is not a noteworthy event. However, seeing a review of Ceremony's new record, Zoo, in the magazine recently still constitutes one of those I-can-believe-it's-happening-but-I-still-can't-believe-it moments because Ceremony are not the kind of up-and-coming group Rolling Stone usually elects to cover.
Once known as Violent World, the Rohnert Park, California-based band have spent seven years playing (and playing around with) rough-edged hardcore punk that seems custom-made for excellently unhinged circle pits and stage dives. Ceremony have been on Deathwish Inc. and Bridge Nine -- a pair of hardcore labels Rolling Stone usually wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole -- and they've always maintained a fiercely DIY, enigmatic aura that makes them a bit unapproachable. (They don't have Twitter, Facebook or MySpace pages, which is a pretty ballsy move in 2012.) Before this year, Ceremony never appeared in Rolling Stone, and, unsurprisingly, guitarist Anthony Anzaldo never maintained any overt or serious desire for that to happen.
"We didn't start the band thinking that we were ever going to be in Rolling Stone or wanted to be in Rolling Stone or anything like that," Anzaldo says. "We weren't just like, 'Oh, cool, we're going to be in Rolling Stone' [when the review ran] and then it never came up again."
"It was definitely rather eventful and, you know, the more people who write about you and talk about you, the more people are going to check you out and buy your records and hopefully become fans of the band," he says. "That's what we're interested in. We want to be able to sustain the band as much as possible. I mean, there are things that we won't do, and publications that we don't want to write about us, but [the Rolling Stone piece is] flattering," he says. "I think milestone is far too heavy of a word, but it's flattering."
There are two key reasons that not only Rolling Stone but also Spin and Pitchfork -- a pair of other major music publications usually unconcerned with the world of hardcore -- are now in the Ceremony business. The first is that Ceremony signed to the ever-respectable Matador Records in June 2011. Matador's bread and butter has always been indie rock (over the years, it's issued records by Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Belle and Sebastian, and Sleater-Kinney), but it's also shown an increasing willingness to move outside its comfort zone and take gambles. In June 2008, the New York-based Matador signed hardcore/experimental outfit Fucked Up, which opened the possibility for Ceremony to move to the label, too.
A friend of a friend of Ceremony was working A&R at Matador, which allowed the band to initially attract the label's attention. From there, the label contacted the group and trekked to Los Angeles to see Ceremony play a show at the Roxy Theatre. The two entities had a long conversation that night that, in Anzaldo's words, was "not necessarily about us signing to them but just about music in general and the state of the industry and what we wanna do," which led to the band's receiving a formal offer a few weeks later. "I wasn't surprised by the offer just because of all the talk. I would have been surprised if they didn't give us an offer 'cause we had been talking with them so much," he says, "but '2009 Anthony Anzaldo' is definitely surprised." He adds that Ceremony calling Matador home "is definitely a huge reason why we're in those publications, but I do think that getting favorable reviews in those publications has to do with the work that we did."