Posted by: Necci – Aug 21, 2012
If you didn't attend the GWAR-B-Q this weekend, you missed out. Two stages, free Redbull, hotties left and right, and, of course, GWAR were all highlights of the day. While some people were hoping this would be this year’s Best Friends Day, the organizers did a great job of making the GWAR-B-Q its own entity. Make your plans for next year! Read on for more music goodness.
photo by Sounds of RVA
Bearstorm is a progressive death metal band gearing up to record a follow-up album to the hit concept album, Horibilis. The guys are playing a show at Wonderland this Saturday (8/25) with Imperial Order (Album Release Show!), and Bloody Crackdown, who are described as "Somewhere between the overheated anger of punk and the theatrical exuberance of fellow Richmonders GWAR." For $3.50 you gain entrance to this illicit affair PLUS a copy of Imperial Order’s new EP! Click here for more information. Here are some questions and answers that will help you get to know the REAL Bearstorm.
What brought Bearstorm together, and has it changed your life?
Michael Edwards (vocals): I love telling this story. My friends always come up to me and ask me, "Where the fuck did you meet these guys? They are great!" I was about month out of a break up with another band that I had played with in the past (Unorthodox). Anyone who loves to play music knows the feeling you get when you aren't playing it anymore... it sucks. I figured I'd check out craigslist, for shits and giggles, for a band that I figured would be a shitty throw away band but to keep my vocals "warm" for another project (Xenocide) that was in the works. Well, I met up with Jay at his house along with the rest of the guys and they all seemed pretty damn cool. Kelsey carpooled all of us out to our old practice spot in southside. At the time I believe there were only two songs that were solid and two songs in the works. So, I sit back and hang out and try to get a feel for what they are trying to do. In the midst of this I'm sitting back in my head going, "Aw shit! These guys are actually pretty damn good! I don't know if I can be as vocally diverse as they may want." But I didn't come all the way out there to stand around with my dick in my hand and be nervous. I came to play some metal. And that's what I did. We've been playing together ever since. And of course it has changed my life. I get to learn and play with skilled and talented musicians. If that doesn't change you and help you to become better at your craft then you're messing up. I've learned a lot from these guys.
Kelsey Miller (guitar): Bearstorm definitely started out being Jay’s project. I had been playing with him in a country band called The Hotdamns for about 3 years when that band went on a bit of a hiatus, and Jay said he had most of 4 songs written for a metal project and he asked if I’d be interested. He promised strange time signatures and elaborate, 10-minute conceptual songs, and sealed the deal with the name Bearstorm. I listened to the riffs, learned them at Jay’s apartment, and we eventually met up with Patrick and worked out the transitions to get the 4 songs from our first EP playable. We tried out a second guitarist and a singer that didn’t work out and eventually met Mike and Greg who were perfect fits. There has been a transition throughout the past year or two where we’ve taken Jay’s project and developed it into the band Bearstorm. It is now more of a collaborative musical creation with five people writing songs in the style that branched out from Jay’s original concept. Personally, the band has greatly improved my guitar playing both technically and creatively. I had never played metal before Bearstorm; I have played in orchestras, punk bands, jazz bands, and country bands, but this was my introduction to metal guitar. So I had to spend a lot of hours figuring out sweeping and tapping and learning all of those metal specific techniques that were new to me.
Greg Bates (guitar): I was invited into Bearstorm by Patrick DeRoche, our drummer. I used to live with him and most of the industrial band Synthetic Nightmare, and when Jay and Kelsey started putting this band together he tapped me as a possible guitarist. It's definitely changed my life – my guitar skills have gone way up and I've met a whole bunch of amazing people in the Richmond metal scene.
Jay Lindsey (bass): I’ve wanted to be in a metal band since I was like 8 or 9. Patrick and I were in a not-great punk band [Vulgar Remark] together about ten years ago (jesus), and we were always trying to prog up the songs. And Kelsey was in the Hotdamns with me, and so when I finally got the balls to really try and write a metal album, I knew it had to be those guys. We found Mike on Craigslist, and Patrick brought Greg in. In one way it didn’t change my life because music has been such a big part of my day for a lot of years, so collaborating and practicing are like habits to me now. In another way it did because, with metal, I actually have to practice at home.
