Live from 5565; How Photophobia is challenging Jacksonville’s death metal expectations

Joseph Wolfe, Reporter

An anticipative haze lingered in the air as the quintet stepped onstage. The audience, revved from sound-check alone, cheered the band’s name. When the sound technician had given the band a thumbs up, signifying that they were ready to perform, the musicians wasted no time, breaking out into their abrasive death metal music that Jacksonville knows them by. 

Ethan “Spud” Bond screamed into his microphone, Byron Nelson pounded on the drums, Gabriel Peralta and Andy Kirton shredded guitars, and Tyler Peterson, amidst the musical chaos, bound the bands’ sound together with the bass.

The audience erupted into a rampage of heavy metal violence, with fans moshing, head banging, and throwing each other across the room. To any metal fan, this performance, held on April 22 at Kona Skatepark, would’ve been the concert of a lifetime. But to Photophobia, it was just another Saturday night. 

In the past year, Photophobia have made a name for themselves within the city’s music scene. They made an explosive entrance into the Jacksonville music scene in the most heavy metal way possible: a house party, open to all, with live bands and free pizza. 

Since that debut, which they said ended in a JSO raid, Photophobia has had a cult following that continues to grow with each concert. 

However, Photophobia is enshrouded with mystery. Who are these young musicians? What does “5565” mean? And what is so taboo about these musicians that their first gig prompted a police raid? 

From left to right: Gabriel Peralta, Ethan “Spud” Bond, Tyler Peterson and Andy Kirton, who comprise the band Photophobia along with drummer Byron Nelson (not shown). Photo courtesy of Photophobia.

Spinnaker interviewed the band to answer those questions and more. This interview has been edited for clarity and concision. 

How did you land on the band name “Photophobia”?

Nelson: Originally our name was “Crow’s Shadow”, and we knew that sucked…we were trying to pick a name that was just one word. (When) we picked “Photophobia” we didn’t know there was another band out there called Photophobia. (But) we’re the real Photophobia! I’d say it matches us. “Photophobia” means “fear of light”…You’re scared of the truth, and we’re unveiling that. We’re spreading the truth and embracing the fear of it. 

Who are Photophobia’s influences? 

Kirton: I take a lot of influence from classic rhythm guitarists but also more modern ones like Mick Thompson. I like the ‘chug chug’ on the ones and zeroes, I like the thrashers like James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine.

Peralta: I’m mainly inspired by old school death metal. I listen to everything though. I listen to jazz, I listen to classical music, I listen to rap. I take a little bit from everywhere. As far as my guitar playing goes, I’d say Slayer and Pantera.

Nelson: I don’t try to be influenced, there’s a lot of artists that I love. I love Korn, I love funk. I listen to a lot of math stuff too but I try to be original with it. I don’t try to be influenced. 

Spud: My influences come from early 2000s deathcore and Suicide Silence, Job For a Cowboy, Shadow of Intent, and obviously my hero Mitch Lucker from Suicide Silence. I go for that early 2000s deathcore screaming. It doesn’t belong in what we’re playing, but it works so well…I feel like we’re making something that no one else has ever made. 

Kirton: I guess a good influence of all genres for us would definitely be doom metal for sure I like old school thrash to deathcore stuff. Nelson’s drumming gives it a more groove, a kind of funk base, it’s bouncy.

Peterson, who wasn’t present at the interview, said he considers his influences to be mathcore, funk and jazz music.

What does Photophobia stand for?

Peralta: I thoroughly dislike the government. I wouldn’t classify myself as an anarchist, but there’s a lot of reforms that need to be made. How many more people have to suffer? How many more people have to live under old school systems like red-lining? A lot of those people are suffering right now and the system we have in place is not doing anything about it to change it as well as digital online surveillance. Nothing is private anymore. 

Nelson: It takes time to implement true change. I believe in people finding personal freedom through expression. I want people to listen to our music and feel like they’re on a drug…they feel empowered, nothing can stop them. When people gain their own sense of presence and unite with other people who are feeling that…that’s when the action to put in change comes. I believe in social justice, the reform of the justice system. I believe that mass incarceration is one of the most damaging things that the United States does. I want our music to stand for personal freedom to everyone who listens to it. I want (listeners) to feel completely empowered by themselves so that they can do anything and be anything. 

