Delaware-based four-piece Wasted Theory will release their second EP, GodSpeed, this coming Saturday at a show in their native state with Weed is Weed, War Injun, Foghound and Screaming Rattler at the Mojo 13 in Wilmington. The new release continues a quick start for Wasted Theory, who formed summer 2012 with riffs in hand and quickly set to work on putting them to use for their debut, the Cinco Dechado De Cancion EP, released last fall.
GodSpeedfollows a similar course to the first outing in its overall style, but is more developed, a song like “Mountain King” dripping Southern rock swagger à la Halfway to Gone‘s “Great American Scumbag” while relying on a foundation of riffs strong enough to hold up all that attitude. The dual guitars of Jackson (also vocals) and M. Kramer foster metallic tones, while Jay‘s bass — most prevalent in its intro to “Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On” before being relegated to a backseat to the guitars in the mix — thickens in heavy rock tradition and BrendanBurns‘ drums punctuate the formidable stomp.
Burns doubles as the honcho of SnakeCharmer Booking, responsible for some righteous shows in the Delaware/Maryland area including the Eye of the Stoned Goat fests — the second of which took place last month (review here) and the third of which is Obelisk-sponsored and coming up July 27 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. So with the release of GodSpeedthis week, the upcoming gig, the drummer’s involvement in making the Mid-Atlantic that much heavier, and Wasted Theory‘s slot on Stoner Hands of Doom XIII later this year in Virginia, it seemed like a good opportunity to bug them with Six Dumb Questions, which fortunately they were kind enough to take time out to answer.
You’ll find the results below. Please enjoy:
1. Give me the background on how Wasted Theory got together.
With Delaware being so small, we all knew the same drug dealers, (just kidding)… WastedTheory was the result of many shitty auditions and failed project attempts. In the summer of 2012 we finally found a good combination of players, and it just clicked. We all came from semi-professional music backgrounds, so for us the main objective was to find musicians with the same goals but with different influences to create a style that spanned several styles within the rock genre.
2. It seems like you guys got Cinco Dechado De Canción out rather quickly after forming. How did the writing process for the material work? How does that compare to the process for GodSpeed? Is there anything in particular you were looking to change going into the new release?
It was definitely a speedy process, because most of what Cinco was made up of was riffs and lyrics that everyone already had and were combined and rewritten to fit the new framework of the band. For Godspeed, we wrote new riffs and gradually took everyone’s input and created the music from the ground up. In many ways Godspeed could be considered our first true collaboration in the respect that it was written from fresh ideas rather than existing ones. As far as changes, we wanted to experiment and start using different guitar tones, time signatures, as well as playing with some different effects. We also used some audio samples to help create a more themed and cohesive album. Also, I believe Mark may have also started purchasing a different grade of marijuana… that helped too.
3. Tell me about recording GodSpeed. Was there anything you wanted to do differently coming off the first EP? Will you guys do a physical pressing for GodSpeed, or is it digital-only at this time?
We definitely were looking to go a little more heavy, but also a little more “C.O.C.-ish” on some tracks. We wanted to add some more ambience, add some different “bluesy” highlights as well, but at the same time show our versatility and basically our ability to play different forms of the same genre. Oh Yes, there are physical copies of Godspeed that can be purchased at our shows or overseas through Ozium, and it will also be available digitally through iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, all those cool places.
4. Brendan put together the Eye of the Stoned Goat fests and you guys and Wizard Eye will be the only bands to have played all three installments so far when the next one takes place in July. Can you talk a bit about the process in putting together this festival and what it is about Wizard Eye that has made them such a regular fixture? Aside from their kicking ass, that is.
In all honesty, I really dug what Rob [Levey] was doing with Stoner Hands of Doom and I really wanted to do something similar for my area. After the ESG2 festival, I was contacted by several venues and promoters about doing the same type of festival in their towns, and I really loved the idea of doing one in New York. So, I teamed up with Pat Harrington from Geezer/the Electric Beard of Doom podcast and landed a spot at The Acheron in Brooklyn for ESG3. He and I worked on locking this show down, and landed some amazing bands for it. One of those bands naturally was WizardEye. Not only are they a great band, but great dudes too. Erik [Caplan] has been one of my biggest supporters since the first event, and they just fit each bill so perfectly.
5. You’ll play Stoner Hands of Doom later this year as well. How did that come about? Any chance of an ESG/SHOD collaboration in the future?
We would fucking love to collaborate with Rob and do an ESG/SHoD show, that would be killer. It could definitely happen in the future, who knows! We actually just happened to land a spot on this year’s show by dumb luck. We sent Rob a track from the first EP and he really dug it and asked us to join SHoD XIII. Obviously we told him fuck yeah!
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ll be heading out to do tons of shows with tons of great bands this year, so please check out our site for all the dates and bands we’ll be teaming up with. Oh, and please buy the record! We are all late on our child support payments… Thank you.
If the questions asked in this Magic Circle interview seem kind of straightforward, that’s only because the doomly Boston-based five-piece have done so well at keeping themselves obscure. The band, whose self-titled debut (review here) is out now on CD/LP through Armageddon Shop, have virtually no online presence, be it social networking or otherwise, and in terms of recording info, pictures, etc., there just isn’t much out there at this point.
Difficult as that might make it to determine who’s who and how Magic Circle, the album, got made, it’s an admirable ethic. Some bands can’t go five minutes before updating their fans on which member’s farts stink the worst, or without posting a picture of one of the members sitting on plastic lawn furniture in somebody’s yard, with or without a beer, like the lamest moment of Bon Scott‘s life. And even those who protest the pervasiveness of digital engagement — i.e. me — still take part. If you’re actually against something, don’t do it.
Now, for a band playing the kind of doom that Magic Circle play — weighted and morose atmospherically, traditional in its follow-the-riff ethic, murky and dark in the sort of new New England sphere acts like Pilgrim are also helping to cast — it’s easy to take something like that as a play at cult appeal, but I think actually it’s much more cut and dry than that, and put in the context of the members of Magic Circle‘s combined decades of experience playing in hardcore bands like The Rival Mob and Mind Eraser – among many others in a variety of styles; drummer Q is also in Doomriders, for example — their opting out makes even more sense. They’re anti-bullshit. Like guitarist Chris “CC” Corry says below, “It feels gratuitous.”
Corry, who is joined in Magic Circle by Q, vocalist Brendan Radigan, guitarist Dan Ducas and bassist Justin DeTore, gives some background on how the band came together and put Magic Circle‘s Magic Circleto tape, their experience playing Chaos in Tejas last year in Austin (they’re doing it again this year), and more in the exchange that follows. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. How did Magic Circle first get together? With members also contributing to different bands, were/are there any difficulties in scheduling?
Everyone in the band has known each other for a long time. We all spent our teens and 20s in a whole bunch of hardcore and punk bands that played together on shows. Everyone in the band has always been into old rock and metal records, and myself (CC), Justin, and Brendan had talked about starting a band with a traditional late ‘70s/early ‘80s feel for a long time. Sabbath, Rainbow, WitchfinderGeneral, PaganAltar, Trouble, MercyfulFate were kinda the vibe I wanted, maybe not the way the riffs sound but just the feel and atmosphere. I’m not a virtuoso by any means, the guitarists in those bands… I wouldn’t be fit to lick their boots, but I finally just sat down and started writing. I had the skeletons for maybe four tunes we ended up using in spring of 2010.
Justin, Brendan and I have done a lot of bands together over the years, and I’ve helped the record other projects I’m not in, so that was kind of a no-brainer. I played them some rough riffs and they were in. Brendan is really the only guy I know who could do vocals this demanding. I got in touch with Q just knowing he was a real good old style drummer, and Dan had just moved back to Boston after being out in L.A. for a while, he wasn’t doing any music and he’s a good guitar player.
We recorded rehearsals of a few songs, just the basic music, and then Brendan recorded vocals over them and that was it. We had ourselves a band.
Scheduling for us is kind of tough, everyone in the band except Dan has been in several bands at all times for years (and is currently), everyone has a regular job during the week, and other commitments, wives and stuff… so it can be a chore. Sometimes there’s a month where no one can do anything but we’re not in a hurry.
2. Were you surprised at the initial response “Scream Evil” and “Magic Circle” got when you posted them on YouTube? You guys have been assiduous in keeping info about the band sparse, no website, Facebook, etc. Tell me what went into making that choice?
We weren’t sure how they would go over but at that point the record had been done for six months and we just wanted someone to hear it. Word did get around really fast which was surprising but we liked the songs and so we figured other people would too.
I don’t see the point in shoving ourselves down anyone’s throat. Facebook is a fine way to keep in touch with friends living in other states and countries, but other than that it feels gratuitous. If you like the music you can find it. I don’t see the need to force it on everyone. That’s pretty much always been the way I’ve done music.
3. How does the songwriting process usually work? How do the songs come together and when are the vocals added? Well for me I always kind of rough out the songs at home, just get some basic riffs into a structured whole, and then try and break it down into segments for the other dudes with instruments, it’s basic stuff and they’re pros so we can usually piece together a song in a couple practice sessions, and they help flesh out the arrangements, and adjust stuff. I record little clips of myself playing guitar and bring it to practice to help me remember. After that we can make a demo and let Brendan marinate on it for a couple weeks. Then he adds some vocals to the demo, and then we can kind of figure out if stuff needs to change, add a couple solos, things like that. Brendan‘s a strong vocalist so the song always changes after he adds to it.
4. Tell me about recording the self-titled. The album is so atmospheric and bleak sounding, what was the mood like at the studio? How long were you recording?
We recorded the album in Justin‘s parent’s basement in spring 2011 and we mostly had to work on weekends or after work so we could keep stuff set up there without moving anything around. Spring in New England is a little bleak to begin with. Everything’s damp, and still kind of dead. A lot of grey. I definitely wanted to have that creaky dark vibe you get on the first PaganAltar, the first Sabbath, some of the ‘70s Pentagram stuff… I tried to give the songs room to breathe. It’s a lot different than when I record hardcore and punk bands. A lot of recordings now, especially with regard to “doom,” sound too “clear” to me with the kick drum razor sharp and the guitars sounding like a Guitar Center demo, and the vocals are super in-your-face. That’s not what we want. I like when stuff sounds organic and real like you’re there hearing the band in that room.
As for the mood I’d love to tell you something crazy but we were just working hard to get things done. A lot of nights I would come over straight from work and we could record just for a couple hours in the late afternoon. Once we started on vocals, Brendan lives like an hour south of Boston so he would come up and we would try and do a whole song before we had to stop, because like I said, we were operating under the good will of the DeTore family. If anything maybe the tiredness from starting mostly at the end of the day kind of carried into the recording. It took three or four months to get everything tracked, but keep in mind it would be like work for a day or two, then nothing for a week or more. Very start/stop. Not the best way to do something but I didn’t want to rush. Everyone wanted to get it right. I mixed it a couple times over the next several months, it seemed like it was never going to really be done and come out for a while but it did eventually.
5. It’s pretty easy to read the tracklisting as being structured for vinyl sides. How on purpose was it to end each half of the record with two-part songs? Are there any plans for an LP release once the run of CDs is gone?
Well the album is out now on vinyl on the Armageddon Shop label (same as CD), and for that I’m very happy because I like records. I have an iPod for work, and the car, but most of my money goes to records. It was certainly structured to be an LP. There’s another song from the session “Lighting Her Fire,” that we self-released on a single that there just wasn’t room for on the album.
You can’t really cut an LP over 40 minutes, and even that is pushing it a bit. The two-part song thing I didn’t really think about until someone pointed it out. I added those titles really just as a nod to Sabbath using separate names on some of their instrumental sections, but it just seemed like that’s where those songs fit once we were done and needed a sequence. All the classic records I love – rock and roll, heavy metal, punk – they’re all sequenced in two sides for vinyl, you know? CD is a bit of an afterthought for me, honestly.
6. You guys did Chaos in Tejas in 2012. How was that experience for you? Will you do any other touring in 2013? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
A bunch of bands we’ve played in have done shows at Chaos over the years. Timmy who puts the whole thing on is a very good friend and has been really supportive of all the stuff that I’ve done for a long time. It was an honor to be one of the openers on a show with Saint Vitus, Church of Misery and Gates of Slumber. I never would have thought in a million years that would be a possibility. We’re playing again this year on the show BoltThrower is headlining which again is totally crazy and a complete honor. We don’t have any tours in the works. We are scheduled for the Wings of Metal show in Montreal though with Satan (w/ BrianRoss singing!), ManillaRoad, Midnight, Voor, BloodCeremony, Megiddo, Cauchemar…. August 30-31… Other than that – a show with Pilgrim in New Bedford March 16, and a show with Nightbitch in Connecticut March 22.
Proffering rich, organic tonality with an unpostured flair for the soulful and classically rocking, Brooklyn’s Traveling Circle made enough of an initial impression to be picked up by Germany’s Nasoni Records for the release of their first album. That’s high praise for psychedelia — especially American psychedelia — and the record, 2010’s Handmade House(review here) left little to question of the three-piece’s having earned it, a patient but still motion-minded flow playing out over the course of tight grooves and well-placed flourishes of synth. The follow-up, Escape from Black Cloud(review here), was also issued on LP by Nasoni late last year.
Its pulse is no harder to read in terms of overall accessibility, but Escape from Black Cloudis nonetheless a more developed full-length, two-sided all the way in its blend of classic psych and modern tonality, a steady beat throbbing under unrepentantly shoegazing opener “Higher,” while the high-pitched vocals space out above the sway. Elsewhere, as on side B’s shuffling “Fountain of Time,” they touch the ground, but there’s little interest presented in remaining there, as the sleepy “Newborn Shadow” demonstrates and the more playful “Rock this Feeling” confirms. At rest or in motion, Traveling Circle draw forth an engaging atmosphere akin to but not necessarily biting off anyone else’s work in psych or space rock. The more you let yourself be carried off by Escape from Black Cloud, the more satisfaction the album is like to provide.
Traveling Circle is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Maiden, bassist/backing vocalist/electric pianist Charlie Freeman and drummer Josh Schultz. All three were kind enough to participate in the following Six Dumb Questions. Please enjoy:
1. Escape from Black Cloud seems to have a more laid back feel than Handmade House in general. Were there things you knew you wanted to do differently coming off of the last record, or is that just how the songs came out of the jams?
Josh: I do think our attitude was a little different for the new record. We kept in a more sort of spacey pulse area for this album. For me, I really tried to keep the drums more pulsing. I tried to be creative in the approach but also keep it simple. I saw a documentary on Krautrock a while ago and Jaki Liebezeit describes a spaced-out audience member approaching him to suggest he should “play more monotonous.” I definitely tried to “play more monotonous.”
Charlie: Simplicity was the general approach all around. I tried not to overthink things but we had a certain sound in mind.
Dylan: Yeah, the goal was to compose a more linear structure throughout and fill it with melodic accents that give you the feeling of moving up and down.
2. How does the Traveling Circle writing process usually work? Am I way off in hearing a soul/funk influence? If I’m not, where does it come from?
Dylan: There may be some influence from those territories. But, to be honest, I draw inspiration in my writing from just about every place conceivable. The subliminal and subconscious are important drivers behind our writing process. There are many elements at work. We usually enter the practice studio and start arranging these elements into the sonic positions we feel are most appropriate for each song’s narrative.
Charlie: I can see what you mean with the soul/funk influence. “Rock this Feeling” has that vibe running throughout. In general, Dylan has a very soulful vocal delivery and Josh and I have an intertwined approach to drums and bass. This album definitely has more groove injected in it.
