Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BFP's BF'ing-D Music Industry Night @Bottletree

3 excellent performances for only $7
Wilder Adkins//Alice Gillee Project//The Deep End
Musician Networking. Drink Specials. Door Prizes...

If you've ever wanted to share an idea about music, complain about media coverage or just meet area musicians, this is the event for you. This is the first in a series of BFP BF'ing-D Music Industry Nights. Along with a number of involved Alabama bands we are pooling our resources to launch a new idea in music coverage. BFP Music will produce a music magazine, all music, all the time, planned, promoted and produced with area musicians. We will focus on diverse, wide ranging and inclusive music coverage. We will directly engage our readers, followers, writers and friends in an attempt to make music coverage more user friendly and more of an active presence than a static, "We'll cover what we think you should hear" approach. Those days are over. 

YES...networking is a large part of what we're doing! NO! you don't have to network to enjoy this show. Just come by and join us, watch the bands and see what we're up to. You'll get three stand alone performances all rolled up in one. 

Wilder Adkins will sweet talk you, get you loosened up and feeling good.
The Alice Gillee Project will then step it up a notch, with their multi genre mesh of cool.
Amping it up and driving it home will be The Deep End with their high energy performance that will leave you hungry for the next BFP BF'ing-D Bash.
Oh yes. Prizes and stuff and drink specials. Merchandise from a number of area bands...
Please consider joining us and bringing your friends. We will be passing out comment/suggestion cards at every event so you can contribute to the discussion and direction of this project. You might even get your name in the paper.

Monday, August 27, 2012

SharBaby in UK: Follow Up Interview

Phone interview with SharBaby and Dave Thomas in UK.

Homewood School of Music Coming Soon

Homewood School of Music is scheduled to open soon.

Allen Barlow took a few minutes to talk with us about his newest project. 

"Myself and Rob Gannon have been the guitar instructors at Fretted Instruments of Birmingham for 16 and 20 years, respectively. I'm a known Birmingham guitarist with a Bachelors of Music in Guitar Performance from Montevallo. Rob Gannon studied at the Musician's Institute in Los Angeles under Paul Gilbert ( Mr. Big and Racer X. ) I've been teaching for 20 years. I've also been a lead guitarist for the Black Jacket Symphony concerts such as: Are You Experienced, Dark Side of the Moon, Hotel California, Rumours, The Doors, Let It Bleed, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, and Abbey Road. I've been performing throughout the Southeast for 20 years...everything from acoustic duos in pubs to jazz for the Governor."

Barlow enthusiastically expressed his gratitude to Fretted Instruments for all his years there, while simultaneously expressing his excitement for the future.
"The mission of the school is to take some of the world class talent in this city, pool it together and provide Birmingham a central channel for finding the best teachers in our region. The school has 6 studios and a room for classes, clinics, and workshops. But it will be bigger than the location. We are serving as a "teaching agency" to help talented individuals find students. We have "off location teachers" in Alabaster, Tuscaloosa, Pinson and Cahaba Heights. We're offering lessons in guitar, bass, piano, voice, strings, drums, woodwinds, and brass.

"We expect to hire more people. We would like to encourage anyone who is gifted in the area, not only in musical education, but those who have a heart for enriching the lives of their students through music, to contact us. We will be renting the studios to anyone who has as few as 1 student up to a full schedule of lessons. I've been teaching 60 private lessons a week for at least 10 years. I'd teach more but I moonlight as a performer. Rob Gannon has kept a schedule of 75 students per week for even longer."

Homewood School of Music is scheduled to open it's doors on September 4th. It will be located at 1736 Oxmoor Road.

The website, which is currently under construction,  is scheduled to be online by that time as well.

URL: Http://HomewoodSchoolofMusic.com

Email: Homewoodschoolofmusic@gmail.com

Saturday, August 25, 2012

BFP BF'ing-D Music Industry Night

BFP BF'ing-D Music Industry Night is coming up at Bottletree. Any bands we're working with check out the discussion in BFP Backstage. We need to get your merch if you want us to sell it. This is a networking party. ALL area musicians are invited. ALL music fans are invited. There will be drink specials and comments will be solicited about bands and the direction of the local music scene. The bands
want you to hear them and they want to hear you. The end result of this party will be the creation of a BFP Music print version, a new direction in local music coverage, heavily backed and supported by local musicians. Please contact me if you're an area musician and this interests you. Rock on! Details to follow.

