They make their home in the New Mexican sands, but Sandia Man‘s sound is heavier than the airy fuzz rock that usually evokes cactus-laden landscapes. They call it “caveman rock,” and rightfully so. The thickened guitars and bass seem to lumber and drag their knuckles tonally on Sandia Man‘s self-titled full-length debut, a song like “The Crows” showing some traditional doom influence put in the desert context.
Whatever you want to call it, Sandia Man do it well, and the tracks on the LP have a kind of rough-hewn edge to them that seems to be born more of drunken nights at the bar than sunburn on the face. Opener “Skins of the Fathers” finds guitarist/vocalist Alan Edmonds reading from a Clive Barker story as an introduction, and it proves to be the perfect entree to the song, album and band as a whole. It’s a little over-the-top, a little quirky, and darker than you’d think.
Given that, it made sense to get in touch with Edmonds with six dumb questions about the origins, inner workings and habitat of his band. He was forthcoming — especially about the songwriting, as you’ll see — which is just further proof of the passion he brings to the development of Sandia Man. If they’re the cavemen, then the walls are covered in buffalo pictures and hieroglyphs waiting to be ciphered.
Sandia Man is Edmonds, bassist Steven “Sven” Esterly and drummer Jon Knutson. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
How did Sandia Man form after Devil Riding Shotgun ended in New Mexico? How soon after that did you start writing for the album?
Neb [Fixico, Devil Riding Shotgun vocalist/bassist] moved to Portland in ’08. He was the main songwriter, and he continued DRS up there with new personnel and our blessings. Jon and I kept on playing together and almost immediately came up with some cool ideas, so we started looking for a bassist when we had a few songs written.
Our quest was fruitless for what seemed like forever. We had just about given up on finding a bassist and were seriously considering going forward as a two-piece when Sven answered our ad on the local music boards, and he totally clicked, so we started working. He does double duty with his other band, Hate Planet, who he was already playing with when we met him.
Take me through the songwriting process for the album. How did the pieces come together and where did that brilliant bass part on “Plaguewind/Endtime Endgame” come from?
Generally, I write the lyrics and the guitar part, then Jon and Steve write their respective parts. We went into the studio with everything written and arranged except “Trog Stomp” and “Plaguewind.”
The last song, “Volcan,” was actually the first Sandia Man song written. I’d watched a show about super-volcanoes and wrote the lyrics to that one and combined them with some riffs Jon and I had been playing around with. The song “Sandia Man” was next, and it’s about our local caveman whose relics were found in a cave in the Sandia Mountains. It’s Sandia Man‘s life as I imagine it might have been, accompanied by some caveman riffs.
“Skins of the Fathers” was next, and the lyrics were inspired by the story of the same name by Clive Barker. I first read it years ago when I read The Books of Blood. It scared the piss out of me, so I never really forgot it. The music is older; I had come up with it for DRS, but it didn’t really fit with the other material, so it was just waiting for lyrics. I’d recently reread the story and thought it fit well with the musical idea, so I wrote some lyrics based on the story.
“Endtime Endgame” is based on the biblical legend of Behemoth and Leviathan, and “The Crows” was an old poem I had written edited to fit into a verse/chorus song format. Jon came up with the rough idea for “Trog Stomp” and put it together in the studio. Then he and two local percussionists added some caveman-style drum circle vibe.
As to “Plaguewind,” Steve wrote that bass solo pretty much on the spot. All the other bass tracks were finished, and it was the end of the day’s session. Basically, he didn’t want to have to break down his whole rig and bring it back just for that, so he did it on the fly — I think it only took him two takes, but it came out great. Later, I dubbed some slide guitar over that, and we added the wind sounds to it.
Thematically, the first four album tracks are prehistoric, and the last two are apocalyptic. If we do a vinyl release, which we might, those will be the two sides of the LP.
Who is reading the spoken word piece in the intro to “Skins of the Fathers?” How was that song inspired by the Clive Barker story?
That’s me. I guess I already answered the second part of the question, but we’re lucky (and very thankful) he allowed us to use his idea. It’s a great story.
How much of what you do is inspired by the desert? Do you consider yourselves desert rock? Maybe desert doom?
The vastness and scale of the desert and the mountains definitely get the creative juices flowing, but I really don’t think we sound much like any of the bands associated with the desert rock label. We’re less jammy, more structured and have more of a doom groove, so I guess desert doom is closer to the mark, but we just call it “caveman rock.”
What’s the scene like in Albuquerque? Anyone you’ve played shows with that outsiders need to know about?
There are a lot of bands here, but not a lot of venues, so you gotta move fast to get bookings. There are quite a few talented bands, but not really a “scene” where bands have similar musical styles.
On the other hand, heavy music always goes over well in Albuquerque. Some bands to check out are Leeches of Lore, Black Maria, SuperGiant, and Ghost Circles, and they’re all local bands we’ve played shows with. Each has a completely different take on the Heavy.
Sandia Man has also been lucky enough to score opening slots for national acts such as Fu Manchu, Weedeater, and The Gates of Slumber, among others.
What’s next for the band? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We’ll keep gigging locally and probably record our second album in the spring.
This first album was delayed for almost a year, so most of the next album’s already written. The lyrics are less cinematic and more introspective, and the music is a natural evolution from the earlier stuff. Some of it uses a different tuning than we used for this album.