Josh: Over the two albums we have used a number of different methods in terms of writing. I think this record has some really great songs that Dylan brought in more or less done from a guitar/vocals perspective. Higher is a good example of this, the way I remember it. Some songs started as jams. “Closer” was sort of an unwritten jam at first. We first played that song as a jam at a bar in Brooklyn called Legend and just improvised it. The room was empty at the beginning of the song and began to fill up by the end. It looked like a good idea to polish it up after that. People seemed to relate to it. “Candle Light Sways” was an odd one in that I worked out the entire drum part at home and then brought it in to see if Charlie and Dylan would be up for making something out of it. The structure changed a bit with the group though. Maybe this is too mechanical an answer…
3. Tell me about writing and recording “Newborn Shadow.”
Dylan: This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I wanted to create a nostalgic atmosphere with the guitar sound, which involved very simple strums. Serendipitously, the guitar ended up sounding like a harp. Then I overlaid vocals that sound like they’re coming from a gothic cathedral. I really love Charlie’s bass on this track. It holds everything together and makes me feel like I’m on a teetering boat with a lantern in my hand, trying to make my way through the darkness ahead.
Charlie: This one came together pretty quickly right before we went into the studio. Dylan had a very clear idea of the overall sound he was going for. It has a really nice build to it. It’s a very haunting song.
Josh: The drums were more involved on that song at one point and it was worse for it! In trying out ideas we got around to the current treatment, which is much stronger for the simple drums.
4. The album sounds so natural. How much of Escape from Black Cloud was recorded live? What was your time in the studio like? Has there been any consideration to bringing in a synth player as a full-time member of the band?
Dylan: We’ve been praised for our live performances. Many people have said they prefer hearing us live to our albums. The aim of Escape from Black Cloud was to capture the energy and emotion of our live performance and bring it to the forefront. We brought in friends to help with arrangements such as synthesizer and Theremin, but this by no means compromised the integrity of our sound. Having our brethren by our side helped accentuate the most important bits and crystallize the vision. Nostalgia and dustiness aside, considering how many tracks we recorded live, Escape from Black Cloud came out sounding quite polished as a studio piece, both in its execution and production.
Josh: We did the bass, drums and guitar tracks all at once in a live fashion and then went from there. We recorded at Seaside Lounge with MitchRackin. Mitch is the best! His record with Heavy Hands is great. I listen to it pretty regularly. The album is called Smoke Signals. Seaside is a great place to record. They record to tape and have a lot of sweet vintage gear and are great guys! I wish I was at Seaside Lounge right now! As for the mixing, Dylan was in contact with Gordon Raphael and we decided to approach him about trying out some mixes, we really liked what he came up with and so we asked him to mix the album. He was working between Berlin and Texas so we handled the mixes through the mail. It was an unusual way to work for us but I like what we ended up with.
We have talked at times about adding a member but haven’t really done much about it. Charlie handles the keys on “Willow Tree Fair.” He comes up with great parts. Other additional parts include Theremin played by Matt Dallow and some studio magic from Gordon.
Charlie: We keep some pretty odd rehearsal times too. A lot of people don’t want to get up that early on a Sunday morning.
5. Can you give some insight into Erin Klauk’s work on the cover art? Was there some discussion of direction beforehand? How did you wind up working together in the first place?
Josh: Erin has done a lot of posters for us over the years and also the cover to the last LP. She did the posters for Brooklyn Psych Fest as well. I don’t recall much direction. I guess she just riffed on the title. Pretty far-out stuff, right? Alexandra Zorbas-Maiden took the sweet photos, including one on the back and another on the poster insert.
Charlie: Erin had some couch pillows made with the cover art and gave them to us as gifts. That was the first time I saw the art and I was blown away. We’re really lucky to have people as talented as Erin and Alex working with us.
Dylan: I was at an art opening in Chelsea that featured some really cool Himalayan artwork. They were dark depictions of mountains and clouds. Very simple line drawings that almost resembled wood engravings. I was very inspired and thought the tone somehow related to the songs we selected for our second album. Knowing Erin was going to illustrate the cover,
I texted her pictures from this Himalayan artist as inspiration for what would later become Escape from Black Cloud.
The photo on the back cover of Escape from Black Cloud was taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by my wife Alex. The poster insert photo was also taken by her in the Muir Woods.
6. Will there be a CD release? Any shows, plans or other closing words you want to mention?
Josh: Currently there are no plans for a CD but we have been receiving requests. The best way to pick up Escape from Black Cloud is on vinyl at www.nasoni-records.com. They also have both an LP and CD of our first album, Handmade House. If you don’t listen to records, Escape from Black Cloud is on iTunes and Spotify. We are currently planning to hold record listenings in three cities as well, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. If anyone is interested, keep an eye on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TravelingCircle for more details.
I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s Low Man are going to do next, but whatever it is, chances are the four-piece will sound markedly different than on their 2012 self-titled EP. That release (review here) captured a nascent but discernible love of a variety of heavy styles, from thickened up punk to classic proto-doom, and perhaps most impressively, Low Man made the sounds bend to their will rather than the other way around. There remained work to be done in their songwriting and production, but the potential was there and it was palpable.
They’ve had a little road time since, tightening their approach, and as Low Man‘s Low Man was recorded as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Luke Rifugiato, bassist/vocalist Jeremy Zerbe and drummer/vocalist Derek Krystek before guitarist Alex Byers joined, there are bound to be some changes in approach to account for new influences in the writing and construction of the songs. As such, as they continue to grow and develop over the course of gigs and jamming out in the rehearsal space, this seemed like a prime moment to discuss the beginnings of the band and how they’ve arrived at this stage in their development.
The Low ManEP — a follow-up to their debut single, Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead– was recorded in Pittsburgh at +/- Studio by Jason Jouver and Justin Novak and features a host of guest players on vocals and guitar. Zerbe took time out to talk about getting the band together, putting the EP to tape and bringing in Byers on guitar with Rifugiato. Along the way, insight is given as to Low Man‘s songwriting process, influences and penchant for gang vocals. Hope you dig it.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.
1. Give me the background on how Low Man got together. When did the band form and how does the songwriting process usually work? When were the songs for the self-titled EP written? Are there multiple songwriters, or was it a span of time as the material came together?
Low Man started when I moved back to Pittsburgh and began playing music with Luke Rifugiato, the band’s other vocalist and guitarist, in the fall of 2010. He introduced me to AlexByers and EvanFlaherty, the lead guitarist and drummer he had been jamming with and we sort of just fell into playing together. Besides both being into punk music, Luke was really into Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu and I was a huge fan of Black Mountain and The Black Angels, so the music sort of just started from there.
We both had had other bands before and brought some songs we’d been working on for those bands with us, which is why our EP sounds a little all-over-the-place. That EP and the single we released before it are just a collection of our earliest songs, before we really had a set idea of what we were trying to achieve. We knew we wanted it to be loud and fuzzy, but we didn’t really sit down and say, “We should be a stoner rock band.” We still really haven’t, though the music comes together a lot more organically these days. We write pretty much everything as a group now and our sound has really benefited from that, I think.
2. Tell me about recording the EP. How long were you in the studio and how did you wind up bringing in gang vocals and extra guitar, etc.?
We recorded the EP in February of 2012 and were at a transitional period in the band. Alex had gone on hiatus a few months before to finish his degree, and we’d also found a new drummer in DerekKrystek. We were in the process of finding a replacement for Alex, playing shows with our friends JustinGross and MikeMyzak when we decided to just go into the studio and take care of the recording as a trio. We laid down the basic tracks in one day, then went back a second day to overdub solos and vocals. Mixing took a hell of a lot longer, and honestly we still didn’t spend enough time with it, but we were poor and the studio time was by the hour.
I laid down a couple of rhythm parts, and Luke took the reins on all of the solos except half of the dueling one in “American Literature from 1860.” When Alex was in the band, the two of them traded it off, but without him, we asked the producer, Jason Jouver, and his engineer, Justin Novak, to lay down a couple of quick licks between Luke’s. Gang vocals were something I’d wanted in a couple of songs since I first wrote them, so at the end of our second day, we had some of our friends come to the studio with a case of beer. The two main harmony voices you hear (especially on “Roll the River Down”) are members of Derek’s other band, Sleepy V.
3. How much does the EP represent the live version of the band? What was the timing on bringing Alex in on guitar? Has that changed the dynamic on stage, and if so, in what ways?
Now that Alex is back in the band, the live version of LowMan is infinitely more interesting than the recording. He’s by far the most talented guitarist of us, and he plays these harmony lines throughout songs like “Migraine” that make them a million times better. I have promised him that if we get a chance to remix the album, I’d like him to lay down his parts and throw them in where they rightfully belong. I also think it’s always hard to really translate a loud, intense band on tape. As good as the EP turned out, I wish it were more raw and energetic. But that’s just sort of how it goes I guess. Unless you’re working with Steve Albini (call me!) that is.
4. In what direction(s) do you see Low Man growing from here? The EP and the Snake Farmer/Jackhammerhead single sound completely different from each other. Have you started writing for a follow-up yet, and if so, is there something different you’re specifically trying to bring out sound-wise? There’s a pretty wide berth of influences already.
The songs from the single and the EP were all written at about the same time, early in the life of the band. We’ve been around for just over two years now and have gone through a fair number of changes, so whenever we get the time and money to hit a studio, we’re always trying to play catch up and record the oldest stuff first to get it out of the way for new things. It’s not the best system in the world, I’ll be the first to admit. Right now we’re trying to get back into the studio again for a follow-up, but we’ve got enough songs to record two in a row, so it is this race to get it all to tape.
As we’re moving forward though, what you’ll hear is a more focused, more aggressive sound, like that of “Machine,” “American Literature From 1860” or even “Snake Farmer” I think. The newer songs we’ve been writing do a lot of playing around with time signature — one of them alternates between 5/8 and 6/8 in the verse and then moves into 13 for the chorus before this weird layered, math-intensive bridge happens. And I mean that about the math: I actually had to sit down and work it out to make sure we’d all end on the same note.
But even with that kind of stuff, we’re finally able to say, “This is a Low Man song, this isn’t,” unlike early in our existence. You’ll never hear another song quite as poppy as “Pay the Bills” is, and we’ve scuttled some of our older songs for that exact reason. On stage we’re a relatively aggro, somewhat serious band, and we don’t have room for our ‘60s Wayne Cochran-esque pop ballad anymore. Inspiration still isn’t coming from just one place, so we’ll never exactly be a traditional “stoner rock” band, but we’re too much of suckers for poppy hooks for that anyway.
5. Are you conscious in writing of playing to one side of the band’s personality or another, or is it just whatever comes out of jamming or somebody’s song idea?
There is definitely still a bit of personality that finds its way into Luke’s songs or mine, though the lines have been blurred as we’ve played together more. I used to show up with nearly complete songs written and try to teach everyone everything, whereas Luke preferred to just come up with riffs and piece them together as a band. My need for exactness and completion is partially due to suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also was just born out of necessity in my old bands: I was the only songwriter, the band manager, the driver and the tuning fork. Usually, I was the only guy sober enough to play the songs too.
Over the past two years though, I’ve changed a lot and become a lot more like Luke in writing. I realized what an absolute treasure Alex is, because I’d be struggling at home trying to figure out chords to a melody when he could just listen to me hum and it say, “Oh, that’s Am C G7 and then F# with an A as the root,” or whatever. Now I’ll bring my melody lines and lyrics and let the band jam out transitions and riffs in between. We just wrote two brand-new songs this past weekend exactly like that. It’s way better to work that way, getting everyone involved. It really makes them Low Man songs instead of Luke songs or Jeremy songs.
6. Any shows, other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We went on a weekend tour in early December and we hope to be doing that again soon, but after we got home from the couple days out, Derek texted me to call it quits for some personal reasons. It sucked because, not only was he like a brother to us, but we’d been writing a lot of our newer music (like the wacky time signature one I mentioned earlier) around his style of proggy, jazzy drumming. Now we’re in the process of auditioning drummers and getting the engine started again. As soon as we’ve got someone up to speed, we’ll be back out on the road, and then heading into the studio for our second EP — hopefully by spring. If all goes according to plan, I’d love to have the first EP remixed and then press both records to vinyl by winter. It’s a long way away and we hope to get ahead of schedule, but the one thing we’ve learned over the last two years is that the only thing you can count on is not being able to count on anything at all.
Now a trio with bassist Mark Cook on board, Arlington-based heavy fuzz rockers Stone Machine Electric nonetheless recorded their self-titled, self-released debut as the core duo of Mark Kitchens and William “Dub” Irvin. The album (review here) was recorded by Kent Stump of Dallas heavyweights Wo Fat, and shares some of that band’s tonal thickness as a result, but Dub and Kitchens take tracks like “Carve” and “Mushroom Cloud” in a direction more their own, jamming out organic fuzz with psychedelic flourish, sounding raw live and studio lush all at once.
Stone Machine Electric, who are aligned to the fertile Dallas scene that also includes OrthodoxFuzz, Kin of Ettinsand the rip-rocking Mothership as well as the aforementioned Wo Fat, made their debut in 2010 with the live demo Awash in Feedback(review here), on which the audio was rough but still gave some idea of where they were coming from. Emphasis on “some” only because the self-titled feels so much more fleshed out and shows them as having a clear idea of what they want Stone Machine Electric to be as a band and where they want to go with their music. It’s a big jump from one to the other, and as they’ve since undergone the pivotal change of bringing Cook in on bass, there’s potential for another such leap next time around.
Given that, it seemed time to hit up Dub and Kitchens for Six Dumb Questions about the self-titled, recording with Stump, having Darryl Bell from Dub’s prior band play bass on the track “Hypocrite Christ,” their striking album art, and so on. They were much quicker in obliging than I actually was in sending out the questions, and you’ll find the results below. Please enjoy:
1. Tell me about the time between the live demo and recording the full-length. Was there anything specific you learned from the demo that you tried to being to the studio?
Dub: The demo was just a live recording that we were ok with releasing. Something for people to hear until we could get in the studio. We did try to bring that “liveness” of the demo to the studio by playing together as much as possible.
2. How long were you in the studio with Kent from Wo Fat? What was the atmosphere like and how did the recording process go? Did Dub record bass parts first or after the guitar?
Kitchens: We were in the studio with Kent for about two and a half days. The first day and a half was spent recording, and the rest was just getting the mixes done. We’re friends with Kent, so that made it feel like we were just hanging out, but recording at the same time. We recorded the drum and guitar tracks together (other than the additional guitar tracks) to get a more live and rawer sound. “Hypocrite Christ” was the only exception. Daryl played the bass with us on that track.
Dub: Yeah, since Kent is a brother it was real laid back. He already knew what we sounded like, so it was all gravy. Like Kitchens said, all the basic guitar and drum tracks (and bass on “Hypocrite Christ”) were recorded with us in the same room together. After that I laid down the remaining bass tracks. Followed by vocals, then guitar overdubs last.
3. How did you wind up including “Hypocrite Christ” from Dub’s Dead Rustic Dog days, and how was it having Daryl Bell in the studio on bass for that?
Dub: Man, having Daryl in there was great. We don’t get to hang out or jam together much at all anymore, so I’m really glad he was able to do it. Not to mention that no one can play that tune quite like him.
That tune just seems to fit into what we do. It’s almost like it was written for SME before there was SME. Actually, Kitchens was also in the band at the time this song was written, so it seemed almost natural to bring it into SME. We played this tune early on and then dropped it for a while. We’ve been wanting to resurrect it again, and what better way than to put it on the album.
4. How has bringing in Mark Cook on bass changed the band’s sound? Have you started to write new material yet? If so, how much of a role does he play?