Steel for Brains - Voiceless Noise: An Interview with Russian Circles

The premise is simple. The execution? The antithesis of anything simplistic. Three guys. Three instruments. A sound that at once crushes and transcends the listener - Russian Circles has been around for a while not doing the same thing necessarily but retaining their signature, bombastic sound combing elements of prog rock with shoegaze with punk and even elements of psychedelia. I recently sat down with bassist, Brian Cook, to discuss the ins and outs of the band and how they, for a lack of better terminology, pull it off:

From where Russian Circles started out to now how do you see yourselves as a band and the progression of your music?
I don’t know. That’s a hard one for me to answer, because I wasn’t in the band originally. Colin DeKuiper was the original bass player in the band, and he was on the first album, Enter. But as someone that watched and toured and saw the band in that incarnation, I came into the band as a fan and was really excited about what they were doing just because I thought it was a kind of amalgamation of a lot of the things I liked. I mean, it had the sort of proggy elements of Yes and more modern stuff like Mars Volta, but it was still kind of driven by that Chicago touch and go kind of post-punk sound. Don Caballero and others - I mean they weren’t a Chicago band, but I feel like they were always kind of affiliated with that city because of their label. I liked that sort of combination. I mean, now I feel like, ever since I’ve been on board, and been around longer, I feel like – and maybe it’s because I’m too entrenched in it – but I just don’t see the sort of comparisons as recently anymore probably because I’m too involved. I think of where the band is now, and I don’t have a frame of reference. We just run on what sounds good and sounds fresh to us.

On that note, for this last release, what was the collective goal or thought process for the band going into Empros? What did you guys see on the canvas?
You know, when we were in the practice space, there wasn’t a specific idea. We’ve never approach a song with the idea that it was going to go in a specific direction. Every song is a blank canvas. It’s not like we see the picture we’re going to put on it. It’s more of a stream of consciousness exercise – throwing it down and seeing what works. So it’s more…abstract expressionist. Whatever works there and resonates with us – that’s where we’re going. We’re not going for an image so much as we’re going for a gut-level, emotional response on our end.
With instrumental rock or metal, there’s so much that can go wrong – it can be derivative – it can be stagnant, but it seems like you guys are carving out these melodies and these harmonies out of this dissonance – this noise. It’s chaotic and also it’s completely and utterly organized at the same time. How do you pull that off? 
I think part of it just comes from there’s a balance between the three of us where we’re all sort of stubborn, driven people with our own distinct ideas – our own sort of mutual respect but also a desire to make things interesting on our end. I think a lot of times it’s easy to fall into one of two traps. One being when you have a bunch of players in a band who are just really excited to showboat, overplay, and try to bust out all the tricks over the course of one riff. Or the exact opposite where it’s all about creating one sort of unified sound. And there’s not anything necessarily wrong with either one of those approaches, because there’s great bands that do both things – great bands where you have all players going ballistic at the same time. You know a band like Hella or something where it’s just complete oversaturation – hyper-musicianship. Or on the adverse end, totally reductionist like Sunn O))) – probably the most extreme example – where it’s just like, “Okay…we’re gonna play just three notes for the next five minutes.

[Both Laugh]

Either one of those approaches is cool, you know. Unfortunately there’s a lot of bands who try to do those things and doing either extreme is really hard to pull off. I think we try to find some sort of middle ground where we’re all doing something that’s compelling to us as individuals but still making it unified is kind of interesting. I was just thinking about this band, Akimbo, that’s from Seattle where I live – they’re breaking up – their playing their last show on Saturday. They’re a trio and one of the things I’ve always loved about them is they have a great drummer, a great bass player, a great guitar player, and they all know how to lock in together, but they’re all interesting players on their own – the bass line is really interesting, the guitar playing is really interesting, and the drumming is phenomenal, and that’s what I’ve always liked in bands. Whether it’s something area-rock sized like Rush or something like The Minutemen or Unwound. You can isolate any one instrument, and it’s still compelling and interesting, or you can throw it in with the entire group, and it sort of blends itself to one sound. If you can find that balance – to me, that’s the sweet spot. I mean, that’s what we strive to do. It works individually and from a unified perspective. You’re like “Oh shit, listen to what the drummer’s doing there.”
I think you guys definitely achieve that equilibrium.
Thanks, man.

The atmosphere of the show – the fact that there isn’t a spotlight on anyone person. It’s just you three guys playing and achieving this balance is what people see.
Well, I think ultimately that’s what we’re aiming to do. I mean, going back to what you were asking about this last record. The goal is always to make something that works on that level. How successful our songs are – how successful the music is largely depends on that balance. And I think this time what we were wanting to do was make the record about the three of us, whereas the record prior we brought in a lot of instrumentation – we brought in horns and other things – it was really fun to make a record that was grandiose – a very layered thing. But as much as I love that record as a document – as a finished sort of stand alone piece – it wasn’t really a fun record to try and perform live, because it kind of strayed from the path of what the three of us try to achieve when we’re playing together. I think ultimately we’re a band that likes to perform live, and we like to be able to do what we do on record live. As a band we want to be able to try new things and so we were able to make this record, kind of blown out, big production. And with Empros it was sort of a deliberate step to say “Okay, it’s just going to be the three of us. Everything we do on this record we have to be able to pull off live.”

