With their latest album We Defy Oblivion scoring a whopping 9.5 out of 10 here on Brutal Resonance, you could say The Sweetest Condition is bound to land on some folks' album of the year lists. With that in mind, we chatted with the duo behind the music Leslie and Jason and got the entire rundown on their new album. Read on below!
Hey guys! Thanks for joining us on Brutal Resonance! I already obviously know of your existence and the like, but let’s catch up the fans that don’t. What is The Sweetest Condition, who’s in it, and what are your favorite brands of alcohol?
Leslie Irene Benson: The Sweetest Condition is a female-fronted, industrial synthpop band based in Nashville, Tennessee. Named in honor of Depeche Mode, The Sweetest Condition represents the juxtaposition between the dark and the light. It’s the innocence of your first love—that churning, all-consuming infatuation. Flip the coin, and it’s obsession, addiction—the toxic codependent tug-of-war learned from feeling worthy and worthless. Some joy, some pain.
As a band, it’s Jason Reed Milner (music + synths + guitars) and myself. I write all the lyrics and vocal melodies. Wet met ten years ago on the goth-industrial club circuit and launched The Sweetest Condition from the ashes of our first music collaboration, Irene & Reed. In 2013, we moved from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Nashville where we teamed up with our sound engineer, Joel Lauver of Burning Bridge Recordings to produce our debut, Edge of the World. In November of this year, we worked together again and released our second full-length album, We Defy Oblivion.
As artists, we love local craft beers and red wine. But living in the South has really given us an appreciation for whiskey. We drink Woodford Reserve (Kentucky bourbon-whiskey blend), Jameson Irish Whiskey and Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream (charcoal-mellowed Tennessee whiskey and cream). Damn, now I need a drink!”
Your debut EP Truth and Light was a five-tracker that got a little bit of press coverage. How did this EP help lay the foundation for The Sweetest Condition? What did you learn after putting out this material?
Leslie: Our first song written for the new project was ‘Watch You Fall,’ an experiment in aggressive electro-industrial songwriting that ignited The Sweetest Condition as a band. (It would later appear on the Edge of the World release). Truth & Light helped us come full circle with our dark electronic roots.
Lyrically, much of the EP was a personal goodbye letter to my high school sweetheart, who committed suicide. It was also a goodbye to Indy. I had written a poem called ‘The Ghost & The Girl,’ which also became our first music video. The stripped-down, spiritual track holds nothing back, describing the nightmare—and the art—of letting go. A confessional theme continues throughout the EP.
In the music, Jason’s early Nine Inch Nails influence is evident on the EP, a style that would evolve on our later albums. Vocally, I channeled David Gahan of Depeche Mode to capture the mood I wanted to portray, especially on the deeply soulful highlight of the Truth & Light EP, 'The Wound.'
Jason: With the EP, we were testing the waters to see what direction we wanted to go. I loved what we did with it, but it made me want to push the envelope and go a little bit further. With the latest album, I think we’ve pushed ourselves even more. I’m excited to start writing the next one!
It would be about two years after that your full-length debut Edge of the World would take many, many critics by storm. I’ve seen a ton of coverage for this album and haven’t seen a single negative blip about it. How do you think you improved from Truth and Light going into Edge of the World?
Leslie: From Truth & Light, we transitioned into more upbeat, synth-driven electropop songs with a emotional undertone (that was me still dealing with my grief), but we also finally evoked some hopefulness and strength as we found our musical footing. Living in Nashville challenged us to raise the bar of our creativity and inspired us to rework and finesse the songs into something greater than their earlier demos. That’s why I believe Edge of the World has had as much success as it has. The songs are catchy, addictive and memorable industrial-strength synthpop tracks, striking a very personal, emotional cord in many of the listeners, and pulling others to the dance floor. There’s something for everyone on the album.
How did you take in all the positive coverage from Edge of the World? Did it surprise you how well critics and fans took to the album?
Leslie: The success of the debut album was overwhelming. It has encouraged us to keep writing, and keep challenging ourselves musically.”
Shooting to a later period, your first single 'Knock Us Down' off your second full-length album, We Defy Oblivion, was released in August. What is the song about? And why did you choose this song to introduce fans to the new album?