Kitchens: Mark is helping fill out our sound. We’ve had people tell us we sound great as a two- piece live, and that we pull it off well. You just can’t beat having that low end though. We are working on new material now, so I’m looking forward to what he’ll bring.
Dub: Cook not only helps fill out our sound but also opens it up. He brings in a whole other dimension. We are just now beginning work on new material, and hearing what Cook has brought to the existing tunes I’m excited to see how the new stuff will turn out.
5. Where did the idea for the collage cover art come from? Is there a message being conveyed there, and if so, what is it?
Kitchens:Terry Horn, who was our bassist for a while, did the artwork. I had given him some ideas that I had, but he came back with the collage. I’d never thought of that, and I loved it. We ended up not have any logo or text on the cover because it didn’t look right, and I like that idea as well. Terry is an exceptional artist.
Dub: Yeah, I dig Terry‘s work.
Terry Horn: It was spontaneous. I just put the CD on and listened to it and started flipping through magazines and sketchbooks. Ultimately, I wanted to do something for the cover that was different than most artwork you see on stoner rock/doom stuff today.
Not to sound too cliché, but sometimes art is just art.
6. Any other plans, gigs or closing words you want to mention?
Kitchens: It would be great if we could do a few weekend tours this year hitting some places around Texas or the adjoining states. I’d love to play one of the festivals that happen here in the states. Hoping in a year or so we are back in the studio with Kent. I’ll end with a big thanks to our friends and fans for digging our stuff!
Dub: I think he just summed it up right there. Don’t just keep your finger on the pulse, become part of the pulse!
With a stylistic blend almost unto itself of classic heavy rock, prog and metal’s dual-guitar theatrics, Corsair‘s Corsairis not a record up for trifling. The band, native to Charlottesville, Virginia, self-released their first full-length earlier this year (review here) in what has become their standard format of a screenprinted folded box called an arigato pak (nice to finally have a name for it) with original art by guitarist/vocalist Marie Landragin, also seen on their prior 2011 Ghosts of Proxima CentauriEP (review here) and 2010’s Alpha Centauridebut (review here).
Could have been any number of the sides of their sound that did the job — from the rife Thin Lizzy-style guitarmonies of Landragin and Paul Sebring to Jordan Brunk‘s smooth basslines and the bounce in Aaron Lipscombe‘s drumming — but the album caught the attention of Shadow Kingdom Records, who have overseen a reissue of Corsair‘s self-titled on CD, with reworked art (still Landragin‘s design) in a full jewel case. If we were betting on motives, however, I might place my coin on it being the underlying human-ness of the album’s eight tracks, such that as proggy as Corsair might get, they never sound cold or staid, so that as Brunk and Sebring and Landragin trade off vocals or come together for effective layering and veer musically into more metallic thrust on a track like “Gryphon Wing,” the feeling is natural and nothing seems out of place.
Shadow Kingdom has gotten behind the band in a big way, and it’s understandable why. Over the four-plus years since they got together and with a minimum of lineup changes, Corsair have emerged as an act with marked potential, not necessarily for commercial interests (though the songs are accessible), but for creating something unique in their resonant progressive rock. With the label’s version of the record en route and having followed their evolution over the last couple years, it seemed the perfect opportunity to hit up the band for an interview. Brunk, writing from France, recently took some time out to reflect on Corsair‘s origins and where they’re headed in his answers to the Six Dumb Questions that follow below.
1. The self-titled is the first Corsair album to reach the public with a label backing it. How do you feel about the album being the first impression many people will have of the band? How did Shadow Kingdom get involved in the release?
Our self-titled album, as a whole, best represents to date the artistic vision of the band, so we are proud to have it be the first impression of a larger audience. Opening with “Agathyrsi,” an instrumental track, makes clear what we are all about; that the music, with guitar riffs as the focal point, comes first. Following suit, the rest of the album is indicative of the shared writing process with its rotating lead vocals, honed guitar harmonies, and trading solos. Listening to the album nearly a year after starting the process, there are details that could be improved, whether sonically in the mix or minor changes we’ve made in a live setting as afterthoughts. I feel most musicians will find minor flaws in their own material, being indicative of the desire to grow and improve.
Tim McGrogan (aka Shadow Kingdom) contacted us and told us that he’d been really digging our music and wanted to know if we were interested in signing to a record label. Initially, he bought five copies of each of our self-releases to sell on his website, but soon thereafter, his interest peaked and he scheduled a conference call with us to establish the grounds for a mechanical distribution contract.
2. For anyone who may have picked up the album previously, how does the Shadow Kingdom version differ? Is it a jewel case release? Was the mix or master changed at all for the new edition? Will you do a vinyl run?
The Shadow Kingdom release will be in a jewel case with an insert including lyrics and pictures of the band. The artwork and layout were reworked by Marie and tweaked by Tim from ShadowKingdom. The mix and master remain the same from the original release. It’s too soon to say for certain whether or not we will do a vinyl run, but if it makes sense later on, we would love to press to vinyl, not only for the sonic quality, but to give the artwork room to shine.
3. How would you chart the band’s growth along the releases so far? How has Corsair’s sound developed between Alpha Centauri, Ghosts of Proxima Centauri and the self-titled? How was your time recording for the self-titled, and were there experiences you drew on from the prior two that went into the making of this album?
Alpha Centauri was initially meant by the band to be a demo of songs we had ready to record in a weekend session with producer Lance Brenner. We were collectively inexperienced in the studio and were hesitant to believe that what we had was worthy of more. We loved playing together, but had no goals other than having something to give to people. Lance took the material to another level and gave us a finished product beyond what we expected, thus encouraging us to release it as an EP rather than a demo.
From the beginning, the guitar work was our ace-in-the-hole and showed promise to grow as our songwriting matured. There are some killer solos in there by Paul and Marie, and the rhythm section was tight and simple. In the studio Paul‘s ability to write guitar harmonies (listen to the riff post-chorus in “Last Night on Earth”) and Marie‘s affinity for delay and guitar effects (listen to the intro of “Space is a Lonely Place”), blossomed and gave the songs greater depth and layers of sound. Leigh Ann Leary played solid beats at Corsair‘s beginning and I (Jordan) either locked in with her, sometimes joined in with the guitars to beef up the riffs, or sometimes played somewhere in between the two.
I was keen to learn all I could on the engineering and production side and so paid attention to things like microphone placement and mixing techniques. We worked together with Lance on the production and ended up with a sound that was part ‘70s, dialing back the overall high frequencies (particularly the cymbals), and part ‘80s, evident on “Beware the Black Fleet” with its crowd vocals. Alpha Centauri plays like a collection of short stories, combining the subjects of space travel and mythology with an affinity for adventure.
We walked away with a nice little EP, which was then sent by mail to reviewers. Marie‘s craftiness may well be what initially gained the band any attention outside of Charlottesville because not only did she put much time, effort and care into the design and artwork, but she had the idea of screen printing onto arigato packs from Stumptown printers, then folding them up into little boxes to house the CDs. The icing on the cake was the colorful collaged kraft paper, wrapping the package like a present, that caught Ray Dorsey‘s eye at Ray’s Realm, and from his review, others in the online metal community (like The Obelisk, Metal Review and Hellride Music) took notice.
As we approached the process of recording Ghosts of Proxima Centauri,Corsair saw a shift with Aaron Lipscombe on drums. He brought greater versatility to our songwriting, adapting to ideas quickly and owning them from that point forward. This made possible more ambitious transitions and dynamic changes as the new material took form. I think the transitions and rhythmic changes in “Centurion” were especially challenging and reflected our eagerness to push the boundaries.
On Ghosts, we began sharing the vocal duties, and I say “duties” because they are always the last thing we write, often in the studio while working on the album. The guitar work comes relatively easy when compared to getting a vocal track that is up to par. Of the six songs, Paul sang lead on two (“Warrior Women” and “Eyes of the Gods”), Marie sang lead on one (“Orca”) and backup on two (“Centurion” and “Eyes…”), and I sang lead on two (“Burnish the Blades” and “Centurion”) and backup on two (“Warrior Woman” and “Eyes of the Gods”). A hodge-podge, yes, but it assembled something that reflects the shared nature of our songwriting.
We also chose to invest in studio gear rather than studio time to gain the luxury of recording at our leisure. When you want to make a record well, you can either take the fast and expensive route by paying an experienced producer, or the slow cheaper route in which the producer is relatively new to the game. However, we knew that getting a good drum sound was important and sought help at the beginning. We teamed up with Lance again, got the drums and rhythm guitars finished in a weekend, and left to record the solos, additional guitars, and vocals at our house.
We had time on this record to do multiple takes of solos and wait for the right one to sink in, and if we didn’t get it the first time, then we tried again without having to go to a studio. We could just meet up at the practice house and record. Some of the orchestrated parts with multiple harmonies may not have happened given our low budget if we were paying by the hour. There is more of ourselves on this album, all the way through the production. We had freedom to work, while performing best under our own pressure and artists control. It felt more like our own record in the end despite whatever shortcomings there might have been sonically. I know what I think is that it could be improved, but it’s an insider’s perspective that is highly critical. Parts of the session were messy because we were learning along the way, but we did our best to tidy up and make it feel cohesive.
A high point in the process was bringing in Gabe Cooper to play violin on “Eyes of the Gods.” We plugged his preamp into a Marshall stack and it gave the effect of music coming from a gramophone, like in an old recording. One of my favorite sounds on the record comes during the quiet build in the middle of “Eyes…” I added a Big Muff and an Akai Head Rush into the signal chain and when he gave the bow a stroke, it sounded like a UFO was landing. So we took the next logical step and doubled it! You can hear it dancing around when the song hangs just before the rollercoaster arpeggios kick in.
Ghosts was an incredible learning experience for the band and we gained much more confidence going forward with a new batch of songs that had people taking notice when we played them live. We learned by being hands-on throughout the process and were ready to do it all over again.
In the beginning of 2012, we decided to record once more but this time, really push ourselves to produce enough material to do an album instead of an EP. Start to finish, it was a whirlwind effort beginning in February and finishing with the product in hand for a release show on April 21. The deadline was self-imposed and we worked hard to be efficient within a strict budget. I am very proud of the quality we achieved in the tightness of our playing, the careful engineering, and the clarity of the mix. This time, we recorded drums with our friend and peer, Nate Bolling, in three separate sessions spread out over a couple of weeks. Again, the guitars, bass, solos, vocals, and overdubs came afterwards in our home recording studio, and with a better working knowledge from the onset, we finished with a fine record. In other words, we didn’t mess around.
This time, we found the beefy guitar tone we were searching for on the last album by correcting a slight phasing issue caused by using two microphones on the cabinet. The songwriting was a bit more concise and hard-hitting. Overall, it felt less complicated, like the mystery of the studio was gone and in its place was a cozy little home. To get deep into the studio knowledge and tweaks that made this effort better would be to open a whole other bag of worms, delving into gear-nerd-land.
As a side note (to escape the aforementioned g-n-l), for Halloween in 2011, we played a show as Thin Lizzy for a 45-minute set, mainly from their Live and Dangerous album. For a month and a half before showtime, we learned their material, which we all love, and it helped us once again to learn and grow. “Chaemera” is definitely a nod to Thin Lizzy as a strong influence. It could be a reason why the major scale started to emerge in our songwriting, so if the metal heads out there find some of our songs to be too happy, I suggest going back and giving Thin Lizzy a listen.
All three of our releases begin with an instrumental track, so I find the best way to chart our progress is to Listen to (in order), “Skykrakken,” “Wolfrider” and “Agathyrsi.” By just looking at the titles, you can infer that Corsair emerged from darkness with its tentacles full of guitars (“Skykrakken”), we seized the reins and tried to control the beast (“Wolfrider”), and after studying its ways, we gained access to ancient knowledge (“Agathyrsi”). (You might have to Google “agathyrsi” to get the last one… It’s a stretch, I know.)
4. How do you see yourselves developing going forward? The span between the three outings so far was pretty short. Have you started writing for another album or EP yet? Any plans for when you might next record?
Currently, Marie and I are living in Marseille, France, and are using the time to write new material until we return to Charlottesville in January. We brought recording equipment and all the while, we’ll send ideas back to the States for Paul and Aaron to contribute. Likewise, Paul will send any new ideas and we’ll be working together through the internet and our friend Nate Bolling‘s home studio. Once we return to Charlottesville, VA, in January, the next step is then to do our best to lay down the tracks and make another record.
5. Do you have any interest in hitting the road as a touring act? How does the Corsair experience live compare to listening on the album?
Corsair live is much sweatier. It took time to rehearse the material and get it tight, but then it took a little while longer until we got comfortable enough with the material to open up and actually perform. When we started, we were guilty of shoegazing because it took great concentration to play the parts well. Except for Paul… He’s always been an animated and skillful guitar player with his flying V and killer stage moves. Now, we’ve all opened up and try to put on a show to amp up the experience of hearing the songs live.
I think a turning point for the band was about two years ago when we did another Halloween show as Spinal Tap. To pull it off, not only did we have to play the songs well, but get into character and put on a performance. Having a good laugh at ourselves was a great lesson to learn and made us a better band on stage; more comfortable. I mean, once you’ve put on a wig and some shiny tights in front of a 300-plus crowd and owned it, you can pretty much pull off your own material in your own clothes anytime.
Now, I don’t mean to say that we ham it up, but we try to bring a high level of energy to get the crowd going, so that when the pockets of space open up in our songs, the effect is strong. Aaron does a great job controlling the dynamics of the band, and we all can feed off each other easily after playing together for a while.
Vocals have always been the most challenging part of our performance and until recently, it was consistently hard to hear ourselves singing atop the guitar stacks. In the last year, we upgraded our PA, which can finally compete with guitars, and have been working on the three part harmonies that are on some of the studio recordings to surprising success. Many musicians spend a lot of their time and money searching for the right guitar and amp, but to pull off a consistently good live performance, you need to invest into a decent PA as well.
As for touring, we never have been much of a touring band, playing about six shows a year in Charlottesville with a handful of jaunts up the Northeast to NYC, Philadelphia, and D.C., Richmond, and Harrisonburg, VA. I think our interest in touring is dependent on the potential for growing interest outside of our hometown. If we have good reason to travel, besides taking a mini-vacation and having fun, then we’re happy to do so. We’ve put in the time in our hometown amongst high-caliber musicians to hone our skills and stand out amongst the rest, so despite not having toured much, we’re ready for whatever is to come.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
I think the underlying tide that keeps this band moving is the sense of adventure that we feel in our music. Somewhere along the line, we called our material “adventure rock” and it stuck because whenever we play the songs, despite whatever else is going on in our lives, there’s always a moment when we look up at each other and smile. There’s an escape from reality into our own world, which we shape with all the courage we can muster.
As with their 1974self-released full-length debut, Oregonian trio Doomsower are completely straightforward (if parenthetical) in their interview answers. Justin Kaye, guitarist/vocalist of the doom-rocking three-piece, informs as to their origins and the process that led to the assembling of Doomsower‘s current lineup — Kaye alongside bassist/vocalist Levi Campbell and drummer Matt Amott — as well as their songwriting, analog recording and more, with as clear a sense of focus as he brings to the four extended tracks of the record. If you want to put a hyphenated buzzword to it, try “bullshit-free.”
Kaye, in detailing how the band got together, gives an account of his own discovery of doom, particularly with the encounter of Reverend Bizarre‘s first album, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend. Some of that Finnish outfit’s seminal penchant for traditionalism can be found in the work of Doomsower, who adhere to the guitar-heavy tenets of the year for which their debut is named. As an album, 1974(review here) is raw and organic, but with a strong focus on tone, the band give a glimpse of their potential going forward, as well as hint at some of the metallic extremity in which their sound has taken root.