During the 90s it seems like metal went through this, honestly, terrible phase, and now it seems as if metal is garnering that respect back again – the respect it had in the 60s and 70s. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s really easy to look back on any period of time and say that a particular genre of music took a dive. I mean, you can look at the 80s and like every fucking rock artist from the 70s that carried over sucked. The Rolling Stones, you know. But I think a lot of amazing things came out of the 80s like whether it was American hardcore or the sort of beginning of what’s defined as “indie rock.” With metal, I was never…I was never a big fan of the British wave of heavy metal. I feel bad saying it. Haha. I mean, that period of metal – I respect it. I just don’t listen to it as a fan. But I mean, you had thrash metal that came out during that time. And I love that era of metal. Like the early thrash bands. So when the 90s came around it was like thrash took a hit and sort of became out of vogue. But then you had the sort of early black metal stuff then which I think a lot of people were scratching their heads over at first, myself included. But I think a lot of interesting stuff spawned out of that. A lot of hardcore bands, bands that were from the punk scene from the 80s came in during the 90s and basically did their own thing. Whether it’s the Melvins who did their own heavy, sludgy thing or if you’re even talking about grind bands like Assuck or even crusty hardcore bands like His Hero’s Gone. It wasn’t metal in the traditional sense, but I think it was still bringing that sort of heavy, blown out, angst-driven, atonal, distorted, ugly music. I think metal needed that as a sort of resurgence to like recalibrate. I mean, we have all these metal bands that all of a sudden blew up into the big time – like Metallica and what not, and they kind of lost the things that made them special and they took this new generation of listeners to basically rewrite the history of the genre.

I’ve always thought of the 90s as the kind of enema to flush out the shit music, and here, now, we’ve got these great metal bands who are getting their platform. It’s not about showmanship or even building an audience – it’s more about the art itself.
I think so many of the bands right now that are the, for me, torchbearers of modern metal: whether that’s a band like Mastodon or Agalloch. I mean, you know, even a band like Lamb of God. It’s all dudes – I mean a lot of the guys involved with that – my impression with that is that these are guys who grew up listening to hardcore and metal and punk along with other things and just basically started playing and said “Fuck it, this is what I love doing, this is what we’re gonna play, and we’re not gonna hold back.” And their success basically came from that. I mean, we’re talking obviously wildly different levels when we talk Agalloch versus Lamb of God.

[Both laugh]

They all came from playing art spaces and VFW halls and what weren’t what we consider to be “metal” crowds.

Do you guys ever read on tour? What’s your escape?
I try to read on tour, and I have very little success because it’s sort of like…you have a book you’re really into. Like, on this tour, I read the Bob Mould autobiography which is incredible. Or like, I read, all the Girl With the Dragon Tattoos, DaVinci Code, but then I’ll try read something that’s a little more highbrow like our last tour I brought Jean Janet’s Lady of Flowers, some French author’s book from the 1930s and all the beat poets loved it. The book’s fine, but it’s definitely not a page turner [laughs]. I’ve kind of learned that I have to do my sort of pulp/junk food reading on tour and save the James Joyce for when you’re at home.

One last question, man. What do you look for in a venue as far as what Russian Circles try to accomplish with their shows?
I imagine you have a lot of people say the Bottletree, because the Bottletree is actually an incredible venue. They take amazing care of bands. I mean, it’s a good sized venue – especially for a place like Birmingham. You get thirty people in the room, and you’ve got a good show, and a backstage like this? Yeah. [Laughs]. I mean, most of the time it’s like a janitor’s closet.

Like at the VFW?

[Both laugh]

We always look forward to playing here, and I don’t think any band is blowing smoke up Birmingham’s ass when they say they love playing at Bottletree. I’ve read interviews from bands that aren’t even in Birmingham, and there’s so many that are like “We love the Bottletree.” Black Mountain just said the other day that this was their favorite place, and those guys are used to playing to 1300 or more up in Seattle. It’s funny. Every time we play here, I’m like, “Man, this stage is tight,” but I know the Melvins have been up there with two drummers, so I’m not going to complain. I mean it’s a venue that’s run by dudes who are in bands. They know how it works. I mean, I think of the main issues with American venues as opposed to those in Europe, and I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about European venues from other bands you’ve talked to is that so many of the venues are volunteer run, arts-driven, community centers. They kind of function on a level like this. The people that are working at the venue are there because they have a passion for the music. I know a lot of the people that work, and they recognize that it’s a pretty special place. A very crucial difference between playing a place like the Bottletree and the Knitting Factory in like LA or New York. The one in LA doesn’t exist anymore, so they can go fuck themselves. I mean, when you’ve got a bunch of people that are there just to get a paycheck it’s a drag, man. Here, you’ve got that sense of community. It’s just more fun to play somewhere where you can have a conversation with the people who work there, have a drink with the promoter – you know, just comfort. We all grew up playing basements and shows run by our friends. It’s always about making a scene happen – a community.

Thanks to Brian and the guys for the interview. A few things: if you’ve not listened to Russian Circles, start here. It’s my personal favorite song of theirs, so I have zero shame in linking it up. If you’ve got a favorite feel free to comment. Also, if you’ve yet to catch any show, metal or whatever, at the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama, you’ve yet to experience what’s considered by many to be one of the best venues anywhere.

This is the part where I whore myself out: if you have a facebook page, follow me at facebook.com/steelforbrains. If you’re liking these interviews then follow me on tumblr. I assure you there’s a hell of a lot more to come. Thanks again to Russian Circles for a great show and thanks to Bottletree for keeping good music in Birmingham.  Also, thank you to my friends at BFP Music for their support and for making music and music journalism what it should be - free of bullshit. Until next time. Support good metal. Support good music.

