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Paul of The Ableist Talking "Staircase Wit", Collaboration, and the Creative Process

"On Sunday, May 1, local post-hardcore four-piece the Ableist dropped the monster EP Staircase Wit—and yes, the release date was chosen deliberately. Even if you didn’t hear these anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist rippers on International Workers’ Day, the Ableist’s brawny melodies will keep Staircase Wit in your rotation for months." -Chicago Reader

Off of an inspired whim, I hit Paul up to see if I could as a few questions before the album release, and they were able to chat for a few minutes to dive into some of the themes covers in the album and the process of creating it. First, starting with the title, they explain that the band drew inspiration from the French phenomenon L’esprit de l’escalier which translates to “staircase wit” and talks about the concept of thinking of an idea or something to say too late.

While this EP contains some new works, they tell me about how they also revisited some of the songs that didn’t make it on the first LP due to not really fitting with what they were creating at the time and revisioned them for this project. One of those songs was "Bloodshot, 1617".

Generally used as a closer because of the sound and heaviness but gradually they started adding to it, creating the full song we hear on this EP and was some of the inspiration for the name as well. It’s not just about finding what to say or play too late, but also about how they’re evolving as a band and individual artists. “Committed to creating curating projects that are cohesive and flow, they say their goal now and going forward is to create music that blends their inspirations together into a more singular sound that instantly makes you think, “This is The Ableist” when it hits your ear.

With "Staircase Wit", Paul explains that part of the creative process was to focus on writing songs that were stripped down, straightforward, visceral, and grounded. Each member brings their own artistic and sonic spin, Paul, focusing on lyrics and vocals, tells me the story of Acknowledgement, a personal favorite, and another song that really grew. “...Barry had the bones and Stephan put leads on it that made it really bright and pop. The leads also helped the song go from an intro to a full song…”.They emphasize the beauty of the collaboration that took place and how all they do as a band is something everyone contributes to, bringing their own sound and musical roots.

I ask them about inspiration and they let me know that lyrically, they pulled from the lessons they've learned through literature and past relationships. Citing Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and multiple works by adrienne maree brown to name a few, they talk about themes of interconnectedness, mutual aid, and a true return to the source meaning and actions of some of the more dominant anarchist/abolitionist ideologies and not just appearances and perfect talking points. Paul also tells me about a time they were in the park with a past partner and as they stopped to smoke she told them to move and asked, “Why are you standing on that grass trying so hard to grow?”

An innocent statement on her part, as when they looked down he noticed it happened to be a little dry, they say that the moment resonated and opened their eyes up to the need to be more mindful. They said that while their actions weren’t intentional it hadn’t even crossed their mind to pay attention and avoid the patch whereas her second instinct was, “Hey, move” when she saw the patch was really trying to grow being stifled. It helped them realize that their mindfulness toward the world shouldn’t begin and end with people but also include the care of the literal earth and its resources.

We spoke a bit more about creating art and the pressures of social media but wanting to really have a second chance to speak when the full band can sit down with us, we wrapped it up with a small chat about some plans for the future.

Personally, Paul is focusing on, “saying something and doing it right...” with their lyrics explaining that what matters is leaving the next generation the lessons to focus on, i.e. being good to their friends, and family, and contributing to their community while doing their part in dismantling oppressive systems. As a band, Barry and Stephan are the main songwriters but everyone has been tinkering. Pete recently joining also gives them the opportunity to explore new sounds. They say that while another EP may eventually come along, right now they are just focusing on creating good music and defining their sound.

Listen to Staircase Wit on Spotify and Bandcamp below. (Purchase on Bandcamp, $5).


Black As Yr Soul


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