And there’s a love for classic rock inherent in what they do as well — as one would have to figure with a record called 1974 — that comes across in their analog methods and in the vintage riffing of “Stone,” which closes the album. While the blend is formative and the band is by no means finished growing after this full-length, there’s a cohesive vision at work right down to the photos that comprise the cover art, culled from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica project, all the pictures from which were taken in the year — you guessed it — 1974.
Looking forward to more from these guys, but in the meantime, please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. Give me the background on how Doomsower got together. When the band first get started, and how has the sound developed over the course of the last four years? How did you land on “pure heavy metal doom no compromise” as your motto?
Doomsower began in the summer of 2008. I recently befriended a kid by the name of Kalvin and we began jamming constantly that summer – around June or so. He played drums and I played guitar/”sang.” Our direction then was more of the black/death route and the whole idea of “doom” wasn’t in our foresight. One day at the local record shop I stumbled upon Reverend Bizarre’s first album, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend. I had read about it in some magazines, read some good things and decided to buy it. Got home, put it on and was blown away at the heaviness of it. The “newness” of it to me was astounding. We were writing songs during the summer of course, but like I said, they fell more within the black/death realm of metal and not so much doom. But with this discovery of heavier, slower, more powerful music, we knew we had to do something like it. Not to imitate, mind you, but to channel our thoughts, ideas, and feelings, through this new sonic music. Also, that in Portland to us at least, there weren’t many bands doing the slow and low kind of music (obviously things have changed!). So by August of 2008 we had a vision. I shouldn’t have to explain where the name Doomsower comes from, but needless to say we wanted to stand out from other bands. In October of 2008 we self-released a demo titled Ov Doom. It was brash, VERY rough (one mic recording!) and needless to say, amateur. Looking (and hearing) back on it, it’s full of energy, naivety, and fun. They were fun songs to play, simple mind you, but still fun. It was received well enough that we made some connections with bands in Portland and began some relationships (that eventually would fall apart of course…) and started gigging. Our first show was with The Gates of Slumber. Great guys and a great band. We got lucky from the booker for that one for sure.
So yes, off to a great start! We got a bassist around January of 2009 – that didn’t last. All the while still gigging in Portland with non-doom bands (mostly thrash and black/death metal bands). The end of 2010 brought in another new face and we gigged with him for awhile and then recorded another demo, Vintage Era. This, like the first demo, was home recorded, messy, brash, somewhat catchy, and overall “OK.” Of course at the time, we thought it was marvelous (what else are you supposed to think?). The song development was still the same of me having a riff and the others adding to it. Not much collaboration. I started to feel like a Captain on a sinking ship…
2011, though, would lead to the biggest change in Doomsower. Got a new bassist, kicked the drummer out, got Matt on drums, and then released Earth in September. Quite the shift. Musically speaking from 2008 to 2011 Doomsower’s sound was a bit unfocused. Riff-driven yes, but timing and sloppiness were all over (not going to point fingers on that one). As I delved more and more into music — everything from Yes to Bathory to ThinLizzy to UriahHeep to Grand Funk Railroad to more and more “heavy rock bands” like Goatsnake, ReverendBizarre or Truckfighters — those influences started to seep into my writing.
Again, a bass player quit, and in comes Levi. 2012 marked a brand new beginning for the band. A very stable one with an actual goal. Between Levi, Matt, and myself, we are three different individuals with the same passion and drive for our music. We’re all weirdos and don’t take no for an answer when it comes to songwriting (we have keyboards from time to time for Lord’s sake). So again, from 2008 to 2011 it was me coming with an idea and going from there. But now, with three powerful minds, we work as a group. Levi will have a riff (for example “Mistress of Frost”) and I put my spin on it. Or Matt will say, “play du du dah du dah” and we transpose that to songs. We all write lyrics as well (even though I would consider Matt the NeilPeart of the band). So now it is a very much a band and a group effort.
As far as “Pure Heavy Metal Doom No Compromise,” that stems from the fact that we won’t compromise to fit a certain crowd. We do what we want and what feels right to us. We just wrote a 20-minute song that has more to do with Deep Purple and Rush than say Evoken or Goatsnake (not to discredit those bands, love em both!) Also sonically speaking, we made an actual album this year as well!
2. The production on 1974 is raw, but still really full-sounding. How did the band decide tape was the way to go? What was it like working with Rick Duncan recording analog, and how much of the album was done live?
Sami Hynninen of ReverendBizarre once told me that he liked the old Doomsower stuff because it was, “raw and real.” I’ve never let that leave my mind. I hate over-polished music and doing things digitally makes me want to barf. We decided on working with Rick because he decided on working with us. His band, Towers, became great friends with us this year and once we heard he had an analog studio it was a no brainer. We listened to some songs he had recorded for other bands, were impressed, and started to figure on when we could record.
April worked out best so we spent two days in the studio. Yes two. Nothing was rushed though, simply because we had the songs down and as Rick put it, “you guys really practice your shit.” We spent day one recording all the parts and day two we spent mixing. Rick did another day or so away from us mixing then sent us the mix and we all loved it. Through Justin [Brown] of Lamprey, I came to befriend BradBoatright of Audiosiege and he mastered our record. It was very easy saying yes to the guy who just mastered Sleep’s Dopesmoker album…
Working with analog was fun and not too difficult. Rick knows what he is doing – it was no amateur operation by any means. All instruments were recorded live. There are no guitar overdubs anywhere. The solos are all live. There is only one guitar track and one bass track. The drums were recorded Bonham-style too to give it that full feeling. The only overdubs were of vocals and the Hammond you hear in “Mistress of Frost.” Other than that, the studio Rick has was comfy and relaxing (so much so that I fell asleep when the others were working!).
3. Does Doomsower have a set songwriting process? The four tracks on 1974 are pretty varied, but still seem to be led by the riff. Are parts and changes just born out of jamming, or are they pieced together beforehand and then everyone adds their own ideas in the rehearsal space?
Like I was saying earlier, the songwriting process is a group effort. I wrote most of the riffs but Levi brings in his fair share as well to the table. We discuss parts, lengths, where this word should go and so forth. Mostly it is very straightforward, we don’t think like Yes and most songs do come from jamming. It’s a giant mixture of ideas, randomness, errors, and fun. I think some bands forget to have fun in their music.
The thing, to me, is that there are too many bands that fit into a mold. So many bands try to be Neurosis sleeping fests, or death-doom’s bastard offspring. Doomsower is everything that a ‘70s rock band was (or at least we try to be). We can have a fast number, a slow number, a song with keyboards, and song with soft guitars, etc., etc. Think about Sabbath… you have a song like “Supernaut,” then you have a song like “Megalomania.” Hearing it live (my experience from the Past Lives album), and it all gels very well. Or Judas Priest where you have, “Beyond the Realms of Death” and then they bust out “Pain Killer.” I’d rather hear a band that yes, has a style, but also isn’t opposed to branching out. Doomsower is a representation of us.
4. What’s the story behind the lyrics of “El Camino Real,” and what was it about that narrative that fit so well with the music?
I’ll leave this to the man that wrote the words, MattAmott:
In the early days of California, the Spanish set up the Mission system. These churches and villas were about 100 miles apart and ran along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco. The idea was to colonize and “civilize” the natives with Catholicism but instead most native tribes became slaves to the mission priests and almost all of their culture was destroyed. I grew up in Agoura, California, and the major tribe that occupied the coast from Malibu up to San Luis Obispo was the Chumash, expert fishermen who were known as a very peaceful people. In 1824, the Chumash revolted against some of the missions that had already killed thousands of their people. The title comes from “monument bells” that today line the 101 freeway in Southern California. The inscription on the bell reads “El Camino Real” which translates to “The Kings Road (Highway),” that is what the 101 used to be called when it was a horse/wagon road that linked all the missions. I actually wrote the lyrics a few years before I joined Doomsower with the idea that there would be a chorus between the verses. But we had the music pretty close to the final version before I brought the guys the lyrics. We adjusted it a bit, like having just a floor tom during the solo to kind of reflect the Native American storyline and ditching any chorus to have one long verse in the beginning with three stanzas so the narrative continued to flow. Other than that, it just came together.
5. Tell me about the artwork for the CD, how you discovered the Documerica photo project and came to choose that for the cover.
Well I am finishing up my Bachelors Degree in graphic design at Portland State University and came across the Documerica project last year from a peer. I generally take hold of all design within Doomsower and was working on a few different ideas for a cover. The title 1974 comes from Matt (I think…) who stated in the studio, “this shit sounds straight out of 1974!” Our friend NoelleBarce offered to do a logo (she’s awesome, unfortunately she doesn’t have a site up…) so I had that to work with too. A few ideas were done up, tossed out, and then a random spark of thought brought me back to the Documerica project. Not to give the whole, “mystique” away, but all the pictures are from the year, 1974. Turns out the guy whose photos they are ended up being a famous wine photographer in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and now (thanks Charles O’Rear!). The train thing though you’ll have to figure out on your own.
6. Portland and the surrounding area has had such an explosion of heavy bands over the last few years. Is there anyone in particular with whom you especially enjoy playing, or anyone whose name hasn’t gotten out yet that you’d like to recommend?
Yes it has indeed! When we started I didn’t know or couldn’t think of any other “heavy” bands. Now all my of my best friends are in great, “heavy” bands. Lamprey, Towers, and Fellwoods (formerly The Moss) have been mentioned here on The Obelisk, and for good reason, before. To give credit to some maybe more “unknowns” – DEFINITELY Witchasaurus Hex. They’re from Eugene but out rule all of Portland [their 2011 demo was reviewed here – ed.]. Goatsnake and OrangeGoblin blended with sweet ‘70s sounds is what they’re all about, at least to me. They really need to get an album recorded, that’s for sure.
It comes and goes from the ether of the mental jukebox, but the chorus of the title-track to Alunah‘s White Hoarhoundis never far off. Its resonant melody, rich tones and ethereal subject matter stand the band’s PsycheDOOMelic label debut — second album overall behind 2010’s Call of Avernus — in line with rich traditions within British rock, from late ’60s psychedelic pop to thunderous modern doom and massively fuzzed riffing. White Hoarhound(review here) and Call of Avernus(review here) are both strikingly cohesive outings from a still relatively nascent four-piece, but the newer record sets itself apart in an atmosphere and thematic geared toward pre-Christian nature-worship and particularly the rich pagan history of the British Isles.
Songs like “The Offering,” “Belial’s Fjord,” and “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” hone in on these ideas — as, I suppose, do the title-cut, opener “Demeter’s Grief” and the closing duo of “Oak Ritual I” and “Oak Ritual II” — but more to the point in terms of listening to the album, they do so with a clear-headed musicality, subtle psychedelic essence and gorgeous songwriting. Guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day (more often shortened just to Soph), fellow guitarist Dave Day, bassist Gaz Imber and drummer Jake Mason execute a tonal thickness that’s second to few whose entire schtick isn’t tonal thickness, but do so without sacrificing choruses that are memorable for more than just being heavy. As much as the riff of “Demeter’s Grief” launches the album in lumbering form, and as much as Imber‘s bass earns high marks across the board, it’s the songs themselves that stand out. Even the acoustic-led “Oak Ritual I” — on which Tony Reed, who mixed and mastered the Greg Chandler production, donates guest organ — leaves a lasting impression.
As Soph says herself on “Oak Ritual II,” “The connection to the earth feels electric this time.” Alunah have set themselves a path with White Hoarhound, and should they choose to walk it and develop their sound from what they present on these seven tracks, there’s little to limit whatever their contribution might become. It’s a special moment for the band, and given that, I wanted to hit the band up to get some idea of what went into making the songs and the album, their origins and plans going forward.
Soph was kind enough to accommodate. For those in the UK, Alunah are playing Nov. 10 at The Gas Works in Bradford and Nov. 16 in Birmingham at Asylum Birmingham with Gentlemens Pistols. More info on that at the links below. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. Tell me about writing White Hoarhound. How and when did the songs start to come together? What was the first song you wrote for the album and how did it come about?
We gigged and toured Call of Avernus for quite a while, and all of our practices were taken up with us playing the songs off Avernus so we were itching to start coming up with new ideas. We probably started seriously thinking about the second album around the beginning of 2011. The first song we wrote was “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” we had a strong idea of how we wanted the album to sound and “CMWP” embodied that perfectly. Dave wrote the riff for it and it was just perfectly dark and moody whilst at the same time being uplifting and groovy. We’re not a dark, depressing band by any means but we do have that side to us, and “CMWP” captures that side to us whilst at the same time celebrating the Midsummer in typical Alunah style. As soon as we wrote it we started playing it live — the rest of the songs didn’t get a live airing until the middle of 2012.
2. In terms of putting the record together and structuring the songs one into the next, was “Oak Ritual II” always going to be the album closer? Did that song come first or the acoustic part before it?
Once we finished the songs it was a tossup between “Belial’s Fjord” or “Oak Ritual II” for the album closer and I think we made a good choice. “Oak Ritual” originally sounded quite different, and we only titled it in the studio. We moved the structure of the song around quite a lot, Dave and I had a jam at home and came up with the idea for “Oak Ritual I.” We went to rehearsal and played it to Gaz and Jake, from there we based the final “Oak Ritual II” on it so they kind of fed off each other in terms of which came first. The final “Oak Ritual I” wasn’t developed until we recorded it — the most of what you hear on the recording is Dave jamming on the acoustic. Same with all the backing vocals, they were las- minute studio additions, I’m so glad we did them too.
3. What is your lyric-writing process like? The lyrics on White Hoarhound seem to be coming from a quiet kind of place — they’re not really angry, sometimes sad, but still really thoughtful. Are there any rituals you have for writing the lyrics to get in the right mindset?
That’s a really nice summary of what I also feel about the lyrics. I don’t get into a ritual at all, with Avernus I remember sitting down and thinking “right, I’m going to write some lyrics,” but with Hoarhound I didn’t. The only song I really remember sitting down and writing was “Demeter’s Grief.” I’d been reading about the harvest, and the mythology attached to them, it fascinated me so I wrote that song. The rest of the songs kind of found me. I know that sounds pretentious but they did. I can’t remember ever sitting down and preparing myself to write them. I’m lucky to live amongst beautiful countryside, and I’m never short of inspiration. “White Hoarhound” was written from random thoughts which came into my head on a Welsh headland at a time when I found out my dad had lung cancer. “White Hoarhound” (normally spelt “horehound”) is actually a root the monks used to treat lung conditions with, and the headland I was standing on was where it was grown. I won’t go into massive detail on the others as I like listeners to attach their own meanings to them. I will say that this year has been a difficult one for my family, and the songs were born from a very sad and thoughtful period — they were my means of escaping into a different world. On a lighter note, I did watch a programme about flamingos and wrote a song about them… unfortunately for everyone, the rest of the band rejected it — that could have been a cracking song hahahaha!
4. Did you actually get to see the Chester Midsummer Watch? I caught some of it on YouTube and it seemed pretty psychedelic in that medieval kind of way — perfect for Alunah. That song seems to be in a tradition of British rock songwriting. Reminds me of a late ‘60s or early ‘70s psych record. Was there something in particular about the parade that inspired it?
I’m actually planning on going to see it next year — they also have a Winter Watch Parade which is smaller but has some of the characters from the Midsummer Watch Parade. The parade didn’t actually inspire the song, I’m not sure what did if I’m honest — we were just jamming and the riff came out of that. The lyrics, like the parade are celebrating the midsummer and I’m definitely interested in England’s medieval and also pagan culture. The song had a different name originally but when I read about the parade I changed the name in tribute. The parade was actually started in the 1100s and was banned for a period as it had dancing naked young boys as part of the parade — inappropriate even back then! It only recently came back to Chester and I think it’s just a beautiful, lively celebration of the Midsummer, complete with giants, jesters, dragons, devils and beasts. Thousands of people visit Chester to watch it, I’m not sure they all understand what it’s about but they all join in with the celebrations and it looks amazing, I can’t wait to visit next year.