Cheers. - D


Jonathan Dick is a writer/musician from Birmingham, Alabama.  He is an award-winning writer of poetry/prose in addition to being an avid metalhead.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wilder Adkins: Oak & Apple

by Lee Waites

The morning air was nice and cool, a pleasant mist was drifting around. It doesn't help that I live in the woods surrounded by the peace of nature. I put on my downloaded copy of Wilder Adkins's Oak & Apple and proceeded to be called home. The way Adkins handles the message in these songs is the same way he handles the guitar. It is distinctively delicate, purposeful and beautiful.

Adkins's voice, self described as "drony" combined with the soft, sultry woodwind vocals of Gabrielle Jones, female accompaniment on most of the songs is perfect for the simple message. The complexity, not one of vanity, is buried deep within the spirit and wrapped in the essence of the message. The performances drip like honey and sway like trees in the wind, in a union of nature and spirituality. Each note is crisp and cleanly played  and the rhythm of the nuanced fluctuations, accents and stresses is inspired and near perfect. 

The lighter, crisp voice of Kaylor Otwell, female vocalist on track four, "He is Risen," likewise fits comfortably with Adkins's own...complimentary, lilting, floating side by side, never in conflict. 

"It started pretty small," says Adkins. "I was just going to make a short hymns EP between recording albums of my original stuff, but it turned into a full length project. I've always really liked old hymns because the words are so rich. I think this is a special project because these songs do hold a lot of meaning for me. A lot of people have told me that this album is very peaceful and I'm glad to hear it. I don't like a lot of modern hymns albums which basically sound like U2 singing old hymns or something." 

The album is obviously a work of faith for Adkins who wrote tracks 1, 4 and 7 and modified the words on track 9, "What Wondrous Love." 

"I took the melody of the original and wrote new words to make it into a story song of the prodigal son..." says Adkins. "Abbeville (track 3) was pulled from the Sacred Harp hymnbook, which I don't know if you're familiar with sacred harp singing, it's this old tradition of singing without instruments, and the music is written out with shape-notes"   

Adkins presents here a wonderful offering, obviously an outward expression of his soul. Its beauty is so inspiring it almost captured this old Deist in its grip. I had to share it with you. But beware it might just transport you into a magic world where you're happy all the time and surrounded by friends. And don't be surprised when some bearded man, shrouded in grace sits beside you and offers you a cup of wine.  Thanks Wilder.      


Also performing on the album:

  • Nicole MacLean (Piano-track 2)
  • Brent Kendrick (drums-track 10)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sharbaby Hits the UK: Pre-Tour Interview

Currently Grooving to: Leeris Perth (check it out)

I am currently listening to this. I am grooving on it. I now share this with you. Check it out.

Leeris Perth is Kevin Lehner’s experimental solo music project with contributions from other musicians.

Since the start of his solo project, Leeris Perth has worked with various artists around the country while living in Boston, New York, and currently his hometown of Birmingham, AL.

Leeris Perth's music has often been described as sounding very eclectic. With the style changing from song to song as demonstrated with the new release of his self titled EP.

Leeris Perth is a collective of music, art, poetry and other creative outlets which are born from observing, describing and changing the world around us.


released 05 August 2012
Kevin Lehner: Guitars, Piano & Vocals
David Somerall: Bass
Matt Bryant: Drums
Brooks Davis: Lead Guitar on "Stop Back"
Alora King: Vocals on "The Drifter & The Pusher"
Ryan Broda: Synth on "The Drifter & The Pusher"

All songs written by Kevin Lehner

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Kevin Peek at Secret Library Recordings in Birmingham, AL

Produced by David Somerall

Album artwork by Payton Roberts


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Interview with Stuart McNair on His UK Tour

Beauty in Agony - An Interview With Agalloch

Beauty in Agony - An Interview with Agalloch

It was something to be seen. Portland, Oregon metal behemoths, Agalloch, did not so much shred or destroy like so many other metal bands. No. Agalloch did what they do best both with their music and their live performances. In a rather short period of time, Agalloch managed to take those in attendance at the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama to a wholly different place - a place where the agony and despondency of mankind is voiced through the echoes of crushing riffs and absolutely gorgeous melodies. Even for those who had not before allowed themselves the opportunity, the entirety of that small venue was transported, if only briefly, to a place created with the craftmanship and sheer tenacity of the band Agalloch.

After the show, I had a chance to sit with John Haughm (lead vocals/guitar) and Don Anderson (guitar/vocals) from the band. Here’s their take:

With Faustian Echoes, what compelled you guys, as artists, to go in that direction?