Patrick DeRoche (drums): JAY MADE ME DO IT!
When writing songs for the new album, what were you thinking about or going for?
Michael: For Bearstorm songs I generally take a lot of nature and folk lore into account. Also, we wanted to have more songs on this album with shorter than 10 minute lengths. It'll give the listener more variety and chance to hear the different writing styles of everyone.
Kelsey: For the new album I have basically tried to write parts that are technically challenging but accessible. I have been trying to take some cues from the orchestra pieces I learned growing up. I think there is a lot of really interesting and intense classical music that transitions really well into metal once you add a good amount of distortion. The last song on the new album has an intro that I essentially stole from a Respeghi Orchestral piece and the form of the song is based on a Bach solo violin Partita. I feel like the metal genre is very accepting of the nerdiness of classical music’s complexity, you know, as long as there is someone growling overtop of it, and that’s where Mike comes in.
Jay: Like the first record (Horribilis), this one (Americanus) tells a story. Concept records are kinda dorky, but for me writing a bunch of independent songs is like filming a bunch of unrelated scenes. I’d rather see a movie. The record is about the North American continent, from its perspective. So you know, it’s born and evolves, and before DeSoto (representing racism, industrial exploitation, slavery, and environmental degradation) shows up everything is pretty rad; animals run around doing metal shit. So the first half of the record was a way to get nerdy about evolution and rivers and forests and possums. The second half is basically the continent watching us kill ourselves. It hates what we are doing, but it takes comfort in knowing that we’ll be gone soon (a thousand years is pretty quick for a landmass). So the record is bleak and misanthropic, which isn’t how I feel most of the time. But sometimes it can be overwhelming when I read about, say, mountaintop removal coal mining, or deforestation, and you realize that we’ve learned nothing from a thousand years of fucking everything up. To my morality, it’s reprehensible – there are people who swear the entire world was created for man to exploit in whatever way he wants. So it’s like the continent saying “I told you there were limits, and now your turn is over.”
Greg: The song I wrote the music and words for, “White Beast,” is about possums, so I'm trying really hard to write the most metal song ever written on the subject of possums. They're actually a metal as hell animal.
What are you doing this weekend?
Michael: Well, I was going to go to the GWAR B-Q but work put an end to that for me. I'll probably just play music, drink beer, and work on my house. The usual.
Kelsey: I am going to a friend’s wedding on Saturday and working the rest of the time. Although, I think the better answer is “I’m going to the GWAR-B-Q,” so I’ll just say that.
Greg: Taking care of my one-month old son Cooper, going to hit up some thrift stores and the farmer's market like a good hipster.
Jay: I’m going to GWAR-B-Q! When I was like thirteen I tried to start a GWAR fan club in Virginia Beach. It was just me and this one creepy kid.
Patrick: Graduate school orientation. Woo!
What would you change about Richmond's metal scene, if anything?
Michael: Personally I enjoy our scene here. Most everyone is generally good natured and talented. I haven't met anyone yet that wouldn't sit down and drink a beer with me and shoot the breeze for a little bit.
Jay: I would make Monarch get back together.
What have you been listening to lately?
Michael: Dying Fetus (Reign Supreme), Mastodon (Crack the Skye), Trifixion (A Utopia For The Damned), Motorhead (Iron Fist), Son House (The Original Delta Blues), ZZ Top (Tres Hombres)
Kelsey: I’ve been enjoying the newest Gojira release. They have a style and certain atmosphere to their sound that I find really interesting.
Greg: I've been on a big Morbid Angel kick lately, particularly Covenant. They've got such a classic sound and a straightforward, Motorhead-esque simplicity to their mission statement: “we are going to crush your face and sing about the devil.” I'm also grooving on Torche's new album Harmonicraft.
Jay: I just got the new Nile and Gojira records. Also D’Angelo and Willie Nelson.
Patrick: Amorphis and Insomnium and other stuff. Whatever weird things last.fm throws at me.
If you could have a company or product sponsor you, what would it be?
Michael: I think Red Bull would be a sweet sponsor to have.