5. How long were you in the studio recording? Did you do the album all in one shot or space it out? The tones are very warm and natural in the guitar and bass. Was there something specific about recording for White Hoarhound that you wanted to do differently from Call of Avernus?
We were in the studio recording for just five days, spaced out over weekends. We really wanted to capture the live tones on this record, we were close with Avernus but I think Greg (Chandler – who recorded it) nailed it with Hoarhound. We recorded AND mixed Avernus in four days. This time we spent more time recording and could work with our amps more to get the right sound. The other thing we did differently was to have someone else mix the record, Greg recorded and mixed Avernus, JamesPlotkin mastered it. This time Gregrecorded, and TonyReed mixed and mastered. Like us, Tony thrives on that ‘70s sound, so it was cool to have that meeting of different styles. He brought out the tones superbly, and we were especially pleased with the bass sound — so heavy!
6. You’re playing in November with Gentlemans Pistols and Desert Storm. Any other shows coming up, plans for the New Year you want to mention or closing words?
Yeah that’ll be an awesome gig on the 16th, we’re also in Bradford in November on the 10th with our mates Gods of Hellfire, ArkhamWitch and Arke. We’ve got some big plans for 2013 which are being talked about at the moment — at least one big tour, possibly another and some other cool news which we’re discussing. Hahaha sorry to be so annoyingly vague but until they’re firm plans we don’t want to jinx things. Keep checking www.alunah.co.uk or www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates and thanks so much for everyone’s support in 2012.
My intent when I started putting questions together for an email interview with Boston-based trio Ice Dragon was to keep it to the usual six, but then something happened. I realized it wasn’t enough. For a band who’ve already released three full-lengths this year — greyblackfalconhawk, Dream Dragon and Tome of the Future Ancients– there was just more I wanted to know than Six Dumb Questions could hold. Nine seems to have done the trick.
The thing about Ice Dragon – Ron on vocals/synth/drums/theremin, Carter on guitars/backing vocals and Joe on bass/guitar/etc. (also pictured above is Werner; the fluffy one) — is that not only do they put out all this stuff, but each album is a different stylistic blend as well. Plenty of bands who record themselves release a lot of albums, and with material as lo-fi as Ice Dragon‘s and the fact that they don’t seem to have an interest in large-scale touring, it’s not unreasonable for them to focus on songwriting at such a rate. What makes it fascinating is that the material on each record seems to stem from a musical or conceptual thematic. They’re all different to some degree, but still identifiably Ice Dragon‘s own, and they’re strikingly cohesive.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, they’ve got a new digital single. Season of Decay/The Humble Titanfinds Ice Dragon once more pushing into new sonic territory, offsetting late ’60s/early ’07s folk influences and acoustics with bizarre in-studio noise experimentation. Each of the two songs on the new release has its own progression, “Season of Decay” filtering a blown-out rehearsal room dirge march through airy Neil Young-style acoustic/electric interplay, and “The Humble Titan” taking sweet Eurofolk topped with psych swirls and echoed vocals and marrying it to tense and cinematic electronic beats, rising to a disturbing culmination before cutting short at the end of the song. The band’s willingness to throw caution and convention to the wind is all-consuming.
Still, though the sounds are loose and the production, well, minimal, you don’t get to the point of issuing three full-lengths in a year — even digitally — if you’re not severely dedicated to what you do. Today, I’ve got the pleasure of premiering the Season of Decay/The Humble Titansingle in its entirety, and you’ll find it below, followed by the interview questions, as fielded by Ron.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
1. How did Ice Dragon first get together? What first got you going and how has the relationship between you all changed over time? How many releases have you actually put out, and at what point did you realize you wanted to be so prolific?
Me and Carter started it pretty much by accident after recording two tracks for a shitty blues project we were working on. The tracks didn’t fit at all for that project so we figured we’d just start something new and recruited Joe to help us out. Everything is way better now, musically speaking. I think we’ve really hit our stride in terms of knowing exactly what we want a song to sound like and then making that happen. It used to just be dumb luck, or experimentation until we got something worthwhile. Ryan was our drummer for the Burl album, but he got mad at me and took off. I get drunk and yell at people, but isn’t that what all lead singers do? I think it’s a rule. You have to have a troubled soul in order to write anything good, let alone sing it at the top of your lungs and not care what people think, and that comes with all the baggage of being an asshole sometimes. Oh well. Everything we’ve put out is on the Bandcamp, I can’t even remember what it’s up to now, like five albums and three splits, I think? We’ve always worked fast, and I think having three people who can/do write songs makes things get out of hand even more. Haha.
2. What are your five favorite crappy and/or cult horror movies and why?
Excellent question. My favorites change a lot from day to day, but here’s what I’m thinking off the top of my head.
1. The Thing, mostly due to MacReady’s hat.
2. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a beautifully made, truly haunting film, with a great soundtrack to boot. 3. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, amazing in every way, I could watch it over and over again.
4. Definitely a Jean Rollin film, toward the arty side – The Nude Vampire, the cheesier side – The Grapes of Death. Though all his movies are fantastic I think.
5. The Mummy’s Tomb, best of the series I think. The way the old high priest has the shaky hands in the beginning, so good. And Lon Chaney Jr. is bad fucking ass.
3. Ice Dragon albums vary so much from the one to the next. Do you have a specific sound in mind when you approach making a record? Thinking of the difference between Dream Dragon and Greyblackfalconhawk, did you know when you started writing those records how you wanted them to sound?
We definitely knew how we wanted each of those to sound as we were going into them. Those were the first two like that really – the others weren’t as thought out in terms of overall sound. Dream Dragon was supposed to just be a fun summertime rock album, no pretentiousness, no worrying about how heavy it was, etc. Going for that ‘60s kinda vibe. Greyblackfalconhawk was supposed to be a full-on drone album, but then ended up getting a little more “involved” sounding as it went on. Just kinda naturally from all of our influences on it, and it sounds better because of that anyway. From a lyrical point of view I wanted to make something more like what I listen to when I’m alone. I like very dark, depressing lyrics and songs in general, but not these so-called “doom,” “black,” or “evil” songs you hear about wizards and warriors or fantasy shit. REAL doom, that comes from a man’s heart and soul and the pain of existence. People find it easy to talk about killing other things, or death when it’s this sort of distant idea. But try and get one of these same people to talk about how they felt like ending it all that one time, or how lonely they are, or the sadness they feel from day to day. That is true pain, and most people won’t talk about it. Or they are afraid to talk about it because of what their friends and relatives and whoever else will say. I don’t know, I’m rambling, but hopefully making some sort of sense here. We do our fair share of fantasy bullshit too, but for this one I wanted it to be as sincere as possible.
4. Does the writing process change at all depending on the aesthetic of the album? Are you ever working on more than one record at one time?
Sometimes we’ll have a song that doesn’t really fit with the vibe of an album we’re working on, so we tuck it away for a rainy day, but mostly we try and work on album stuff straight through so we get a more cohesive feel to everything. The process is definitely different for say a dark kind of song/album, to a more psych/happy/rocker kind of song. Usually the latter is more fun to make and gets done easier and quicker, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more rewarding in the end.
5. With Greyblackfalconhawk, how did the bird theme come about, and what was behind putting the names of the tracks together into one word?
I’ve always been really into Native American culture and philosophy, so I think it sort of bled out from that a bit, but other things as well. We definitely didn’t want it to be overly that kind of vibe or anything. I liked the sound of it more than anything else. greyblackfalconhawk. It feels good to say. With that title in place, we thought that it just made sense to run the titles together into one word. Sort of a language of its own, specific to this album. It is set away from our other albums in that way, in sound, in language, and in philosophy.
6. How does the recording process work? How long are you in the studio and how much freedom does self-recording allow? Has the process changed at all since the self-titled?
We record in a basement, with a washing machine and dryer in the same room. Haha. It’s not very fancy. We have it all decorated up and everything, and sexy lighting. We get together every Friday and shoot the shit for a bit, go down to the liquor store and chat with the guys down there, get a pizza or subs and then finally get recording around 7PM or so. Usually go until about 10 or 11 and then go upstairs to listen to records and argue over pointless nonsense (see my answer to question one for more on that). The process has pretty much always been the same, only we used to record in various living rooms of other apartments we’ve had. We always record basics on tape, either the 4-track or an old 1/4” 2-track. Then we dump that into the computer and do overdubs in there. We have like 4 mics, nothing very fancy, and no condensers at all. A bunch of beat up old amps, mostly Peavey. It doesn’t take much, and people shouldn’t get hung up on the gear when recording, it’s all in how you use it.
7. What goes into selecting the cover art for each release, and how important is it to find an appropriate cover when the album is released digitally? What does the cover say about the album?
Basically we try and get a cover that expresses the overall feel of the album in picture form. We’ve been very lucky working with some great artists so far. A few of the albums have sort of “placeholder” art up there right now. Tome of the Future Ancients is going to be done by Josh McAlear and the sketches we’ve seen are incredibly cool. So I guess that kind of says how important they are in the digital realm, not very, at least to us. We like to get the music out there first and foremost. When it comes time to getting things put to a physical format then we definitely want it looking exactly how it should. The only other one at this point is the self-titled and Adam Burke is working on something for that too. I’m very happy with the covers we have thus far.
8. With material that’s so diverse and with all three of you doing so much on each record, what are Ice Dragon shows like? Do you pull songs from different albums and mix it up, or will you do a show that’s all one record? It seems like recording and releasing is more important to the band, but will Ice Dragon ever tour?
We used to just do stripped down versions of songs, just get the basics of it and make it rock. There’s definitely certain songs that will just never work live. We don’t really care too much about playing live, there’s very little creativity in it, and we’re into creating songs a lot more than just playing them. I’m sure at some point we’ll play out again, not sure when, but we will I think.
9. What’s in the works next for you guys and are there any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We just finished a song for a compilation ThrashHead is putting out, and another that Joe wrote that came out really amazing. Total opposites, the first one is a heavy ripper old-school metal style and the other is a dreamy classic rock kinda thing. We’re always making something. Hopefully no one is getting sick of us, or thinks I’m too much of a dickhead. Have a margarita and be yourself.
True to their evocative moniker, Brooklyn progressive noisemakers Family arrive not without their share of tumult and dysfunction. Led by founding guitarst/songwriter Steven Gordon and vocalist Kurtis Lee Applegate, the four-piece has already replaced 50 percent of their body ahead of the Oct. 30 release of their debut full-length, Portrait, self-released in the US and on Pelagic Records in Europe with cover art by Eric Diehl.
Guitarist Owen Burley and drummer Phil Sangiacomo, who both played on Portrait, have since had their respective roles in Family filled by Josh Lozano (also Cobalt, Man’s Gin) and Jody Smith, so while the album will no doubt give some sense of the direction they’re headed in, Family‘s sound is destined to be different the next time out. All the more interesting, then, to get an idea of what got the band started and the ideas behind the themes they’re working with on the debut. In a way, the moment has already passed, and that only makes it more awesome to wonder what might come next.
I’ll admit to some trepidation in sending out these questions to Gordon for this emailer. It’s one thing to interview a band and quite something else to interview someone who also writes about music. I felt a bit like Gordon, who scribes for MetalSucks under the pseudonym “Kip Wingerschmidt,” would probably know everything I wanted to ask before the sentences were even over. I’m not exactly trying to trick the dude up, but it puts a little more pressure on me to not make some gross grammatical mistake like, “Where is in your band?” or something like that. Maybe I’m being neurotic.
Either way, the record — some of which you can hear on the ReverbNation player that follows the Q&A — lives up to the band’s motto of “Family slays,” and has already earned some hearty endorsements from the likes of The Ocean‘s Robin Staps, who just so happens to be the brains behind Pelagic. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. Tell me how Family got together? When did you guys start up and how did you wind up bringing Josh and Jody into the band? Has their inclusion changed the songwriting process at all?
A few years ago, I was working on music with a couple difficult guys but furthermore we were having a very hard time finding the right bassist. When that situation fell apart, I began to look for new collaborators and ironically met three solid bassists almost immediately, one of which was Kurt. I didn’t realize at first just how mighty his scream was, but once I heard that power it was apparent that there could be no going back. I had recently moved into a new rehearsal space, having been ousted by my neighbors from playing music in the loft space where I live, so I asked Kurt if he wanted to move his amp into the space and we started auditioning drummers.
Phil appeared pretty quickly thereafter. He immediately grasped all the complex time signature changes and frankly was hilarious and a joy to hang out with, but for some reason kept his chops under wraps initially in lieu of playing more simply, which gave us a bit of pause. So we were initially on the fence about whether it would work. Then he serendipitously cracked a cymbal that belonged to another drummer that we shared the practice space with and needed some time to make the money to pay for it. So we were stuck with the guy! And his amazing skills quickly showed themselves. Best accident ever.
We didn’t start gigging until after Owen joined the band and really rounded us out both personally and musically. That chance to have dual guitarmonies and counter parts helped develop the sound and brought my song structures to life in a more vibrant way. But unfortunately just before we started playing shows Phil decided to leave Family to focus on his other band, Grandfather. Thankfully Jody appeared almost immediately, through a recommendation from a singer/guitarist that both Kurt and I had both been in touch with but never met. Phil and Jody have such different styles that the sound shifted pretty dramatically right away and we began working on new tunes that fit Jody‘s feel a bit more. But overall it was a smooth and rapid transition, and there was no lag time.
A similar thing happened when Owen left the band. Literally the day after he told us, Josh (who we knew from having played with his band Fashion Week) sent me a text simply stating: “I play guitar.” I quickly responded “You sure do, buddy!” and we instantly had a replacement. Ironically he was the only person I thought of before he even sent me that text, so I guess it was meant to be.
Josh and I have only recently started collaborating on guitar parts for newer songs, and despite a natural fretboard kinship and similar work ethic we’re still finding the common musical ground. Josh himself claims to only listen to music from the ‘90s, and I’ve always felt like a lot of Family‘s style derives from classic rock influences, so there’s plenty of room to fill in the gaps between those varying elements. Furthermore Josh is very open to experimenting with different gear and sounds, which I look forward to exploring more together, especially in the studio. The next album will no doubt benefit from his and Jody‘s unique contributions and evolve our sound dramatically.
2. Is there a philosophy behind the band’s name? The word “family” is evocative of so many things, but what does it mean to you in terms of the band and in general, and how are you using the idea as relates to Portrait?
I was looking for a word that meant many different things and was open to wide interpretation, which was no easy feat — on top of it being extremely difficult to find something that fits and communicates the mood you are going for, most words are already taken as band names! I thought of “family” as an option before I even met Kurt, and tried to convince the guys I was playing with prior that we should use it, but the hesitation was always that it was perhaps too soft… In retrospect I realize now that maybe it was more the music we were working on at the time that was too soft, because given how the band sounds now I don’t see it as an issue whatsoever. If we were a jam band the name would be too on-the-nose but for a heavy group the contrast seems to sit well. Frankly, I enjoy that kind of juxtaposition of moods anyway, but obviously there are plenty of dark connotations to the word “family” as well as the sunny, togetherness aspects.
Naturally there is a family within every band, and we are no exception. We bond and bicker at times like brothers, and moreover do our best to bring forth a familial vibe to our audience. The goal is to bring people together through the music, and as a frontman Kurt always makes a concerted effort to communicate with the crowd. Despite the band’s personnel changes, we are still close with our former members and support their bands, and it seems perfectly normal to hang out with our old and new guitarists and drummers. We’re all still in it together.