Don: You go. [to John]

John: There were a myriad of things, really…a lot of coincidences came up. When we were coming back from Israel, we had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, and one of our favorite places in that airport is called the Goethe bar – you know, the author of Faust. So we were actually sitting there having breakfast talking about doing an EP, like more of a black metal EP and so that was one coincidence. And then another one was, I was watching the Svankmejer film “Faust”, and I started to realize ‘Wow, there’s a lot of really great samples in this film that we could totally use to really make an interesting piece. And then I was reading Faust – because it [the film] actually inspired me to read the actual Faust poem, and I realized there were a lot of passages, at least in the English translation, that were very similar to my lyrics – you know very…

Don: Agallochian

[All laugh]

John: Well yeah, you know, like very damning towards mankind and that kind of thing. And so it just really fell together and, in fact, Don was actually teaching a class which actually went in line with one of the samples in the Svankmejer film about language.

Don: Well, you know…the whole discussion of language as being inferior or unable to represent human emotions and feelings and always failing at that is a standard component of post-modernism and post-structuralism.

Okay, I’m going to assume you’re a teacher. What do you teach?

Don: I’m an English professor.

[Laughs] Well you and I have something in common. But back to the idea of language – the lyrics: one of my closest friends, in our discussion of Agalloch’s lyrics, used the terminology “dark poetry” – a kind of a poetry of the adverse in his description of the band’s lyrics. On that note, what are your feelings as far as when you look at how metal is defined or, kind of misconceived into this stereotype by fans and even the press, because of a lack of understanding or lack of knowledge, even?

John: Well it depends on the region. I mean, in Europe, metal is just as popular as pop music – it’s just as revered as anything else. I just think it’s a cultural thing, really. I mean, in the States it’s a bit different, but it’s changing. I mean, it seems like metal is being a little more respected…again. You know, obviously this goes in cycles. If you were talk about this in the nineties [laughs] – it would have been a completely different story.

Don: Things have loosened because you know short-haired people. [All laugh] You know, metal was strange in the early 90s.

Jon: [Laugh] Or even in the 80s.

Don: Yeah, I mean, we all cut our hair. Things like that. Having too much clean tone guitar parts – where if you had a clean tone guitar part or, god forbid, an acoustic guitar – it was like Metallica’s Fight Fire with Fire was a sort of joke that was destroyed by brutality coming after it. Sepultura was good at this too. But…John and I have always been heavily influenced by so many other forms of music besides metal. And I’ve always found syntheses between those other forms. Like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and neo-folk. And we felt like well, this is all dark music – and even some of the instrumental techniques are very similar to black metal. It’s seems seamless to integrate them.

John: I mean, you can find darkness in a Loreena McKennitt album that’s darker than any black metal.

Don: We just always absorbed all kinds of influences, and just stir it in a pot, and it comes out like Agalloch.

So, where are you guys headed now, from a musical perspective? I mean, a track like Faustian Echoes is one I’m still absorbing even weeks after listening to it for the first time.

Don: We don’t really know. It’s a wonderful period of potentiality. We’re not even sure. I kind of like the idea of putting myself in a place where I don’t exactly know where I’m going, because that’s when it becomes exciting – the music becomes – I mean, we’ve been together for sixteen years. John and I have done the same thing since I was eighteen years old and it’s always that potential for something new and different. Once it becomes a recipe or something like that, it becomes boring.

I think that’s where that respect for metal that you mentioned, John, is coming from. I think it’s due in part because there’s not a movement to compartmentalize yourself as artists. There’s more of a movement to be eclectic.

John: I put Agalloch more in line with artists like Current 93 or Rush who, you know, just do it their own way. They’re always putting out something interesting, and there always just pushing boundaries within their own style.

Don: Yeah, I think bands like Rush or King Crimson are big influences musically. Not just musically, either, you know, they have phases. They have a few records in each phase. I mean, you think of Van Gogh during his blue period or whatever…you have a period where you’re doing these things, and that’s what I like to see with Agalloch. I don’t know what phase we’re in now. It’s not Pale Folklore. It’s not The Mantle. But I like to think we have the longetivity and the creativity to continue evolving.

How difficult is it to maintain that signature Agalloch sound with each album being so inherently different from its predecessor?

John: The thing about it is – we don’t try. We don’t try to make a different album. We really just sit down and write. I think the signature is just in my style. My sort of songwriting I put forth and then we collaborate on that. I mean that – you know, the red thread. I have those certain techniques that I always do, but we always put those techniques into different situations where we can express ourselves differently and have different feelings and different aesthetics.
Don: I think John’s a very good melody writer. I’m not a good melody writer. You can draw a straight line from the melody in Hallways of Enchanted Ebony all the way to the melody that opens Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires. Those sort of weird post-punk melodies. And that’s always been consistent. And, of course, the effects. We’re big into using every color we can find. I think we’re a band that paints with a wide palate – I mean we’ve got nylon strings, acoustic string, etc. – they’re always there – when we want to use them, and we never shy away from the coloring.

When we’re talking about aesthetics and painting with a wide palate – how important is the atmosphere of the show itself to the band?

John: Well it’s just as important as the lyrics, it’s just as important as the sound. I mean, it’s just as important as anything else to me. The thing I hate the most is seeing a band I really want to see and they get up in jeans and t-shirts and just play. I like bands that transform an otherwise boring venue into another world. And we try to do that. I mean, some venues don’t let us use the fog. We’ve got the incense and we have the banners – it just depends on the stage. You know, we have a lot of things to pull out of our hat to make the experience for the fans – to make them really absorb what’s happening.

