Black Math Horseman: Tales of a Rider’s Torment

It's dark and they're spooky.The brand of psychedelic post-desert rock Los Angeles foursome Black Math Horseman play has its roots deeply entrenched in the heady vision of what “progressive” has come to mean in this young century; where the term refers more to the general and intellectual consideration a band gives their music, rather than the technical difficulty in playing it. “How much do they think about what they’re doing?” in other words.

In the case of Black Math Horseman, as best as can be judged on hearing their Tee Pee Records debut, Wyllt, the answer is plenty. The record — aided in its task by a remarkable Scott Reeder (Kyuss, The Obsessed, This is probably the album cover.Goatsnake, etc.) production job — hoists itself upon the mind of the listener and rests easy in the head, hypnotic, until the crests of “Tyrant” flood over whatever landscape it is you want to picture while you’re listening. It’s a similar build-up-to-the-heavy methodology the many metallic disciples of Neurosis have clasped onto these last several years, but Black Math Horseman — particularly with the distant and reverbed vocals of bassist Sera Timms — have few such aggressive moments, despite what the tension in drummer Sasha Popovic‘s playing might lead you to believe.

After the jump, guitarist Ian Barry (complemented in the band by fellow six-stringer Bryan Tulao) fills in the details concerning the origins and aspirations of his band.

There isn?t much biographical information out there about the band at this point. How did you all get together and wind up working with Undergroove and Tee Pee?

Everything just kind of happened, including the forming of the band. Four friends who started playing music together Another dark horsehead thing. The cover of their an outlet from other projects to see where our collective ideas could go. We had no aspirations of being a ?band? or getting signed to a label. We were asked to play a few shows and from that, Steve at Tee Pee casually contacted us as did Daren at Undergroove. It was so refreshing to work with labels who care so much about the artists and are only looking to help in areas that fill a void when it comes to getting the music out there.

How did the Black Math Horseman sound develop? Did you go into writing your first songs knowing the approach you wanted to take, or was it just what came out of early jams solidified later?

In the beginning it started as a few song ideas loosely based on a myth — a horseman who can hypnotize anyone by the cadence of its horse’s gallop. The name of the band represents the three states of consciousness that this character struggles with. The music has become the overall mood and backdrop to this story.

The music is dark but still colorful, like green hues and purples with deep tones and reds that come and go. What do you see when you hear Wyllt?

The songs usually develop around a particular character, event, or landscape. It could be in the middle of the ocean or in the forest, a conflict or an emotion that we try and emulate musically. We felt that it was important to let it form emotionally rather than forcing it literally and it works because we are usually in agreement when something just isn?t working? it?s an unspoken thing when it is.

How much are the vocals just another instrument in the band and what effects are used to get that echoey, far-away sound?

The idea was not to have singing and to use vocals as another instrument. We wanted the vocals to melt into the music. It was simply the right combination or reverb and delay that felt like the idea we were trying to express. I think the vocals will start to emerge more as the story develops and eventually trade in the right way between up front and tucked inside.

There seems to be a naturalistic tone in the band?s concepts and ideas ? two song titles and your band moniker have animals in them. Is there a particular philosophy or mindset you?re working from lyrically, or is it just what fits and sounds cool over the music?

We are all very interested in theology, mythology, and esoteric philosophy. This horseman myth has many parallels to known archetypes and lessons from history where choices are either made with the intention to control and impose ones will or to deeply understand and peacefully coexist. Sometimes a song forms simply out of a name or a word. The music is all arranged by feel rather than structure and in the end it always ends up being an equal culmination of all our sonic ideas.

Musically, the songs feel very spacious with the reverbed guitars and varied pacing. How long were you writing these songs and what was the process like? How much of their development was on stage versus in the studio or rehearsal room?

We wrote the first five songs in the four months after forming and recorded the first three ?Deerslayer,? ?Torment of the Metals,? and ?A Barren Cause? only after a month of playing together. I honestly can?t explain the process because Ian said happened so organically with very little verbal communication. In all of the ideas that eventually became songs, a riff or idea would be brought in and everyone started vibing on it immediately. All of the sudden we had songs and a sound and were inspired to keep challenging ourselves with more expansive ideas.

How did you meet Scott Reeder and wind up recording with him? What was his studio like and how do you feel he captured the band?s sound on Wyllt? Is there anything about the sound of the record you
feel could have more accurately represented the band?

Sash is a friend of Scott‘s and he asked if he would be interested in recording his new band and he said yes. Scott is seriously the nicest guy you could meet. He also happens to be a bass playing legend and an amazing engineer.

His studio actually part of his ranch, on the same property as his home. It’s dark and cave-like, draped in peacock feathers, and surrounded by desert mountains and wide open skies. It’s the kind of place you really don’t want to leave when you?re done recording.

We wanted it to sound as live as possible with little if any overdubs. Most of the tracks were first takes all playing together in the same room and we all felt that it was the perfect representation of our music at that moment in time.

How do you think recording in the desert affected the album?

Like any natural landscape, the desert gives you a limitless sense of space and timelessness. Everything seems to slow down when all the distractions of the urban environment disappear, and what’s left is a wondrous expanse where you can really connect with the peacefulness of the planet, and at the same time you feel the intensity of the natural world when it’s not so heavily veiled in pavement.

Oh, and there are miniature ponies, parrots, and peacocks out there who are happy to share the secrets of the universe with you.

You?re headed to SXSW, which is always a good time. Is there any other touring in the works? Any other future plans you care to share?

We are very exited to be playing SXSW. We are playing local shows and writing songs for our next record at the moment.

Keeping the mystery alive. (Photo by Travis Shinn)Black Math Horseman on MySpace

Tee Pee Records

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