Milwaukee’s Americana/rock group Devil Met Contention has been making itself known in the 414 area by playing a multitude of shows at a variety of venues. Having played at prominent locales such as The Rave, Shank Hall, and Cactus Club, this four-piece has seemingly found their groove. This could be attributed to the release of their first EP, American Times, earlier this year. Neglecting to take a reasonable amount of downtime, they have released their new single, “Ferguson,” with another EP in the works. Speaking to frontman Ehson Rad about the song, I was able to gain more insight into his songwriting process.
The story of racial injustice and police brutality throughout the country, and namely in Ferguson, has been a massive topic of discussion in the US. Was there a specific event or point in time that inspired you to write this song, or did it start from the time the story broke?
I had been following the stories about shootings, and subsequent debates on gun control, like many others. I watched with a certain unconscious distance from each story. I felt so disappointed in the justice system and our country after the killing of Trayvon Martin and surprised that there was such strong support for the gunman and what felt like minimal action by a gridlocked political system. Even after President Obama’s re-election in wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, nothing felt like it was moving towards lasting positive change. In 2014, I was writing and just felt so disillusioned by “America”. I had seen the horrifying video of Eric Garner being killed, and then came the verdict in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. It became overwhelming.
Songwriting is an emotionally-taxing experience. Because of the nature of the song, what was the composing process like this time around?
The night of the Ferguson riots after the verdict, it was hours and hours of the national media spotlight taking advantage of the strife, frustration of the people of Missouri. It was the last straw of injustice and flame and tear gas and sensationalism. I picked up my guitar, but nothing happened. After I went to work the next day, I overheard people talking about the riots and police response like it was the best action movie they had seen in a long time. It was sick. It was pure complacency. I drove home, sat down near my lamp, and wrote the whole song 10 minutes.
Can you tell me a little bit about the other song on the bandcamp page?
We’ve recorded a full new album that will include the song “Ferguson” for release later this year, so for the single I thought it might be interesting to include content that might bridge a listener to the eventual album. The raw recording of “Holy Ranger” is one of the very first times we played the song as a full band. If you listen to the ending, you can hear us say something along the lines of “What the hell was that?!”, while we laugh at our first attempt.
Rad also wanted to stress that Devil Met Contention isn’t necessarily a political band. “Not all of our songs involve political issues,” he stated. “We’re just trying to express narrative and emotion through our music, hoping that in the end the songs do the talking.”
Stream the tracks today on their bandcamp. Devil Met Contention will also be performing tonight on 88.9 RadioMilwaukee as part of their 414 Music Live series. You can also follow the band on Facebook and Twitter.