Don: I think the biggest or one of the biggest influences on Agalloch is and has been cinema. And in cinema you have this phrase called mise en scene – you take a frame or a shot, and you see that it’s really well-balanced, and well, we do the same thing musically with our show and placing objects on stage. And it’s like when we come onto the stage one by one, I come into my little space, and I have my incense here – I can smell it, I have fog here, the amp starts to feedback, and then it’s like I’m just entering a whole other world.

It’s transcendent.

[Both]: It is.

John: Yes, exactly.

Don: I even have the ritual of taking my glasses off.

[All laugh]

Don: You know, I go from English professor to Agalloch guitar player. [Laughs] It’s just helpful for us and the audience.

As far as venues go – where you’ve played, what’s crucial to you as a band? What do you desire or look for?

John: Big stage. Big sound on stage is very important. We were actually talking about this today.

Don: It sounds so important because the music we play is dynamic – the quiet parts, the loud parts, the clean parts, lots of guitar, just different harmonies. It’s just really important to have good sound on stage. If it’s crappy, we’ll just fuck it and be punk rock and go through.

John: I really love this place.

Well, in my mind, it speaks volumes that you made such an incredibly small venue seem absolutely anthemic.

John: Well, that’s really the point of what we try to do.

Don: You know we were just talking today when we saw the venue, and we were like ‘Oh, man. That’s really small,’ but that’s a change. It’s always nice to come to a small comfy place where the people are nice and the people are courteous, and I mean…we even got to watch Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” here backstage.

[All laugh]

That’s important. You have to have Lynch here in the South.

Don: Well, exactly. With the trailer and the South. Yeah [Laughs]

What do you guys read on tour?

John: I try to sleep. [Laughs]

Don: I do have a couple of books. I do both. Two kinds of literature. I have James Baldwin, who’s one of my absolute favorite writers, and then I’m reading Giovanni’s Room. That’s serious reading when I want to confront questions of existence in the absence of god. When I want to just read something light, I have Anthony Bourdain’s book. If I don’t want to focus too hard, I can read about food and travel.

I assume you guys have eaten some of our Southern food, then.

John: Oh yeah. Chicken and waffles.Don: Yeah, we had chicken and waffles in Raleigh – I don’t know if that’s Southern enough – if that’s considered the South. [Laughs]

Oh, hey. If it’s any kind of waffle combination, you’ve officially crossed that cultural barrier, and you’re in the South.

[All laugh]
Thanks to my friends at Bottletree and The Birmingham Freepress  for their support and, most of all, the kindest regards to Agalloch for being so incredibly gracious and insightful.

Lastly, if you support journalism and the press as it should be then support The Birmingham Freepress or your local corporate-free news.  These people support actual journalism and not sensationalistic bullshit.  Support good metal.  Support good music.  Cheers.



Jonathan Dick is a writer/musician from Birmingham, Alabama.  He is an award-winning writer of poetry and prose in addition to being a metalhead.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Steel for Brains

Exploring the Brains behind the metal

Here’s to bucking trends and traditions and just doing it different.  Here’s to avoiding cliched labeling and simply being a group of musical artists creating something incredibly unordinary.  Here’s Pallbearer.  The absolutely transcendent album Sorrow and Extinction from Arkansas metal musicians, Pallbearer, was released earlier this year (February 2012) to much critical acclaim.  It’s kind of an odd statement, or at least to me in my years of metal fandom, to hear that metal groups (who aren’t Mastodon) are garnering the kind of attention and critical brow-raising that these guys are.  The fact is, metal and music are changing.  The way we approach these two entities is changing. It’s this writer’s opinion that artists such as Pallbearer are one of a growing number of metal groups who are simply giving the heaviest and essentially smartest “fuck you” to the industry and the concept of “how it’s always been.”  I recently had an email conversation with bassist, Joseph Rowland, to discuss these and other aspects of the musical spectrum.

Do you or any of the other band members read while on tour?  If so, what books or type of lit?
We generally all do.  We love to read when we’re not engaged in some sort of ridiculous nonstop in-joke discussion (which happens regularly in the van and elsewhere). I enjoy bringing along horror or science fiction anthologies because they can generally be digested in smaller doses, although we have some slightly longer runs coming up like our tour with Royal Thunder and Samothrace that will warrant bringing along a few things to read. I generally scour second hand stores for books, so most of my reading material comes from there and is just pulp paperback stuff from the 70’s or even earlier. I’m also into a few compilations I’ve found of weird folklore, ghost stories and phenomenon. Some of the ideas set forth there bring a bit of inspiration even if it’s not directly evidenced in Pallbearer, it’s just what I’m into personally. Brett has a Kindle so he has a variety of things to read via that device, he reads a lot of hard sci-fi and non-fiction. Devin probably reads the most most intellectually-stimulating material out of any of us because he’s really into philosophy. We also all really enjoy comics and graphic novels, so we generally have a trade paperbacks circulating the van at any point in time.