Leslie: 'Knock Us Down' represents much of the context of the new album, We Defy Oblivion. It explores what it feels like when things hit a boiling point. The song is as much of a statement as it as a war cry. The lyrics question authority, religion and abuse, and answer with rebellion, retaliation and revolution. ‘Knock Us Down’ is my own personal ‘Bulls on Parade’ (Rage Against the Machine), so to speak. No matter how bad things get, we’re going to fight for what’s right. If you push us, we won’t fall down. Together, we’re stronger.
'Knock Us Down' was also released side-by-side with a music video. Who created the music video? And why did you choose such stark images to go hand-in-hand with the song?
Leslie: Jason and I both collected old public domain footage and compiled the video, but he was the mastermind who put the majority of it together. I included my own personality as well, especially the instances of dark humor (the fly, the knife throwing, and the girl who is forcibly clapping along in an auditorium as if she’s just not amused). Jason supplied the sexy scenes and riot footage. The flow of the video was intentional. It is meant to make you think, to make you a bit uneasy. ‘Knock Us Down’ is a commentary on the chaotic state of the world we’re in—that the horrors of our global past could easily happen again if we’re not careful. In the under current, though, it’s also my way of telling people to stop ‘slut shaming’ grown adults who choose not to have children.
And now that we’re up to your next album We Defy Oblivion. The album has its roots with darker industrial mechanics and the like. How did you achieve this sound? Did you draw inspiration from other bands for this album?
Jason: With this album, I wanted to have a rich, thick, unmistakable industrial feel. I wanted the sounds to have weight to them. I drew inspiration from older Nine Inch Nails albums, Ministry and Die Krupps. Something noticeably different on this album is that we used more heavy guitar sounds, because the songs called for it.
Leslie: For this album, I pushed myself vocally and lyrically more than I ever have before and channeled my anger, something I don’t often unleash on the world. Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen were my spirit animals for this album. And for ‘Nein Nein Nein,’ my murder ballad as I call it, I also looked to Chibi of The Birthday Massacre for inspiration. She does such an amazing job of going between the sinister killer and the innocent young girl act in her music. That particular song gives me chills every time I hear it. It’s a very personal story, and it’s my way of feeding the revenge demon its prey.
Both personal subjects (love, loss, sin, salvation, etc.) and political (chaotic state of the world) themes are being explored on the album. How did you tie these two issues together?
Leslie: The past year was a tough one for me personally. I felt a lot of frustrations with pressures being placed on me in my career, my relationships and life in general. I felt this frustration reverberating around me throughout the rest of the world too, in addition to an unyielding feeling of fear and anger against the atrocities being committed in the U.S. and globally. This album is my response to those in power (both politically and personally) who have led us astray. It’s my way of saying that humanity will not be treated like a doormat to be crushed and walked all over. We must protect the good still left out there, and tear down the old traditions that are no longer working, something which one of my heroes, Henry Rollins, also feels strongly about.
Out of all the tracks on the album, which one are your favorites and why? Do you have a bond with one song for any reason in particular?
Leslie: My personal favorite is ‘Depths of Hell.’ It’s my way of telling those lost to us that we will live on and keep making music and fighting the good fight. To those still with us who feel alone and on the brink of oblivion: Do not give up hope! If nothing else, let music be your legacy, your champion, and drag you from the depths of Hell. We DEFY Oblivion!
Jason: At the moment, I think my favorite is ‘Don’t Cross Me.’ I had a lot of fun creating the synth line and harmonic guitars used for that song. Leslie’s lyrics brought it to life in a way that I couldn’t imagine.
Would you rank We Defy Oblivion better or worse than Edge of the World? Or can you not draw comparisons in that manner?
Leslie: For both albums, we meticulously weaved together pieces of ourselves–our pasts, our ghosts and our dreams–to create the moods, the worlds in which each collection of songs live. To compare them would be like comparing your own children. We cannot love one more than the other. They are equally as meaningful in our eyes.
And will you be touring at all in support of this new album? Do you have any gigs in the making?
Jason: Absolutely! We have nothing lined up right now but hope to start booking soon!
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck with We Defy Oblivion. I leave the space below open for you to say anything more you wish. Cheers!
Leslie: Thank you to everyone for your undying support. We are forever grateful.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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