Jay: Kuba-Kuba and Belmont Pizza.
Kelsey: I’ve gotten hooked on Wampler pedals, so it would be nice to try out the rest of his products. And I think it’s safe to say the whole band would enjoy a beer and/or whiskey sponsorship.
Greg: Wheaties, Breakfast of Champions! Rock over London, rock on Chicago!
Patrick: Zildjian! Maybe Gretsch too.
After metal, what is your favorite music genre?
Michael: Rock 'n' Roll of course. But where would any of it be without blues and jazz?
Kelsey: I listen to Pandora way more than I like to admit, but the three stations I listen to are Mastodon, Andrew Bird, and The Band. I think that sums up my three favorite genres: metal, creative Indie music, and classic rock.
Greg: My Dad instilled in me a great love for progressive rock: King Crimson, ELP, Rush, Yes, etc. I love all those fuckers.
Jay: That’s tough. 90’s rap and 70’s country?
Patrick: There is something other than metal? Classical music or maybe 70s prog rock. Rush, Kansas, etc.
Do your parents like your music?
Michael: Yeah, my folks like Bearstorm. They come out to as many shows as they can and have always been very supportive. They told me once that they liked to listen to us occasionally at supper time. I thought that was pretty funny.
Kelsey: My mother has a Bearstorm sticker on her car. It’s pretty awesome.
Greg: My parents are great, they love the music but they wish that we didn't have “all that yelling in your songs.”
Jay: My parents like that Bearstorm makes me happy.
Patrick: No, they're too old for this, but I do think they can appreciate its complexity and the effort we put into it.
What's next for Bearstorm?
Michael: After this next album hopefully we can start spreading our wings a bit more and travel further outside the Richmond area. All the guys are married except for me so hopefully we can clear it with the boss ladies.
Kelsey: I think we’re all excited to start recording the next album. We have almost all the material, we just need to polish everything and find the time to get started. That and more live playing. We all really love playing out for people.
Greg: We finish recording Americanus and then tour the hell out of it. I've also thought of writing a novella based around the plot of our first album (a thief who is exiled from town, meets Baba Yaga [the hero from Horibilis], becomes a horrible bear monster and slaughters his former friends), sort of like The Mars Volta did with Deloused in the Comatorium.
Jay: We’ve got a few shows coming up here, and we’re gonna have shirts soon! Mostly we’re just trying to get the new material tight enough to record. It’s getting there.
Patrick: More nerdery!
What is your most metal hobby?
Michael: My most metal hobby is probably welding.
Kelsey: I think I might be the least metal person in the band, so playing in Bearstorm is about the extent of my metal-ness. I tend to shock my coworkers when I tell them that I play metal. My favorite quote was from one of my managers: “You play in a metal band?! You look like a God damned Muppet!” So yeah, no metal hobbies here.
Jay: I’m pretty outdoors-y. That might be on the line between metal and hippy.
Patrick: Being annoyed at politicians...that's metal right?
Here is “Glacial Relic/Riparian Forest” from Emilio’s on 7/7:
and “DeSoto” from that same night. All songs are on the new record and both videos are by Chris DeHaven:
Shifting gears, producer Cons always has the freshest beats. You may have seen him chillin’ in a video by Jo Casino. His newest may be his illest yet. He just released the instrumental Fruits, describing the fruits of his hard work. Below is the mixtape. Make sure to check out "Eyes on Fire Remix" because those beats are dope.
photo by PJ Sykes
Last week Christina Gleixner of The Low Branches released a beautiful home recording of a cover of Springsteen’s “Leah,” and this week she has released her original “Rock Bottom.” The Low Branches will be releasing a song periodically leading up to their forthcoming LP. The band urges you to donate at least $1.00 to the effort for downloading.
Mr. Jennings is a musician around town whose art and creativity know no bounds. Here he has remixed Brazilian Girls’ “Pussy,” which was, at least for us, a pretty big deal in 2005. This track is a teaser from the freshly-released EP Crunk in Dublic.
Mr. Jennings - Brazilian Girls’ “Pussy” remix:
Crunk in Dublic:
By Sarah Moore Lindsey (soundsofrva.tumblr.com)