It seems as if Pallbearer came out of nowhere with this release that absolutely crushed metal fans and critics alike.  It’s hard to compartmentalize the record, and that’s always a good thing.  What were the band’s thoughts going into the studio, and were there any apprehensions about being a metal band from Arkansas and getting automatically labeled? 
Well, at the time we were going into the studio, we weren’t really concerned at all with anyone’s conceptions about the music or any apprehension about getting lost in the shuffle or whatever, we just had the singular goal of getting it put to tape. I think in retrospect, being from Arkansas has probably been more beneficial than anything; I think people have probably been taken by surprise and that’s worked in our favor. Of course, living here, there’s been a scene of crushingly heavy music for years that hasn’t really risen out of the underground. Whether it has any consequence or not, it’s still nice to know that we’ve made an impact in a relatively short amount of time. 

The metal genre is so incredibly vast, and there’s a conscious effort among bands and fans alike to make sure the lines are clearly drawn between each subgenre. Why do think that is and where would you put Pallbearer in all of that?

I think it’s an easy thing to do, and something that seems to have mostly sprung from the rise of internet fanaticism about music. I think a lot of our strength lies in not pigeonholing what we do. Really, where’s the enjoyment in trying to strictly categorize your own music? We do enjoy coming up with fake genre names though here and there, like brutal ambient, or power silence.  It’s exciting that a broad spectrum of people have been able to find something to associate with in our music, since we’re not just trying to write something aimed at a particular subgroup of people or anything. We channel a specific essence of music, I feel like we’re just a vessel to let this music come into our realm of reality. As time has gone on I’ve found less and less need to try to categorize what we’re doing. It’s just heavy music, and I at least have a hope that people can feel that we’re inspired by things all across music itself and don’t try to just stuff all our ideas into someone’s preconceived “box” of what doom should be or whatever it may be. 

What defines a great venue to you and the band?
There’s a lot of things, I think, that can really make a great place. Sound engineers who knows what they’re doing and are willing to work with us on getting minor things just right are a plus. It seems like a lot of sound engineers have an ego and can be difficult to communicate with, so finding those amiable ones who enjoy their job and want you to sound your best are definitely awesome. Apart from that, I like to play places where the audience can get a good experience. Recently we had a video interview where something we stated might have been misconstrued a bit about having a disconnect with the audience; we definitely drift off into our own zone while playing, but I would like for fans of the band to have a good, chilled out time with good drinks and a solid atmosphere. We’ve played everything from the nastiest punk house shows to massive venues and it’s all about the atmosphere. I want people who are into us and are there to enjoy the music to be able to slip away into another place just like we do. That’s ideal to me.

What’s typically on the menu for Pallbearer when the band is touring?
It kind of depends on where we are. Barbecue and pizza are definitely two staples that we generally seek out if we have the time, and thus far we’ve managed to grab some pretty stellar meals of each out on the road. We’re also huge fans of the fast food chain Whataburger. We don’t have them anywhere in Arkansas (except for one right by the Texas border in Texarkana) and it’s our favorite fast food place without a doubt. One thing we love about touring is checking out local food joints if we have the time. Anybody that has suggestions on killer food when we’re on tour is always much appreciated!

What kind of, if any, music does the band listen to personally on tour and off?
We all listen to a good bit of the same things, and although we do have some differing tastes on music, things like Pink Floyd Steve Hackett, Camel, and Robin Trower are all high priorities at any point in time. Personally, as I mentioned earlier, I have found myself listening to metal a lot less lately. I mostly listen to 70’s era progressive rock and krautrock/psych type stuff, as well as a lot of Dead Can Dance and Popol Vuh, both of whom I worship and am constantly poring little details of what makes them so great.  Brett is a Godflesh fanatic, and Devin is secretly a blues player at heart I think, he can name tons of awesome blues guitarists that are completely off my radar. 

Metal seems to be making a comeback in the best of ways just in the last few years.  What do you see as the marked difference as what it was in the 90s and early 00s and now?  What’s making it better?
The internet has definitely sparked a lot of that I think, even with the glut of awful music that has surfaced. I recently heard an interview with our friend Mike Scheidt from YOB that summed my feelings in a better way that I could myself; he feels (along with myself and the rest of the band) that we’re nearing a renaissance of creative music rising from the underground into the mainstream, just like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and so many other artists. Just years before, people were listening to industry-crafted bubblegum pop songs, and suddenly there was a boom of unbelievably creative and timeless music that became the mainstream. I am totally on the same wavelength with Mike that as a culture, we are on the cusp of that. I hope to at least see that creative drive become the norm again. People are becoming sick of cookie cutter music made by computers. I think creativity is making a comeback.
No band likes comparisons, or at least that question that asks about influences, but I have to ask what drove or compelled the band from a lyrical standpoint? 
That’s a bit of a difficult question, as Brett writes most of the lyrics and has a deep personal meaning that he will not share with anyone. I contribute some myself and inspiration has come from dreams, and dwelling much on the hardships that we were dealing with at the time of writing the first record. There are many factors that come together into the Pallbearer lyrics and I think it works so much better that they’re something that can be relatable to anyone. They have multiple meanings to us, and I would hope that each person is able to apply them to their own journey though existence on this plane or wherever their consciousness may carry them..
I’m a huge fan of hip-hop, yet there’s so much bullshit I have to sift through to get through to an actual decent musician/group.  I feel like the metal genre is the same.  Why do you think that is, or do you not agree?
I agree. Honestly I find myself listening to very little newer metal unless it’s from a friend, like Chris Bruni, or Dave Adelson of 20 Buck Spin. They certainly have their “ear to the ground” in a sense in a much bigger way than I do, and have shared some killer stuff. More often than not I find myself listening to and seeking out old prog or kraut rock rather than constantly scouring for new current heavy stuff. At the point where I am in my life right now, that just interests me more, even though I will always love metal no matter what, and will always have my mainstays.