What’s your song “Gore” about?

Spud: This day a year ago was the day it was written. At first when I wrote it, I was just saying “gore.” I just kept repeating it because it was a death metal song. Once I started writing the lyrics, I wrote it based on something I realized in the past, how everyone tells you the world is peachy. But in reality, there are a lot of sick people who do this gore shit, where they post bodies for sale. There’s a lot hidden behind this world. A lot of stuff that will make you change your opinion on the world and that’s what Gore is about. It’s just.. anywhere around you when you don’t even know it. It’s a different way that people look upon earth, and it makes you grateful that you’re not a part of it or supporting it. It’s kind of a weird concept, but it’s always how I’ve felt. 

What does “5565” mean? 

Kirton: To me, it was the address to Nelson’s old house. That place represented a lot to me. It helped me improve myself as a player and as a person hanging around these guys a lot. It was also the first house we finished the songs in, it was the house where we threw our first house show and also first show ever. We were talking about what to name the album and we almost went for a self-titled type thing, but then the idea was thrown around of calling it “5565” as a reminder.

Spud: Everyone was like ‘it’s just a number’, I’m like ‘no, that place is a spirit to me’. I’m gonna miss it so much. I got teary helping Nelson pack it up. So many memories happened there it was all love. It’s where we met Gabe, it’s where we met Peterson, it’s where we met everybody! It was a moving experience being there every day. 

Nelson: My life is a trip. I got kicked out of my apartment back when I was 19, and when I moved into 5565, I was going through some heartbreak. I feel like that place was an epicenter of love. I started out there so depressed, and all I had was music to keep myself comfortable with existing and being alive. Spud hit me up out of nowhere, and that’s how all this got started. It turned into a space where I feel like everybody could share their art and their ideas…I kind of learned to love music at that place. That was it.

The album art for Photophobia’s album “5565”. Courtesy of Photophobia.

What did the creative process for the 5565 EP look like?

Nelson: I made the introduction in 15 minutes. I have this big-ass record collection and I got this radio album that was talking about Jacksonville. I took a sample from it and added radio sound effects and pieced it together with some open-source shit. In terms of the creative process for the album…we made all the songs within about four months. In terms of the album art we all just bounced around ideas and came up with the thing that just worked for us. When it came to making music, I feel like we can all reflect on what it is and realize there’s a lot of growth that needs to be done in terms of incorporating our sound, for me personally, I love it because its raw and it sounds like a bunch of people having fun making a metal album you can go hard to. 

What are some challenges that Photophobia has faced?

Kirton: Writing new songs can be really hard. We like to go through our old set, and after we just kinda fuck around with shit. Sometimes it’ll be all of us just jamming on riffs. But we don’t ever actually do anything with them except record them and be like “this will be cool for a song, alright, let’s do the set again”. But I think that challenge will go away with a fresh new house to jam in, and inspire new ideas.

Nelson: I’d say that the hardest part is that artists are artists. We confide ourselves in times of expression because we don’t take art for granted. So I’d say that sometimes we have communication issues. But we get past that. Because more than anything, we’re trying to do something unique and creative. The creative process can be strenuous at times, but I think that’s also because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That also being said, we wanna do the best, we wanna be the best, and we’re taking time now more than ever to get in the flow of it. We’re completely redoing our set. We’re gonna keep three songs from our old set, but right now we’re taking a break mainly to work on new material and create new ideas. The hardest times have been the best for our growth.

What’s next for Photophobia?

Nelson: I wanna get crackin’ once we get set up in this place. My goal is to have an album. I think we can do an album worth of material if we hunker down this summer. I don’t wanna not deliver, but here’s the thing. We’ve done so much just naturally in such a short time because we have fun doing what we do. We’re just gonna keep having fun growing and evolving in a new space. 

Photophobia combines the eloquence of math rock with the harshness of death metal. 

Their EP “5565” tells a story of frustration and challenges the expectations of Jacksonville metal, shedding the expected blast beats in favor of Nelson’s technical drumming, which blends with Peterson’s mathcore and funk-inspired bass. 

Fans of metal and punk rock alike should stay tuned for future releases by the band and be on the lookout for the next Photophobia performance.


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