Meet the Callous Daoboys: Bonkers Mathcore Septet Confronting Cult Thinking | Revolver

Meet the Callous Daoboys: Bonkers Mathcore Septet Confronting Cult Thinking

Tackling blind patriotism, conspiracy theories and more one chaotic, violin-assisted song at a time
thecallousdaoboys_2022_credit_grant_butler.jpg, Grant Butler
The Callous Daoboys, 2022
photograph by Grant Butler

Carson Pace is a talker; it's always been that way. When Revolver hears from the Callous Daoboys vocalist after their most recent show in South Carolina, he's playfully detailing a night of stand-up-influenced banter, jovial crowd conversations and a flubbed attempt at convincing the club to join him in the Macarena. This is all on top of Pace having howled himself hoarse while the rest of the Atlanta, Georgia, metalcore hybridists plunged into a torrential storm of mathcore complexity, soft-jazz Muzak, bossa nova, alternative radio rock and effects-warped violin bowing.

Between an off-the-charts onstage energy level, a rising profile amidst a studio collab with Pupil Slicer and a tour with Greyhaven — as well as the band's new highly anticipated sophomore album, Celebrity Therapist — playing with the Callous Daoboys has given Pace plenty of opportunities to get a dialogue going. On the other hand, he knows some of what he's screaming about could be conversation killers with the people he loves.

Take Celebrity Therapist's opening "Violent Astrology," a panicked stomp where the singer ponders the relationship between action movies and the military-industrial complex, while also questioning flat-earthers and why a certain brand of politic is attracted to slapping the Punisher skull on their Facebook wall.

"It was me reflecting on how many people I had lost to some kind of cult," he says of the album, writ large, "whether that cult be buying into the military, Blue Lives Matter and America First, or the alt-right or QAnon, or even the people who are 'Vote Blue No Matter Who' — even those people I see as a little brainwashed."

He continues: "There are people I can't talk to about certain things … [like] the military, or America, or vaccines."

There is, then, palpable frustration to be felt through-out the album as Pace works out his thoughts on complex issues. That said, while he may rail against conservative talking points, he's ultimately hoping to find understanding and common ground. "It's me being very angry about it, but in a way that I'd like to think is still pretty empathetic," he says, adding, "I don't want to other them, because … talking down, being a dick and saying they're wrong — it almost reassures them that they're right."

Pace's inquisitive, earnest nature has been a key aspect of his personality for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in Atlanta, some of his fondest memories are of him and his father, a hobbyist pilot, driving to a private airport on the outskirts of the city — cassettes from Sting and the Cure blaring through the stereo — to watch planes take off and land for hours. There was even a time when the future metal singer thought he might pick up piloting, too.

"I was very talkative when I was younger" Pace recalls. "It makes sense for how I am now — I can't shut the fuck up. So, I was talking to adults … about airplanes when I was very little. I could tell you about every airplane that was landing there. Of course, at that age you have no idea how any of that works — you don't know shit about Bernoulli's Principle — [but] it was something I got to share with my dad."

Despite an often-cryptic lyrical approach, Pace has held onto that innate sense of storytelling with the Callous Daoboys. Tonally, his voice dramatically runs from powerhouse screaming towards a sinewy croon à la Mike Patton or Greg Puciato. Pace's lyrics across the band's new Celebrity Therapist album, meanwhile, attempt to connect the dots between blind patriotism, conspiracy theories, alcohol relapses and the cult of celebrity — arguing that we all spiral into one vice or another. On "Title Track," for instance, he gazes inward on the absurdity of lead singers that "stalk and talk famous, with a pompous throat," though he's aware that said introspection is paradoxically self-serious.

"The cult that I bought into [is the] narcissism of being a frontman. I've had to face a lot of the repercussions of me thinking I was hot shit — just getting tossed on my ass and reminded that I'm not. Our band's doing well, but we're not the fucking Foo Fighters. It's tough to write about that ego."

That Pace questions his role in the band might have something to do with becoming a frontperson accidentally. He was initially a guitar player, picking up the instrument at age 10. Later, he played alongside future Daoboys six-stringer Maddie Caffrey in a "middling" Sunny Day Real Estate–influenced indie-rock outfit called Sunnycide. Growing frustrated with Sunnycide's stagnation, he began writing a set of aggressively off-kilter pieces that played to his love of eccentric outfits like the Dillinger Escape Plan and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. After assembling an early lineup in 2016, the newly minted Callous Daoboys got through their first practice without a singer. Not long after, Pace pragmatically dropped his guitar to grab the mic.

The Callous Daoboys started making their name through various CD-R releases and a live show where Pace alternated between screaming, doing push-ups and walking on top of the crowd. By 2019, a cult following had coagulated around the fabulously fractured art-metal of debut full-length Die on Mars — this extending to likeminded U.K. noisemakers Pupil Slicer, who invited Pace onto their panic-stricken "L'Appel du Vide" single in 2020.

Through the songs of Celebrity Therapist, the band — whose current lineup includes Pace, Caffrey, guitarist Dan Hodsdon, bassist Jack Buckalew, violinist Amber Christman and drummer Sam Williamson — deliver an even more prismatic, and punishing, set of tunes. Without pause, they'll vault from roiling thrash with heavenly elevator-music motifs ("The Elephant Man in the Room") to erudite Psycho-like violin comingled with pop-and-lock funk bass ("Beautiful Dude Missile") to grotesque death moshes mixed with saxophone-blaring sophisti-pop ("What Is Delicious? Who Swarms").

A similar fluidity exists through the perspective- shifting vocals of Celebrity Therapist. While Pace is technically the group's lead singer, the fever-dream midsection of "A Brief Article Regarding Time Loops" finds the vocalist and the rest of the outfit kaleidoscopically trading off, word-for-word, details of a young girl's first experience with déjà vu. This disorientating, hive-mind blurring is employed through-out the album, too. Pace even passes off the central thesis line of "exorcise the celebrity therapist," on "Title Track," to his friend Hayden Rodriguez, vocalist of For Your Health. ("That was cute, to give it to another frontperson," Pace chuckles.)

That the Callous Daoboys pass the mic amorphously perhaps speaks to the desire to foster an open-ended community dialogue. One could also speculate that Pace's approach developed in part because of the tough talks he's evaded with his family thus far, or the ones he anticipates could go badly after they hear the record. "I'm prepared for people to never talk to me again because of the lyrics," he says. "And that's OK."

Speaking truth to power, it's not for nothing that he hollers, "Every line is an albatross," on "Title Track." But with Callous Daoboys rising through the ranks of mathcore, more people are hearing his words than ever before. Some folks sing along, others talk up the band at the merch booth. The conversation, you'd hope, has only just begun.