With the shortest song (Devoid of Redemption) clocking in at over eight minutes, is Pallbearer that kind of band that expects a certain level of introspection from its listeners?  What was the band’s goal from the outset, and what direction do you see yourselves headed?  
I guess there could be some introspective aspects about the band, but more than that, that just tends to be the way we write. The songs lend themselves to being a bit longer than your average rock song I guess, but I think they just naturally fall around that 8-9 minute mark on their own. We tend to try to edit things down if it feels like a riff or section is overstaying its welcome. We’re definitely not the kind of band that’s just like “let’s just riff out on this maaaan…” It’s much more interesting to keep things moving. In terms of direction, we’re being pulled a few different ways lately. Oddly enough, for the longest time Brett was writing the more progressive, weird and winding riffs and I was the one keeping things grounded with the catchy, simpler parts, but we’ve sort of switched roles more recently. A lot of what we’ve been working on is much more dynamic.
Many thanks to Joseph and the band for giving Loud Thinking a moment of their time.  If you want more info on the band check out their facebook page as well as their main page.  They are currently on tour with Agalloch and Taurus with their next stop being right here in my hometown of Birmingham at The Bottletree Cafe.  We’ll see you guys at the show.  Thanks again.
If you support journalism and the press as it should be - local and unaffiliated with corporate bullshit, then please support myself and my friends at The Birmingham Free Press or visit their Facebook page here.  No band ever got anywhere without hometown support.  Support good metal.  Support good music.  Cheers.  

Jonathan Dick is a writer/musician from Birmingham, Alabama. He is an award-winning writer of poetry and prose in addition to being a metalhead.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Check to the right of this post for tickets in our upcoming events widget.


Aug 12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
The WorkPlay Theatre
Birmingham, AL

Tickets on sale now! Bar opens at 4pm and doors open at 6:30 if sound check is complete. This is an 18+ show!
Note: a $3.00 charge will be collected at the door from all ticket holders under the age of 21.  

No one under 18 will be admitted without someone 18+ with them. 

Tickets are General Admission and seating is first come first serve to 21+.

Scott Grant: Gemini

By Lee Waites

Scott Grant currently hails from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Gemini was recorded, produced and engineered at Wild Honey recording in Birmingham, mastered by Denial Recording Labs in Los Angeles, CA.    

Gemini fits somewhere in the psychedelic/70s rock zone. It's clean and crisp with a very well produced sound, spread out,  properly layered and complex, ranging high without a deep bass tone. It makes me want to take a ride in my jacked up Charger, arm out the window, cruising the strip (sans the drive by shootings of today).

I won't go song for song, but there is a slight variation swinging in by "Beautiful," the fourth track on the album. It begins to shift into less of a 70s tribute album, transforming into something, well...more personal. Overall the album remains reminiscent of 70s pop rock, love songs and ballads, though it does have a more mature quality than your average offering from that era.

"Song for You" is the only song I felt out of place on the album, tending slightly toward 90s trendy neo-folk rock, not exhibiting the intricacies or production depth found everywhere else on the album. The void was present in the background and the overall feel was different. Not that its a bad song by any means. And this is an overly intricate and picky observation perhaps.      

But the next track "Nevermind" with its clean guitar licks and upbeat vocals brings it back around. And "Memorial," after that, drops in a slight jazz beat and feel that keeps the flow of the album interesting and rewarding.              

The last three tracks illustrate the sound stew nature of this album. It's as if Grant is playing with different influences and sounds "Sunshine Serenade" brings to bear Bonham drum beats, softened but undeniable, and pleasantly distorted guitar which melds with what have to be Lenny Kravitz tribute vocals, which themselves are tributes to Jimmy Hendrix, which leads us back to the era of music.

Gemini is a great introduction from Scott Grant. 

Using the tried and true method of judgement of "Do I enjoy listening to it?" I say yes.

In summary, I believe the overall inter-connectivity of the songs is very intentional and well thought out. The album should be listened to in its entirety to get the most out of it, to catch the purposeful layout of sounds. Though stumbling slightly on track seven, the music flows with a smooth progression from beginning to end.

Grant isn't trying to selfishly create a new genre of music. He's playing songs that express himself and provide the listener with joy. Listen for yourself and then you'll know if everything I just said was bullshit or not. That's really the best way to enjoy music.

Scott Grant: Gemini