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Band ready to rock again after hit by 2020 delays

Controller’s new music getting video treatment

Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 31, 2021

Roughly a year ago, Controller were on the verge of releasing a new EP. The band had big plans for promoting the release.

As it turned out, even a band called Controller can’t control everything.

“The pandemic screwed us so hard,” the band’s guitarist, Stephen Sedik, said in a phone interview with Whatzup. “We spent the most money on this EP that we’ve ever spent on a project. We put the most time in, as far as different personnel, different mixing and mastering engineers. It was the most amount of effort we’d ever put into recording. We went in to go all out.”

Unfortunately, COVID-19 went all out to make us all go indoors.

The band subsequently decided to make a music video for each song and release the music that way.

But time is of the essence.

“We wanted to get this music out before we all got fat,” said keyboardist Jeffrey Saum. “We’re all pretty fat now. We wanted to get the music out before we got as fat as we knew we were gonna be.”

The band has produced three videos for seven songs, so there is much music and weight gain still to come.

Together for a Decade

Controller have been together for 10 years which is a long time for a local band. The band formed in 2011 after Sedik asked some friends to help out with a project he was working on.

It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement.

“That was my cue to yell at Steven and say, ‘No, man. Start a band with me,’” Saum said. “I twisted his arm. I was like, ‘I know you know people.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I kind of have people that I wanna start a band with.’ So I made him call them up and then we were born.”

That’s usually how projects like Controller come to fruition, said lead vocalist Robert Pearson.

“Just guys getting together who are like-minded,” he said.

When you perform live and support others who perform live, you make a mental list of the musicians you most admire, Saum said.

“When you play out and are part of a scene for a while, you start to gel with certain people,” he said. “You understand who you can party with and who you enjoy the most. You respect the things that they do on stage.”

Controller started as just such a mutual admiration society, Saum said.

Metal Without Labels

Saum was the one who came up with the name for the band.

“Life was rough growing up,” he said. “I had a lot of friends who went out in stupid ways. It’s kind of a reminder that I am responsible for the amount of chaos that I allow into my life. … The music is what controls what happens here. We’re all equal parts and cogs and wheels. That will tell us where we’re headed. The music dictates our forward motion. Not someone’s ego or somebody’s drive.”

Controller’s music is often identified as nu metal or progressive metal, but Pearson said the band is a little wary of such labels or any labels.

“We don’t like to be defined,” he said.

The band was starting to get a little more serious about its ambitions just before the pandemic put that kibosh on most forms of ambitiousness, Saum said.

There was a plan afoot to play as far south as Tennessee and as far east as Philadelphia, he said.

“We were talking about maybe doing an east coast run,” Saum said. “The pandemic put the brakes on everything, obviously. The world shut down.”

The band’s plans may have been put on hold, but the band did not get put on hold, Sedik said.

“I think we were sort of lucky in that we managed to find enough things to keep us occupied,” he said.

The band has released 60 songs to date in various forms and formats, Sedik said.

They could probably come up with three or four more every time they practice, Saum said.

“The biggest problem is that we don’t have the money to record everything we write,” he said.

There’s an upside to that predicament, Sedik said, and it’s this: What does get released is the cream of the crop.

Looking for Live Shows

Controller are eager to get back to performing live, Pearson said. But the band also wants to be careful. The pandemic forced the band to cancel shows, something its members hate to do.

“We had to cancel more than a few shows last year and that was the first time we’d ever backed out of a show,” he said. “We very much believe in being as professional as possible and keeping our word. If we say we’ll be there to play out, we will.”

Keeping a band together over the long haul isn’t easy. Five members can mean five viewpoints and five heads butting against the others.

Sedik said they don’t try to sweep conflict under the carpet.

“We fight openly and then get over it,” Saum said.

Pearson said the world in which he grew up was one where people didn’t hesitate to confront each other with grievances but were also quick to forgive.

“That’s how we are in the band,” he said.

One thing that helps keep relations cordial is that there are no frontmen in the band, Sedik said.

“The second anyone starts portraying himself as ‘the frontman’ of the band, he’s gone.”

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