There’s an obvious kinship between the words “family” and “portrait,” and for me it works on a couple different levels: on one hand, with our first album being anchored by the concept of a dysfunctional family that develops supernatural powers, the title is meant to suggest that we are offering a glimpse into the family members’ lives. From another perspective, this being our debut album, we hope it encapsulates the band’s message from the outset and offers a substantial portrait, if you will, of our sound. Having since changed our lineup, I see the first album as a time capsule of sorts that captures the combination of the initial round of players in the band, and we are all very proud of how it turned out.
3. How did you get hooked up with Robin Staps for the album release, and what does it mean to you to have someone like that interested in putting out your music in Europe? Will you guys tour over there to support the album?
Robin and I met briefly years ago outside the old KnittingFactory during a MetalSucks interview that Editor-in-Chief VinceNeilstein was leading — I may have asked a question or two, but doubt Robin even remembers me from that! Last Fall I was able to help put together a successful Brooklyn show for TheOcean with Family on the bill. That night he mentioned his label Pelagic and when we finished the album a massive email chain began between he and I to discuss all the details.
It is a huge honor to be working with Robin – his band has meant a lot to me over the years and it’s tremendously encouraging to have his stamp of approval. I believe we are the first American band to be signed to Pelagic so hopefully we can help spread the word in the States about what they are doing.
We would love to tour in Europe, so hopefully there will be an opportunity to do so in 2013.
4. Eric Diehl’s paintings seem to be commenting more on suburban or rural life, and with Family being from Brooklyn, how do the two relate for you? Both the front and back covers are kind of undercutting what looks superficially like a serene setting or scene. How did you come to select his works for the album and how do you think the art factors into the overall atmosphere of the record?
I came to Eric with a specific artwork concept in mind for an indoor family dinner scene with cosmic/supernatural elements added to it. But as we discussed the idea further, the more it seemed we’d be better off working with an outdoor, backyard-type setting. When the “family” concept evolved into two different paintings, Eric was essentially presenting two options for the cover artwork but I felt they worked quite well together and couldn’t imagine one or the other being the sole piece we would use. The way I see it is that the back cover painting is more of an abstract representation of the dysfunction and inner emotional turmoil that the family on the front cover is feeling. The rural house is the common thread that links the two paintings.
Suburbia was always the focus, in an effort to portray the nature of heartland Americana as much as possible. I get how that may sound ironic coming from a city-based band, but as much as I wouldn’t want the sound of our music to be pigeonholed into simply having an “urban” flavor I feel similarly about the artwork that represents us. There’s obviously infinite room for evolution in a band’s brand and design, and I for one hope our artwork takes many different forms as we progress.
5. There are so many different facets to Family’s sound. Do you hear anything in particular on Portrait that you know you’d like to develop further in the next round of songwriting? Is there one direction or another you have in mind for where you want to take the band?
Well in a way our sound has organically evolved automatically with the lineup changes, most specifically when we added Jody. As we all know a band is only as good as its drummer, but I also like to think any band is only as distinctive as its drummer as well. Thankfully we’ve had the chance to work with two very unique drummers that sound quite different from each other and that evolution will absolutely be noticeable and even highlighted on our next recording. Chops are one thing (and don’t get me wrong, both Phil and Jody have chops for days), but I’m talking more about style and feel, two elements that often take the backseat to backbone and flash in metal. So it’s exciting to think about already having a new version of our sound that still falls in line with the general vibe of the band. And going back into the studio this shift seems even more crucial than changes to the songwriting – case in point, some of the tunes that will appear on the next album predate Portrait, even…
Having said that, I always think there is room to get more brutal and more beautiful, and varied instrumentation can help open up the sound on recordings, so it’d be great to experiment with that. We are coloring the newer tunes with more complex structures as well as a bit more melody, both of which I think will give the sound a denser feel overall.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
The main plan is to keep moving forward. We are about halfway done with the songs for the next album, and are hoping to go into the studio to record that early next year. It’d be great if some good tour offers came through and we were given the opportunity to spread our wings a bit more. But for now we’re just trying to spread the word and are looking forward to hearing people’s reactions of the album when it comes out. Despite all the work that’s been put into getting this project off the ground, I feel like it’s only just beginning…
Swedish fuzz merchants Mamont know what they like. Their debut Ozium Records full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here) is a collection of thickened stonerly grooves and heavy rocking jams, casting off the retro feel of the EP they recorded last year (review here) to take on a more modern style. It’s a time-tested formula, but the band use it to their advantage throughout the album’s eight tracks, chopping up familiar elements to recombine them into the massive stomp of “Mammuten” or the classic psychedelic quirk of “Stonehill Universe.”
The “new” recording aesthetic suits them well. The guitars of Karl Adolfsson and Jonathan Wårdsäter lead throughout with heavily Muff’ed distortion, bassist Victor Wårdsäter and drummer Jimmy Karlsson holding together the fuzzy expanses the music seems to be describing. They’re not quite through the mastery door yet in terms of settling the issue of their approach for once and all and thus halting creative growth — though the album is remarkably cohesive — but if the second-half jam of “The Secret of the Owl” is anything to go by, they’re enjoying the process of getting there up to this point.
With birdsong scattered throughout Passing through the Mastery Door, in the intro to the album at the beginning of “Mammuten” or before the penultimate interlude “Woods” takes hold with its sweet-sounding, acoustic-based serenity, Mamont offer a natural feel and never veer from that course throughout the record’s 42 minutes. Because this laid back vibe is pervasive, it’s easy to see them as aligned somewhat to the jammed-out sphere of modern European heavy psych, but Mamont are more straightforward in their songwriting and more traditionally stoner in their scope to really make that the case. In concept and execution, they stand out.
And in part, it was because of that that I hit up Karlsson with Six Dumb Questions, which he was kind enough to field with the answers below:
1. Tell me about the writing process for Passing through the Mastery Door. Was there something specific you wanted to do differently after the EP? It seems like the album came together pretty quickly. When were the songs written?
The plan was to first do a new EP with some songs that we had written last year. We liked the retro feeling on the old one, but we had started to experiment more with fuzz and wanted the next recording to have a more tone of stoner.
Then Ozium Records contacted us and wanted to sign the band. We said “fuck yeah” and started directly to discuss a full album. We didn’t have so much time to rehearse because I am studying in Stockholm (one hour from our hometown Nyköping), and we also had a lot of shows in the weekends.
Everyone seems to think that our old EP was released this year, but we recorded it 2011. It just got known to people outside Sweden earlier this year.
I came to live in Nyköping again in June and we had less than two weeks to prepare the album before we hit the studio. Three of the songs (“Creatures,” “Stonehill Universe” and “The Secret of the Owl”) were older ones that we have played a lot. The rest of the album was in fact done under these two weeks.
We then had one very intense week in Deep Blue Studios in Nyköping, the same studio where the EP was recorded. The song “Woods” is actually just the result of a jam in the studio. We wanted the album to land for a while, to then give you a punch in the face with “Satans Fasoner” (directly translated to Satan’s manners and means damn manners).
It was a bit of surreal feeling when the Swedish Armed Force had exercises in the area around the studio that week. Armed soldiers and tanks everywhere, and it was a hell of a job to record the beautiful birdsong we have on the album, because of the fucking helicopters.
2. One of the most striking differences between the EP and the full-length to me is the tone and how much thicker the album sounds. Was this done on purpose? What do you feel like a thicker tone gives to the band?
Yes, it was really on purpose. The three songs on the EP don’t have the heavy weight we want. And they’re much more stoner and heavy live. When we started the band the idea was to raise a creature that would become a big fucking runaway mammoth. The tone of the new album was set seconds after the song “Mammuten” (the mammoth) was written.
But we also really wanted to have the retro feeling and some psychedelic elements left. I think we have a good balance between the 70’s retro rock and the 90’s heavy stoner. A mix of everything we love.
3. I know the line is taken from the track “Stonehill Universe,” but what was behind choosing Passing through the Mastery Door for the album’s title? Was there something particular about that line or that song that stuck out in your minds?
That’s right. When we sat in the rehearse room Karl suddenly wrote the line on the over scribbled whiteboard. We looked at it and loved it. The album is a story and a journey, when you listen to it you choose to pass through the door. What then happens no one can know for sure. “Stonehill Universe” is the oldest song on the album and its lyrics and message reflect the entire album, the mastery door.
4. Sweden has a long history of so many great bands. Are there any Swedish artists who inspire what you do in Mamont? What is the heavy rock culture or scene like in Stockholm for a band like Mamont, releasing your first album? How has the response been to the band live?
A hell of a lot good Swedish bands inspire Mamont. Sometimes we feel very lucky to live in this small country that’s overfilled with really great bands. They’re everywhere and it’s awesome to get the privilege to play and get to know them.
Our influences come from both Swedish ‘70s prog rock and more modern stoner rock. Mamont is like a mix of the legendary band November and today’s Truckfighters. It’s a good description I think, if you want it on paper.
The heavy rock scene is really boiling right know in Sweden. In just a couple of years the stoner scene has grown as hell and a lot of underground bands have started to build up a wonderful family feeling with each other. The first album couldn’t come out in a better time. There’s a large wave of sand washing over right know and we’re on it. And yes, it’s sand. We played in a huge sandpit this summer. KrökbackenFestival was arranged by some dudes from Mushroom Caravan Overdrive. That place had a magical feeling and so much great underground bands. It really showed the face and future of the great Swedish heavy rock scene.
We have played the songs on the album live this summer and fall and the response has been fantastic. We’re from the small town Nyköping but we hope that we have built up a good reputation in Stockholm. The release party showed proof on that when it was packed full with a long queue outside the entire night.
5. There are a few shows coming up this month and in November/December, but will Mamont tour outside of Sweden to support the album? Are there any other gigs in the works maybe for 2013?
We have played really much recently and are now working on getting more gigs. Unfortunately we don’t have any shows planned for 2013, yet. We want to play as much as possible but right now we only can support the album live in Scandinavia.
But a discussion about touring Europe is going on right now. That’s our goal and we hope it will be true next summer or fall.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
For the people that hate the CD format, we have some good news coming up.
Michigan-based trio BerT don’t fuck around. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. They fuck around quite a bit. But when they do, it rocks, and that’s what’s important.
Flash back to summer 2012. A simpler time. En route to Cudahy, Wisconsin, for the Days of the Doomed II fest, I swing north early off Route 80 in Toledo to hit up Lansing, Michigan, and visit my good friend Postman Dan. A couple beers after my arrival, I wind up over at BerT‘s practice space — a garage in the back of somebody‘s house. The three dudes in the band — brothers Rael Jordan (drums) and Ryan Andrews (guitar/vocals), as well as bassist Phil Clark — are done jamming and are sitting in the open garage with a few beverages and other indulgences, but sure enough, when we roll up, they plug in and do another song, just for the hell of it. And you know what? It’s fucking awesome. Thick-toned, powerful, volume at unholy levels, and the space where they play is the kind of narrow that gives the noise nowhere to go but into your skull. Before they finish, I can feel my hair vibrating.
Last week I put up a Nice Package post honoring their Monster Book split CD/LP/’zine/whathaveyou with Triangle and Rhino, and for a band who takes themselves as seriously as BerT doesn’t, it’s an awful lot of effort for them to put into something like that and then self-release it through their own Madlantis Records, taking it out on tour and playing along the East Coast before circling back to the Midwest. But BerT did just that, and barely stopped to mark the occasion with a trip to Niagara Falls before moving on to the next recording, the next album, the next Madlantis release, a taco party, a show, and so on. Adventures abound.
Formed after solidifying their lineup 2006, BerT ply their trade in the kind of self-driven creativity that’s exhausting just to watch. A slew of albums already under their belt, they’re just beginning a year-long series of live cassettes (they’ve got two that I know of already, with more to follow), and are working on a new full-length, to be titled Shit Hawk(because what else?), which will mark their first non-self-recorded studio outing, while still helming Madlantis and defying genre in a range of projects and allegiances.
I guess what it comes down to is I find BerT as admirable in concept as in practice, so if a quickie interview gets a couple more people to check them out, I figure it’s worth it. The band seemed to answer as a collective (“The royal we. You know, the editorial?”), which works for me, since they’re nothing if not solidified as a unit, which I learned in that garage in Michigan. Amazing how many life lessons one can take in around the smell of motor oil.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.
1. Give me the background on the band. How did you three get together, and is there a specific Bert the band is named after? Did you know when you started out that you wanted the band to have such a varied sound?
We are all from a small town in Michigan called Bath which is just outside of the capital city Lansing. Brothers Ryan and Rael have been friends with Phil since we were knee high to a grasshopper. In about 2001, the three of us had a ridiculous noisy punk band called Spanish Ghost. The band was short-lived but opened up recording to us. After the demise of Spanish Ghost, Ryan and Phil started a recording project called Bugdum Toe. We did a lot of recording in Ryan‘s bedroom and his parents’ living room, a lot of the time with Rael playing drums or contributing in some way. These recordings were ambient noise drones, crazy experimental metal and kraut rock-esque punk, mostly, just a lot of god awful ear-piercing racket. We are rather proud that this is the one band that Ry and Rael‘s mom would not let rehearse/record while she was in the house. These recordings of said horrid noise is what would later become BerT.
In the winter of 2006, Phil moved into a trailer park, back in Bath and started jamming with Ryan at an unheated storage unit we lovingly referred to as “The Meat Locker.” We wrote one, maybe two songs with Ry on guitar, Phil on bass and random people filling in on drums as we fleshed out the songs. We did this for a few months until one day some cop came and fucked that all up, giving us a ticket and effectively ending all the -12.3 degree jam sessions at The Meat Locker.
For a while we went back to just recording due to lack of a drummer until finally, we said fuck it and decided to MAKE a drummer. We found some samples of various Dale Crover drum hits and used those to program drums and started playing shows. This worked until around 2009, when we started jamming with Ryan on drums and Phil on guitar. The song “Trample the Dead” that’s the last track on our EP Stoner Boner is the only recording of this formation of BerT. Shortly after that we asked Rael to come play bass and recorded the album Shit Hawk. Yet again in 2010 we rotated to the left and into our current lineup putting Rael on drums, Ryan on guitar and Phil on bass.
The variance in sound was half planned out because we just like to create and experiment, but we have also been reaching for a certain idea the whole time. We like to keep it heavy, thick, and slow, but also we don’t want to box ourselves into a corner. We believe that we are antennas transmitting the songs that the universe has written. We ride with the wave, we don’t fight against it.
We aren’t named after a specific Bert, but feel we are more the embodiment of every Bert that has ever been and ever will be.
2. How much does having your own studio factor into making a band like BerT possible? It seems like when you guys put something out, you have a clear idea of the kind of sound you want that specific release to have. I’m thinking of the differences between the Grown Long split with Hordes and the Monster Book project with Triangle and Rhino. Do you know going into an album, split, etc., that you want it to have a specific sound, and is putting that together a matter of assembling recordings you’ve done?
Having a studio/jam/overall hangout area makes everything we do in BerT possible. We have all experienced shitty situations in the past with bad neighbors or just no room to play. Having the ability to be loud and do shit when we want makes everything possible.
We spend a lot of time thinking about our releases. They always evolve and change as circumstances happen but we usually start with a specific idea. Each project gets a fresh slate, its own identity with its own group of songs. The Monster Book for instance was an attempt at our full-length that we decided to make into an EP about monsters… a concept that carried through into the split it ended up becoming. As where Grown Long is a project we have worked on since the Bugdum Toe days. When we started working with HORDES, we thought it was a fitting piece of music to complement their style. We view every release as one piece of music, not individual songs crammed into a compilation. Each release has its own concept or underlying themes however strict or loose those ideas may be.
