Up to speed
Paul Navarro, Richard Tom, Steve Moore and Matt Garito call their heavy metal outfit Condemned Existence—but these guys aren’t nihilists. They find too much meaning in the labor intensive process that goes into creating their brutal sound.
The band got its start in early 2015, when, after having taken about a year off from playing, drummer Navarro began jamming with a guitarist he met on Craigslist. The pair played mostly stoner rock together—grooving at a pace that was slow for Navarro, whose background lies in progressive rock and hardcore.
“It was kind of pacifying me for a little while, just playing with him,” Navarro said. “But he kept talking about this friend of his, which was Matt.”
Eventually, guitarist Garito joined in on a jam session. A former drummer, he and Navarro clicked quickly and began playing together. Garito said he was looking for serious musicians with whom to collaborate and was surprised to find one through a Craigslist connection. He calls the website a “wasteland for musicians.”
“There’s just a lot of guys on there that just don’t really want to be in a band, I feel,” he said. “It’s like they don’t understand what it takes and the work it requires and the commitment that it requires to be a good musician and in a band. Seriously, it’s a lot of bedroom players that really have no ambition. They’ll show up one time, and you’ll never see them again.”
A few months later, Navarro and Garito were still seeing each other when Navarro met vocalist Tom, who had recently departed his former band—a thrash metal outfit called Seven Churches—also in search of collaborators who were looking to take music more seriously. It wasn’t long before he introduced his own friend, bassist Moore, completing the lineup. From there, the bandmates said, the real work began.
Condemned Existence played its first show at the Knitting Factory in September 2015. Since then, the guys have tried to average two gigs a month—one in town and one somewhere else. They also meet in Navarro’s basement twice a week for practice. And with frequent gigs on the docket, they feel the need to turn out new songs regularly.
“We’ll usually do a live recording of a song as well and disperse it around so we all can practice and get it tight,” Moore said.
“Uh-huh,” Navarro said. “Do your homework.”
But nailing down the large repertoire of vicious, thrash-heavy songs isn’t the only point behind the aggressive practice schedule. The bandmates are also big on working to expand their respective skillsets. As an example, Tom cites his vocals. He growls and screams with conviction—and an impressive range. But, he said, this wasn’t always the case.
“I was just rushing, rushing—and way sloppier when I first came here,” he said. “They were just telling me to break it up and helping me breathe better. At first, I would just sing straight, one pattern and flat. They’d be like, ’Try it this way. Try it that way. You have it. You just need to learn how to use it.’ They taught me a lot.”
To hear the self-titled 2016 EP, one would think the bandmates had been at it for years. Now, they’re working on a second EP. As yet, there’s no release date, but Navarro said they’ve chosen five songs from their extensive set list and are setting aside gig money to pay for recording.