As Inter Arma gears up to release their latest album, we catch up with lead vocalist Mike Paparo for a look into their inspirations on the new cover tracks.
Richmond’s Inter Arma has something new for the city’s music scene, and it’s unlike anything they’ve done before. Garbers Days Revisited is releasing on July 10, and the eight-song cover album is a collection of songs that have influenced the band over the years. Those influences are not necessarily what you might expect.
Along with songs that speak directly to the band’s style, such as the dark groove of “Scarecrow” by Ministry or the aggressive punk of “Hard Times” by Cro-Mags, the album also features artists in a totally different realm of music. A few may come as a surprise to fans and strangers alike, including Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” and Neil Young’s “Southern Man.”
“We’ve been covering songs for the entire duration of the band,” said lead vocalist Mike Paparo. “‘Southern Man’ we’ve been playing for over a decade — it was one of the first cover songs we did.”
According to Paparo, Petty has been an influence on the band since its inception. Meanwhile, their covers of Cro-Mags, Venom, and Ministry songs speak to their own style of music.
“Years ago, we would do sets where we’d just show up and do punk covers,” Paparo said. “We like all kinds of different stuff… A lot of us listen to metal, but not as much as we listen to something else.”
Garbers Days Revisited offers a window into the world of influence behind Inter Arma’s carefully-crafted sound. The album shows that their inspiration is drawn from a vast array of sources and genres, from the obvious styles of punk, hardcore, and metal to the more obscure notes of classic rock, soul, R&B, and even folk.
“We’re not purists at all,” Paparo said of their wide range of influences. “I’m personally a Neil Young fanatic… I’d like to think there are people who enjoy our band that also enjoy Husker Du and Tom Petty.” Paparo’s personal taste sheds some light on how their “Southern Man” cover was chosen for the record, and it speaks to the greater truth that all musical styles are intertwined and mutually informative.
Although Paparo assured that “there’s no grand artistic idea behind any of it,” there are several layers to this album and its concept. The title Garbers Days Revisited is a reference to Metallica’s 1987 cover album, Garage Days Revisited. Inter Arma’s record highlights their old practice space, Garbers.
“We’re all giant Metallica fans, so we decided to pay homage to [our] building and also to Metallica,” Paparo said.
Inter Arma practiced at Garbers for more than a decade, alongside countless influential Richmond bands like Windhand, Bastard Sapling, Cough, and Parasitic. Some of the covers on Garbers Days Revisited, like “Southern Man,” were learned during their time at the space, and their EP, Destroyer, was recorded there.
“It was like our holy ground,” Paparo said. “Garbers was a fixture around Richmond for a long time. Those were the founding years of Inter Arma… Some nights you’d go up there, and there would be ten bands on the floor just hammering it out.”
The chaotic atmosphere at Garbers created an outlet for Richmond bands to learn, record, and even work on their equipment.
“Every floor had a billion bands. There were recording studios, a guy that fixed guitars and amps, every kind of band you could imagine. That place was kind of anarchy at points,” Paparo reminisced fondly. “It was definitely a bummer for the Richmond music scene [when it closed].”
When the band decided to create Garbers Days Revisited, Inter Arma’s recording process and concept reflected their long history of covers.
“The whole thing for us was just to have fun with it,” Paparo said. “We’ve been covering songs for so long as a band, and thought, ‘We should record some of these.’ I’m sure there are going to be people who don’t like it… that’s cool. We just do whatever the hell we want to do.”
His answer is sure to please their punk and hardcore forefathers. Garbers Days Revisited was recorded in September 2019, before the current coronavirus pandemic extended its reach into America. Paparo went on to explain that the timing of the release is actually fortuitous for the band.
“We’re putting something out in a year where we are 95 percent sure we’re not going to play another show that year,” he said. Garbers Days Revisited gives fans something to chew on in the meantime, until Inter Arma can storm the stage once again.
“We hope people get some kind of enjoyment out of it, considering the madness we are currently living in,” Paparo said.
Established fans of Inter Arma are sure to find that enjoyment — and the band might just pick up new fans with their unique versions of songs that many already know and love.
Inter Arma has delivered once again, this time with a fresh perspective on classics spanning several genres. Garbers Days Revisited offers a glimpse into the creative process, along with an opportunity to better understand one of Richmond’s favorite contemporary metal bands.
Top Photo courtesy Inter Arma/Stephanie Marlow Publicity