3. How did the Monster Book project come about, and what went into making that ‘zine? Have you ever put anything like that together before? Who drew the poster and where did that design come from?
Monster Book is the third and final collaboration with our friends Triangle and Rhino. T&R guitarist Jake is moving out of the country and wanted to do a record with us before he left. We had just finished recording Wall of Bees, so it was perfect timing. For the ‘zine, Ry sent out a bunch of questions and we asked our friends to contribute art and writings. We actually ended up with way too much material and couldn’t fit it all in. We did the page layout ourselves and had the pages printed, then we cut, folded and stapled about 40 billion pieces of paper… It was a marathon of suck. The cutting, folding and stapling kind of suck.
The idea for the poster came from a t-shirt Phil got off eBay that featured a wizard on a mountain with a hot chick and lighting and all that jazz. We thought up a stoned reinterpretation adding the luck dragon and some unicorns farting out our bands names and gave all that to Craig. We half-expected him to take a few of the ideas and run with it, but he drew what we said exactly from top to bottom… it was legendary.
4. Tell me about the tour that brought you out east? How were the shows and how was the response? Apart from the accommodations in Jersey, how did it go and will you be back on the road anytime soon?
The tour was great, our first time on the road for an extended period of time like that. Jersey was the best night of sleep we had on the whole tour. The response we got was great, we sold quite a few records and had a rad time seeing a ton of cool places and meeting a lot of cool new friends. Most of the shows were well attended, and even the ones that weren’t, we felt well received. Everyone was very accommodating and helped us out a lot. We’ll be out again as soon as we can.
Also… Boston: Great dope and killer fried clams.
5. What other new releases are in the works? Maybe Stoner Boner Vol. 2 or anything else coming up?
Our one-sided LP called Shit Hawk is supposed to be out this fall on Hydro-Phonic Records.
We’ll be continuing our live cassette series throughout next year as well as contributing to a 7″ that the guys in the group Foot and Mouth Disease from Rochester, NY, are putting together with bands all doing 15-second tracks. We’re also putting out a song this October for the 3 Way Singles Club on It Takes A Village To Make Records and we’re in the midst of finishing our new full-length, Return to the Electric Church. This is our first time in a “real” studio – as in, one where we pay somebody else to know exactly what they’re doing. Our goal is a spring release for the album.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention? What’s next on Madlantis Records?
Next on Madlantis Records we’re going to release a full-length CD from HORDES (ambient drone doom with Ryan from BerT on drums) and the new Ghoulie (grimy funk/soul) EP called Mango Juice, both due out any day now.
We would like to say thanks to the fans and musicians that support the underground music scene. Nowadays the playing field is leveled and you have to do it yourself. We appreciate those that do. We’re all one community no matter the genre of music. Go to shows, buy underground music, have fun, and think freely!
Yesterday, in an attempt to assemble the necessary funding to press their next full-length to vinyl, Brooklyn-based heavy psych/doom trio Eggnogg launched a Kickstarter campaign. The album they’re looking to press is called You’re all Invited, and it’ll be the youngin’ act’s third behind 2010’s TheThree, 2011’s excellent Moments in Vacuum (review here)and the two EPs Noggand this summer’s Louis (review here). Atmospherically, Eggnogg‘s songs vary almost on a track-by-track basis — as Louisdemonstrates — but overall, the band’s sound is forged in weighted doom tonality, stoner-funk groove, grunge-derived melodies and a quirky psychedelic oddness that’s fast becoming a defining element.
Underneath it all, however, is a core of strangely infectious songwriting. Eggnogg tracks are slow burners, but before too long, you find yourself humming along to bassist/vocalist Bill O’Sullivan‘s guttural bluesy delivery, or nodding along to any number of Justin Karol‘s riffy hooks. O’Sullivan and Karol (who also provides the band’s distinct artwork) make up the creative core of the band, but drummer Ryan Quinn has a large role to play as well, holding together their extended jams — and no doubt that will remain true on You’re all Invitedas well, the first side of which is a five-part, 22-minute single track.
While raking in the dough necessary to press the album and preparing to send out a slew of donation gifts (including, for someone who pledges two grand, eating every item on a McDonald’s menu), Eggnogg will also be performing alongside Borracho, Valley of the Sun, Summoner and Shock Radar at Heavy Planet’s CMJ showcase, set to take place Oct. 18 at Fontana’s in Manhattan. In light of that, the Kickstarter, the band’s affection for song titles that end in “-og,” and the recent Brooklyn gig I was lucky enough to catch, it seemed only too prudent to hit up O’Sullivan with Six Dumb Questions, so that’s exactly what I did.
You’ll find his responses below. Please enjoy:
1. Tell me about how the band got together. When did you move from Utica to Brooklyn, and how did you get started jamming?
Justin, Quinn and I attended the same school from first grade onward, and in ninth grade we started jamming together, playing under the name Armada. Armada played instrumental compositions that Justin and I had wrote, but it wasn’t long before I started writing lyrics, and we decided to take on the new name GonZo to reflect the change in our sound. GonZo played throughout high school, and during this time we wrote a lot of the songs that we would later record and release as EGGNOGG.
By searching the internet, we realized too many musical acts were using the name Gonzo and that we needed to differentiate ourselves. In 2009 we decided to rename ourselves EGGNOGG (GonZo reversed is Oznog, which sounded close enough to Eggnog, to which we added an extra “g” for symmetry). The record that was initially going to be titled GonZo Demo III was retitled EGGNOGG’s The Three.
In August 2009 I moved from the Utica, New York, area to Brooklyn. I returned to Central New York State for the summer of 2010, during which time we recorded Moments in Vacuum. Operating a band at such a distance was very straining at times, but we persevered and managed to finish our second album, as well as the Nogg EP and most of Louis during that period, despite the inconvenience. Justin moved down to New York City in May of 2012, and since then we’ve been hard at work completing our new album, You’re all Invited. We’ve got the band going full-force again, centered down here in Brooklyn now.
2. What was the recording process for the Louis EP? Are you aware that the three opening songs on the releases since the first EP have rhymed with the band’s name? Is that on purpose, and was there anything you wanted to do differently with Louis than you did on Moments in Vacuum? Is there a particularLouis the EP is named for?
Justin and Quinn tracked the drums and some of the guitars for Louis Upstate in the Spring of 2012, and we did the rest down here in Bushwick. Most of the songs on Louis were written during the GonZo days, and we took the opportunity to rerecord them knowing what we know now.
Interestingly enough, the song “Baras Mogg” was a live staple of ours back in 2006, long before we ever had the idea to name ourselves EGGNOGG. The song title “Bog” is a Nadsat word, and “Magog” is a biblical figure. A historical ancestor of mine was named Morty Og O’Sullivan. So maybe the “og” is in my blood — it’s an interesting syllable to me, and the choice to name the band EGGNOGG had nothing to do with the word’s meaning, but rather, its phonetic sound.
Louis was intended to be a much shorter, easier listen than Moments in Vacuum. Louis is named after our old bassist from the GonZo days.
3. Each Eggnogg release seems to have its own personality. Not that they’re all so different, but it in listening, you can hear different sides of the band’s sound being played up, either consciously or not. What’s in store for You’re all Invited?
We don’t want to repeat ourselves. I’ve always made a conscious effort to write music that sounds new to me, and I have no interest in writing songs that sound the same. Each album has its own sound, and we are always trying to do something new while making sure that it fits within the context of our previous work. I think we’ve succeeded in doing this with You’re all Invited.
You’re all Invitedis very heavy — in my opinion, the heaviest music we’ve made so far. But like our other albums, it will have a lot dynamics, and plenty of laid back, melodic parts to contrast with the sludgy riffs. The whole record will flow together and transition smoothly, as if it were all one extended piece. This is different from Moments in Vacuum, I think, because with Moments in Vacuum, every song had a very definite beginning and end, and each song brought a particular style. Each song on You’re all Invited will exhibit many different styles from beginning to end, but the changes will unfold very naturally, like a story.
4. Will you tour at all in support of the new album? Any other shows coming up after the Heavy Planet CMJ gig in October?
No other shows booked at this moment, but we’re looking to play plenty of shows this year around New York and the Tri-State Area.
5. When will the Kickstarter for the vinyl pressing of You’re all Invited be up? Will you put the album on CD as well?
We just launched the Kickstarter campaign, and it will last 30 days. I don’t see any reason to do a CD release of You’re all Invited, because as a music fan, I’d much rather have a vinyl. But there is no reason for anyone to worry: every purchase of the vinyl will come with a free download of the album, and the album will be available for a paid download as well (via PalaverRecords.com). So people will be able to get the album in a digital form. In my opinion, the resurgence of vinyls and the ease of transferring music over the internet is making CDs obsolete.
But for people who still prefer the CD medium, I have good news. We’re finally going to put out the Nogg EP and Louis EP on CD. They will be combined on one disc, and this new Apocrypha compilation will be released as a reward for Kickstarter donations.
6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’re really counting on the success of this Kickstarter campaign, because we wouldn’t be able to come up with the money to make the vinyls by ourselves. Help us get this new album off the ground, and you’ll get some good stuff in return.
Formed in 2009 by guitarist/vocalists Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown, darkened sludge four-piece Undersmile make their most thoroughly doomed impression yet with their first full-length, Narwhal. The record — released through Future Noise — follows a preparatory split last year with fellow British act Caretaker and 2010’s debut EP, A Sea of Dead Snakes, and continues Undersmile‘s fascination with the sea and with lumbering, droning riffs, Sterne and Corona-Brown both contributing weighted melodies atop the anchoring rhythms of bassist Olly Corona-Brown and drummer Tom McKibbin.
What most stands the band out, though — apart perhaps from its ’90s-style dual female leads — is the album’s density of atmosphere. With lyrics quite literally derived from nightmares, Undersmile concoct an oppressive feel throughout the extended pieces that make up the extended whole of Narwhal(review here), which more or less maxes out the CD format at over 79 minutes. And in all that time, they don’t let up. Even shorter interludes like “Cortege” and the closer “Qaanaaq” moan with the undulating malevolence of the sea, Hel and Taz splitting the writing duties between them but nonetheless creating a work of near-frightening cohesion.
As The Obelisk’s UK special week continues, it’s my pleasure to present the following interview, for which both Hel and Taz provided insights as to the band’s origins, writing processes, the recording of Narwhal– which was helmed by Jimmy “Evil” Hetherington and mastered by none other than Billy Anderson – the striking and bleak cover art by Tony Roberts and much more. In a thriving British scene, Undersmile deliver massive tones, suffocating ambience and dreary moods. They even hint at an acoustic side-project toward the end, so something to watch out for too as Undersmile begins to look forward from Narwhalto the open waters before them.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
1. Take me through the origins of the band. How was it that you guys all came together and decided to work together? Did the four of you know at first that you’d have both Taz and Hel sing, or did it just work out that way when you started jamming?
Hel:Taz and I started jamming together on acoustic guitars back in 2006 before we knew Tom or Olly. Neither of us consider ourselves singers and initially didn’t want to sing, after a while we jammed with a few other girls (bass and vox) but it just didn’t gel. At the same time, neither of us wanted the responsibility of being the singer, so eventually we gave in and both did it. Olly (Taz‘s partner, now husband) joined us on bass soon after and following that we got a friend in to play drums for us; at that time our sound was much more grungey. After a year he left due to musical differences and was replaced by his friend, Tom (now my fiancé). Olly and Tom both really helped to bring the gnarly low end and slow pace we had been searching for and this is when we really began to sound like we had always intended.
Taz:Hel moved into the building where I was living in 2006 and we discovered we both played guitar and wrote songs. We had a mutual love for bands like Babes in Toyland and L7 as well as everything from classical music to atonal drone. We started out playing a blend of melancholy acoustic guitar and grungy electric dirges. We never intended to sing at all, it just sort of happened and we found our voices worked best when combined (we genuinely can’t bear the sound of one of our voices without the other!). In 2009, my husband, Olly joined us on bass with Hel‘s fiance, Tom joining not too long after. Once we started performing live, we quickly realised that we derived most enjoyment from playing our slowest, heaviest songs and since then it’s been an evolution into the discordant, droning cacophony you hear now…
2. How did the songwriting process work for Narwhal? The album balances its heaviness and ambience so well. Were the songs just built around the riffs? Were you conscious of keeping the mood consistent throughout? At what point did you realize just how much material you were working with?
Taz: With the exception of two of the shorter pieces – “Qaanaaq” which was written by Olly and “Funayurei” which Tom wrote – the songs on Narwhal are written by either Hel or myself. We wrote four songs each for the album. Songwriting for us isn’t so much a conscious thing but we have a similar ear for discordance and disharmony and all viewed Narwhal as an entire piece rather than individual tracks. Tempering the claustrophobia of the longer songs with the shorter interludes though was a deliberate decision to create contrast and add to the sense of disorientation. The writing process for us tends to be that me or Hel will write a song individually then come together to add guitar and vocal harmonies to one another’s track. We then take the songs to band practise where Olly and Tom add their bass and drums and that is the point when the songs really evolve. We’re definitely all at our happiest when working on new material together in the studio. It’s a pure pleasure!
Hel:Taz and I wrote all the tracks on Narwhal, with the exception of “Funayurei” (Tom) and “Qaanaaq” (Olly). The way we work is that whoever is credited for the lyrics gets credited for writing the actual song itself. But there’s no set formula as to “how” songs are written; I might wake up with a riff in my head, a vocal melody, or most often from a nightmare and have some lyrics that came from it — we’re both very similar in that respect. We both suffer terribly with nightmares and sometimes sleep paralysis, but it’s nice to be able to use something so horrible as a creative fuel.
Usually Taz or I will write the full song and then show it to each other, then we work on the harmonies together. When the song is how we want it we bring it to practise and show the boys, they add drums and bass, making it sound massive and I’ll normally add some lead. We always have too much material but we didn’t realise immediately that we would end up having to cut some out (simply because it wouldn’t fit on the CD). At the mastering stage there was a bit of a hoo-har as we kept sending the files back and forward to Billy Anderson, each time cutting a bit more off (sometimes milliseconds at a time) as it wouldn’t fit on an 80-minute disc (a time limit we’d never considered, until near the end I didn’t even know there was a limit, durr!).
3. How did you come to adopt the nautical theme? Even the split with Caretaker had a track called “Anchor,” and of course both the album and A Sea of Dead Snakes touch on water as well. What is it about the ocean that appeals to the band, and how do you see it playing into Undersmile’s sound? Is it something you see yourselves keeping to over future releases, at least in part?
Hel: Funnily enough, I wrote “Anchor” on the same day Taz wrote “Teutonic Dyselxia” from A Sea of Dead Snakes, which it was initially intended to be for, but we ran out of time in the end. We then later swapped a few tracks around that we had lined up for Narwhal and used them for the split. “Anchor” and “Big Wow” were then replaced (on Narwhal) by “Myra” and “The Unthinkable” because they had more of the feel we were going for. We did this because we were asked to do the split with Caretaker via Blindsight Records, midway through arranging the album. As a band, we’re all intrigued by the sea and everything it symbolises; it’s such a huge unknowable element, beautiful, terrifying and all-consuming. We like to try to tap into the feeling of our nightmares (which are often of the sea, or water) and that’s where a lot of our inspiration comes from. In saying that, it hasn’t really been an intentionally thing at all, maybe we have a subconscious fixation, now you come to mention it! ;)
Taz: The sea is a huge source of inspiration for us and I’m certain it will continue to be so in the future. There is a hypnotic monotony to the ocean which I think is apparent in our music and lyrics. There’s a theory that, as a species, we’re fascinated by the sea because it is symbolic of our own mortality; the breaking of the wave representing the moment of death. I’m intrigued, also, by the contrasting characteristics of the ocean itself, being transient yet constant.
