It started with a gun. A Remington 270, to be precise. A thirteen-year-old Jesse Cash traded it for one of his first guitars. It was an old Washburn guitar in poor condition, “It was an awful trade” says Cash. “I just wanted a guitar more than a rifle.” As the clean vocalist, guitarist and mastermind behind ERRA’s mighty metalcore, he’s got his money’s worth since.
As a teenager, Cash found the adrenaline rush of learning addictive: “When I first was getting into guitar, technical stuff was always more fun to me. Like, I really fell in love with guitar whenever I started learning songs by bands like As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage and All That Remains,” he says. “Those songs were a big challenge for me. It required the most work out of me to get it out perfect, and just the reward of getting it out perfect was so wonderful.”
The more he learned, the more he pushed himself, opening up musical worlds at his fingertips. It’s a spirit that never left him. All those hours on the Washburn may have made him one of the best metal guitarists around, but he’s still pushing himself to do the improbable—like play and sing in different time signatures, or sing and tap—showing the learning never ends. “I shoot myself in the foot all the time,” he laughs.
This is evident on ERRA’s self-titled album. It perfects the changes set in motion on 2016’s Drift and honed on 2018’s Neon, ERRA is the band at its most laser-focused. They have sniped away the parts that don’t work and doubled down on the ones that do: the interplay between Cash and unclean vocalist JT Cavey, the huge melodic choruses, and of course, Cash’s mind-blowing riffs.
The final product is an album that is as enticing as it is consistent. Tracks such as opener ‘Snowblood’ and standout ‘Vanish Canvas’ push the songs to the limits of how much tension it can handle before rewarding you with the catchiest chorus. This interplay is what has made ERRA beloved scene veterans—and also allowed them to evolve across five albums. “[ERRA] still fits in well with the rest of our discography, but there’s just something very fresh about this one,” Cash adds.
The result is an album with lots of heart but no central theme. Instead, each song is its own adventure. “Each song was written to serve itself in the context of that specific song,” says Cash. “The choices that we made in terms of theme and vision were pretty specific to each song rather than the album as a whole.” In part due to the books he is constantly devouring—”Oh man, [reading] it makes it so much easier to write lyrics”—Cash wanted this album to be a library rather than a series.
While this song-by-song approach allows for interesting experimentation—diving into their heaviest moments (‘Scorpion Hymn’), exploring their softer side (‘Memory Fiction’), and riffs so quick you mistake them for jaunty keys—it is only possible due to a comfort level that is almost tangible. The third album with the current line-up, ERRA reaps the rewards of working out the kinks. “This is definitely the most comfortable line-up that I’ve been a part of in the band. We have kind of figured out how each other works within a studio environment and within a touring environment,” says Cash.
Once Cash and the band were able to let go, the unleashed ERRA could finally hit the potential they’ve been targeting on their previous albums. ”Me and JT [Cavey], definitely experienced some growing pains with our last record , just kind of figuring out how we differ in the way that we work and the way that we process things creatively and even the way we process our feelings and our thoughts,” says Cash. “Going into this record, it was completely different. We had a specific conversation about it, and I just told him, ‘These are all the things that I did previously that I think hindered your ability to get the best quality out of your performance, and I take responsibility for those things. I’ve learned from those things, and this time around, I’m just going to be hands off and let you do what you want to do, because I think that you are going to give the best performances if you’re left to be free creatively, just as I would want to feel.’”
However, this self-awareness is only possible from being a settled person. Cash, who wrote most of the album after a morning relaxing at his favourite Nashville cafe, was at his most comfortable during this period. “Just operating in that very steady routine. That I feel was really good for my brain, just to chill alone, read, walk. Those things were very beneficial,” says Cash. “And I think that’s the biggest thing that translated into the way it turned out, just really good vibes going into the creative process.”
This freedom is why ERRA is their best work yet.
A long way removed from that thirteen-year-old with a Washburn, it’s a record that proves settled bandmates make great music—and with each member of ERRA confident enough to express themselves, it’s little wonder that on this album there is a sense that anything can happen.