4. Tell me about the recording process for Narwhal? How long were you in the studio with Jimmy Hetherington, and what was the studio situation like? Where was the album actually recorded?
Hel: We recorded the drums and bass at Studio 101 with MartinNewton and Jimmy and from there we did the rest at Jimmy‘s. We had loads of fun working with Jimmy, it was a friendly and relaxed environment and he knew what we were going for. Jimmy added elements of his own in the post production that we all thought suited the album perfectly and were really pleased with his contributions to the overall sound.
Taz: We were recording and mixing with Jimmy for almost a year altogether. After a couple of short bursts in the studio to get the bass and drums down, we would go to Jimmy‘s place once a week to add guitar, vocals and varying degrees of filthy noise! The drums and bass were recorded at our friend Martin Newton‘s recording studio, Studio 101 and the rest was done from Jimmy‘s studio at his home in Oxford. I was actually pregnant at the time so there was a tangible sense of urgency in the studio situation as we were working to a pretty inflexible and inevitable deadline!
5. Tony Roberts’ art seems to fit the music and the atmosphere of the album perfectly. How did you end up working with him, and how did that process go? Was there discussion back and forth of ideas, or did he get the music and just work from that? How involved were you in nailing down the finished design?
Taz: We all greatly admire Tony‘s artwork and I think I’m right in saying that we just messaged him to see if he’d be up for doing the album and he agreed. We were all confident that Tony would be able to capture Narwhal‘s atmosphere perfectly and he certainly did. There was a little messaging back and forth but it really wasn’t necessary as Tony sensed the mood of the album immediately. My favourite element is the sea serpent which can be seen emerging from the depths on the inner sleeve, we’ve used it for our latest t-shirt design and it works incredibly well as an individual piece, also.
Hel: We were very involved in the design itself as we all had a clear idea of what we wanted for Narwhal. Tom came across his artwork initially after seeing the cover he’d done for Conan‘s first album, Horseback Battle Hammer. We then looked into it and all agreed we loved his style, at which point we contacted him and asked if he would be up for it. We always liked the idea of a ship sinking and a big sky, and Tony added some elements such as the beautifully drawn waves and the sea serpent on the inside cover (which were our favourite parts). He was a pleasure to work with.
6. Any upcoming shows or releases you want to plug, or other closing words you want to mention?
Hel: We have two shows coming up this year in particular, which are both in the land of Birmingham. 13th October at Scruffy Murphy’s with DieselKing, Ishmaeland Burden of the Noose, then on 17th November at The Asylum, an all-dayer with Cultura Tres (our friends from Venezuela), Grimpen Mire, Slabdragger, Bastard of the Skies and more.
Taz: We are currently working on a secret (shhhhh) project which should be announced very soon. I can say we’re thoroughly enjoying working on it and that I think it’s going to surprise some people… Our next show is on October the 13th in Birmingham where we shall be reunited with our beloved friends and fellow noise-mongers, Ishmael. If you haven’t checked them out you really ought to stop reading this and do it right. Now.
Hel: We’d also like to mention that we have an acoustic side-project (much like the one Taz and I started back in the old days). We played at the Black Heart in London and supported DylanCarlson on his solo tour and we’re currently working on a few things at the moment in that vein, but we’re not allowed to say too much just yet so watch this space for some announcements coming soon!
Comprised of brothers Kelley Juett (guitar/vocals) and KyleJuett (bass/vocals) along with drummer Judge Smith, the Dallas, Texas, trio Mothership self-released their self-titled debut back in June. The album (review here) was recorded by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump and puts Orange-amped fuzz to work in classic heavy homage, ballsing up the tone of Grand Funk boogie and winding it around scorching Sabbathian riffage.
It’s a formula for success in heavy rock, and while they may not be the first to employ it, I dug Mothership‘s Mothershipenough that I wanted to find out more about how the band came to be and where the brothers Juett got their love of rock and roll from. I had a sneaking suspicion it was their father — not an unreasonable assumption when you’ve got two brothers so clearly on the same page influence-wise in a band together — but it was great to get that confirmed from the Juetts themselves.
And in that, this is a little more than the usual six dumb questions, since after the answers came back from Kyle, I asked if he’d get a couple quotes from their dad as well. You’ll find John “Big J” Juett‘s quotes after the Q&A, which is below. Please enjoy.
1. Tell me about getting the band together. What was the timeline on bringing Judge Smith in on drums, and when were the songs for the self-titled written?
We (Kelley and Kyle) started Mothership back in 2010 after the breakup of our previous band. We literally took all of our shit from our old practice spot, drove to our dad’s house and began writing what became Mothership tunes that very same day. A blessing in disguise, if you ask me. We wrote for a few months together before asking our dad to start playing with us. We were tired of sitting around, not playing shows and more importantly looking for a drummer. Since our dad kicks some serious ass on the skins we figured what the hell let’s do it. We had a great time playing biker bars doing four-hour sets covering classic rock and blues songs (tons of B-side shit that really lit up the party), as well as playing original shows all over the state of Texas. We did a one-week tour with Gypsyhawk with our dad on drums – that’s pretty bitchin’ this day in time to have your dad out there jamming with you on the road.
I (Kyle) met Judge around the same time Mothership started in 2010 I would say, maybe a little earlier or later can’t really remember much that far back lol. We met in a bar in Lewisville, TX, shared a common interest in music. We got along, had some of the same friends, took shots, drank beers, had a damn good time every time we hung out. I always watched Judge play drums at this bar with multiple bands some original and some playing covers. He kicked ass every time I saw him play and I could really get a sense that he was hungry for something new.
The dude has an incredible amount of drive and dedication and that really stood out to me. We started heavily talking about Mothership I would say around October of last year during the baseball playoffs. We would go get drunk as piss yelling at TVs and talking about writing records, touring the world, etc., etc. I had some good talks with Kelley and even my dad about bringing Judge on board and they were both very excited to see where the next step would take us. Judge came out to many shows in the previous months leading up to his arrival in the band always very vocal about giving him a chance to show us what he’s got.
Judge joined the band in December 2011 I think our first show with him was January 2012 and we recorded the debut album a month later. We hit the ground kicking ass when Judge joined the band with very little downtime during the transition of drummers, we wrote a couple of songs on the record the first day we ever practiced with him.
As for the songs on the record, four of them were written with our dad on drums (“City Nights,” “Angel of Death,” “Eagle Soars,” and “Win or Lose”) and the other four songs (“Hallucination,” “Cosmic Rain,” “Elenin,” and “Lunar Master”) were written with Judge. “Lunar Master,” the last track on the album, was written in the studio with help from everyone on board including help from Kent Stump, who recorded the album. He came up with some killer vocal arrangement ideas. That was an awesome experience to only have music written for a song and watch it come to life in the studio in that moment, watching all the band members and engineer come together to help write lyrics and vocal melodies was a unifying experience.
2. Where does the family love of classic rock come from?
Our Dad, John “Big J” Juett, without a doubt. The man has boxes upon boxes of vinyl, shit that makes your jaw drop and shit that you have never heard of before but will damn sure make you an instant fan after one pass through. He has a wide variety of different types of music… Blues, classic rock, hard rock, metal, Southern rock you name it he’s either got it or had it.
Most all of the bands we know today come from knowledge that was passed down from him. There are a ton of newer bands coming out so it’s fun to show him new shit and kinda go back and forth. There really is a lot of good music coming out these days from all over there world. Mothership was started on the sole purpose of bringing back rock ‘n’ roll, and with the knowledge passed down from our pops we have come to understand a good amount of the history of where rock n roll began and the direction that it can go from here.
“The gleam of the Mothership in the distant galaxy promised a future to music and mankind alike. Without the intergalactic journey, the legacy of rock music dies.”
3. How was your time in the studio with Kent from Wo Fat? How long did it take to record the album and what was the atmosphere in the studio like?
Kent Stump is not only a talented musician and engineer but one of the nicest and easiest people to work with. An all around awesome dude with great visions, ideas, and really knows how to capture the sound that encompasses who you are as a band. We sent out about seven or eight emails to local producers in the area to see if anyone would show the slightest bit of interest in working with us. The email basically laid it all on the line and we got back a lot of one word responses. Kent however wrote back a two or three page email breaking down why he would be the best candidate, an entire gear list, his credentials, and more importantly why he wanted to take on this project.
We had played with Wo Fat two or three times before recording the album so Kent really had a solid idea of who were as a band, our tones, our energy, and overall direction of the album just from seeing us play live. He had everything mic’d and set up in record time on our first day of recording, the energy and vibes were laid back and very relaxed. Tons of laughing, drinking cold beer, and listening back to the tracks really loud in the playback room. He always gave great feedback and input on certain parts where he knew we needed a little direction. He even laid down a killer solo at the end of the album, just an all around awesome experience!
We practiced for multiple days in a row before entering the studio to capture that “on the road” live sound that we really got on this record. This record is us setting up our gear and playing live with each other in one room. No click tracks, no isolated individual tracks. We had very, very limited time to record this album and we knew we didn’t have a lot of time to fuck around. We recorded all the music in one weekend eight-hour days on a Friday and Saturday, and came back the following weekend to finish up vocals and mix the album. The album is alive and breathes from start to finish, a true journey of where we were that moment in time when you listen to it. We recorded all the music for each of the songs on one take except for “City Nights,” all the solos were recorded live as well.
For a debut record, we think people really get the idea of what we are trying to do and the direction we are headed in. That’s the point of a debut album: “Hey you don’t know who we are, but here is our first album and this is what we’re about. Turn that shit up and climb aboard.”
4. How was the Metroplex Heavy Fest for you guys? It looked like a great weekend. How was your set and what were some of the other highlights for you?
What an awesome weekend indeed, why can’t all weekends be like that? Where to begin… Two nights with 14 bands from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area playing heavy rock ‘n’ roll and loving what they do. So much fun to watch each band perform and show the crowd their brand of heavy rock. We got to see a few bands we had been hearing about but never seen play live, so that was really cool. We met a lot of awesome people that weekend including Pope John The Enforcer and Todd “Racer” from Ripple Music. They are two down-to-earth, dedicated men with out of this world visions that truly love what they do. Really looking forward to running into them again in the future. Jay Brockington put the whole damn thing together, many cheers to him for all the hard work and dedication that went into this thing going off without a hitch.
The crowd during our set was explosive, we were really channeling some awesome vibes coming in our direction. Those types of shows are always the most fun to play, you give us the energy we will bottle that shit up and blast it right back at you. Five or 5,000 people, we play the same show every night, but having a roaring crowd surrounding the stage is hands down one of the best feelings in the world. We brought Dave Sherman up to sing “Ace of Spades” with us on the last song of our set. We really didn’t know how it was gonna go over, we never practiced with Dave let alone met the dude and damn he nailed it! What an awesome way to end the set on a very special night.
The entire set was recorded, the entire fest was recorded so we look forward to taking a listen when it becomes available. Feels really great to have had the honor to share the stage with such kickass musicians in this area and to be a part of such a righteous festival event. Here’s to hoping there will be a round two next year!
5. What exactly does a music video party entail? You’re filming a video August 17, but you’re not the only band on the bill. Is the plan just to rage for a few hours, film it, and let the editor sort it out afterwards? What song will the video be for?
The plan for the music video came out of nowhere, really. One day we just decided, hey, let’s do a video. The album has been out a few months and so we figured why they hell not. This video is going to showcase who we really are and what we are all about in our hometown. We are doing a very basic video with only a few cameras showcasing our live show and our loyal fans right here in the heart of Dallas, TX, at one of the most legendary venues in this area, The Curtain Club. The perfect storm of a night to bust out the cameras and hit record.
We are gonna shoot as much video footage as possible and then have fun editing the footage and placing the audio track over it. The video will be for “City Nights,” the third track on our album, a party song geared towards bands living life on the road and a little of the lifestyle we all three lead in our daily lives here. Hopefully people will really get an honest taste of not only where we come from with this video, but hopefully get a sense of the resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll in this area that has been dormant for far too long.
6. What’s next for the band after the new video? Have you started writing yet for the follow-up to the self-titled, and do you have any idea yet what the next batch of material might sound like?
We are currently working on a good amount of new material for what may or may not be on the next album. We have really raised our level of playing in the past couple of months and have found a great sense of who we are and the sound that has become Mothership. We have an awesome unspoken fourth member of the band, Chris “Ohm” Galt, who is our sound man/engineer. He is currently coming out to all of our practices and recording all of our jams and ideas for new material. He’s our brother and we are very thankful to have him on board with us along this journey.
We take the CDs he makes after every practice home with us and really listen to what we like and don’t like and go from there. Being able to jam at practice and not force riffs down people’s throats in the band really eases the mood at practice and makes writing new material a lot of fun. We all have been in those bands where you have members say “play this, don’t play that,” learn how to jam and others will follow your lead when you have a good riff in mind. I’d say we have a very good mix currently of some heavy groove songs and some psychedelic/blues take you on a journey-type songs which is right in line with what we all love most. That happy balance of heaviness and soul mixed with a little dash of some Texas rock n roll.
John “Big J” Juett on playing drums with Mothership: This has been a very fulfilling experience for me. What started out as a way to spend time with my sons doing what we all enjoy—making or listening to music—turned out to be something much better that I had imagined. It is rare for parents to be able to actually participate in activities that your adult children participate in. I think it speaks to our family relationship, the mutual respect we have for the roles in each other’s life, the similar influences we have share, and the passion for music. For me, it is a late-life endeavor, a second chance to really prepare for something physically demanding, and be able execute live. I constantly play to their tracks, as well as thousands of others on my iPod, just to keep my chops up on a chance that we can find the time to jam, or even play live again in a different light. They are just so good, it’s a challenge to keep bringing it at their level. Once Judge came on board, we all agreed we would still try to find the time to family-jam and experiment with old classics live, just as we have done for last two years. But, the demand for their shows and the phenomenal writing they are doing just takes up all of their time. I’m in a more traditional parental role now of supporter, drum/road tech…and interim financier… ha ha.
John “Big J” Juetton his influences: I remember vividly the beginning of my love of music. I had many 45 singles from the psychedelic ‘60s as a kid. But in the late ‘60s, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida came out, and closely thereafter, I bought Creedence’s Born on the Bayou, and Grand Funk Railroad’sLive album. I was lost in music from that point on. That was a whole different level, dude. Throughout the decades I have continued to follow major trends in music. As the original Mothership jam sessions began, my grooves from those early periods came through in my play, and I believe helped influence the sounds you hear today in the first Mothership tunes like “City Nights,” “Eagle Soars,” and “Win or Lose.” For a while in 2010 before band really formed, Kelley was living at home for a brief period, and every day after work, he and I honed our chops together, working up our takes on great classic tunes from Johnny Winter, Alvin Lee & Ten Years After, Steppenwolf, Freddie King, Skynard, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Travers, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Sabbath, Ted Nugent, etc. Those bands that were my early influences. Mothership now have about 25 tunes roughed out that my sons and I have performed regularly on extended sets, beyond the original material. Judge knows several more too. The music I love is the music they love… I really dig heavier music, Pantera, Hellyeah, Metallica too, but I’m gonna have to let Judge bring the Vinnie f’n Paul fury on those, haha… I’m just proud we have something in common to share with my sons and Judge, and to look forward to enjoying as we all grow older. Music is our common denominator! These are three very talented, dedicated guys, and great, great, respectful and considerate gentlemen, a character trait which my wife and I are also extremely proud of!