We got Occultist’s Kerry Zylstra in a boat at GWAR-B-Q 2014

by | Aug 20, 2014 | MUSIC

Richmond’s Occultist has been making waves in the local and national metal scene since 2009.

Richmond’s Occultist has been making waves in the local and national metal scene since 2009. Combining metal riffs, experimental noises, and the brutal ‘war cries’ of lead singer Kerry Zylstra, they’ve created a unique sound which has earned the praises of not only RVA Mag, but other music-snobs, like Stereogum.

“they were fresh and vital and incited bigger reactions on their penned-in stage than even Hatebreed managed on the big stage,” wrote SG’s Tom Breihan. You can see just how much the crowd dug Occultist’s sound in the video below:

Occultist was the only female lead band to perform at GWAR-B-Q this year, and it’s this frontwoman – Kerry Zylstra – and their brutal live performance, which has helped the band grab headlines in the past.

Here’s a bit from a 2012 interview we did with the band:

Zylstra’s dynamic stage presence and abrasive shrieks gained the band even more attention, and they began getting booked for more shows and bigger events. Although the presence of an attractive female frontperson seems like it might elicit some unsavory responses from small-minded fans, Zylstra says she hasn’t had to deal with too many jerks. “I do feel as though people focus on my gender quite a bit, but I haven’t encountered any major negativity,” she says. Although she has had to deal with the inevitable sexist comments at bigger shows where the crowd isn’t made up entirely of punks and locals, the good has far outweighed the bad.

After their GWAR-B-Q set, and a number of GWARBeers, RVA Mag’s Cassie Lynn managed to wrangle Zylstra and got her on a boat out in the middle of Hadad’s lake.

You can watch some of the interview below, and check out the full transscript as well.

Your guy’s set was awesome. It was a lot of awesome energy in the crowd. Everyone loved that.

Kerri: Thank you very much.

What’s been the best part about your day so far?

I mean the whole thing in general, just being here seeing how excited people are to be here and celebrate the life of Dave Brockie. You know?

Do you have any good Dave Brockie stories?

I personally don’t have anything that is- any that stands out too much. Just that he was an awesome [guy]- he was a good friend of mine, a mentor, he supported everybody, you know, he believed in the scene and everything else. And it’s just terrible that he’s gone but, you know, he did a lot in his lifetime and we’ll always remember him.

Yeah today’s been a pretty awesome, memorable event for this. You actually probably get this question a lot but being a girl front [singer] for one of the more prominent metal bands in Richmond; do you get a lot of slack for it? Like how do you feel about your role in the metal scene?

I actually don’t really get a lot of slack for it. There have been a few shows here and there where there have been some sexist comments made – but it usually gets handled pretty easily.

I’m glad to be able to represent the scene.[To] be one of the many awesome women in metal and that type of music that can, you know, be a part of it.

Have there been any specific challenges you feel you’ve faced as a woman in the metal scene in Richmond?

I mean not necessarily. I think that the metal scene as a whole has opened up a whole lot as far as accepting women into the scene. And it’s changed- it’s awesome. I think guys are starting to recognize that women can do the same things that they can.

Yeah, ‘tit-in-the-pit’ not so bad now?

Yeah, I mean sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously at first, but as soon as they, you know, open their minds up and listen to the music, then they realize that ‘hey, we can do it too,’ and they respect us.

That’s awesome. Who are your favorite bands to play with in Richmond?

Oh man there’s so many of them. Well Iron Reagen for one. We just went on a long tour with them. They’re all amazing guys. There’s a lot of lesser known local bands that are female fronted too- like Asylum and Ishmel. They’re all awesome people (inaudible @ 3:40). Um, there are so many of them, really.

Any favorite venues or shows that stand out for you?

Personally, I’m a big fan of house shows, basement shows. I like everything to be pretty close and, people like to get moving a lot more in those types of shows. I feel like… but I mean as far as venues go I really like Strange Matter. You know, they are pretty good as far as putting on some good shows.

You guys working on any upcoming albums?

Yes we are! We just we starting playing a new song that’s gonna be on an EP that we’re gonna be recording so, yeah. We’ll have something coming up soon. We’re gonna come to push our recording date back a little bit. We were hoping for it to be done in the next couple months but, it’s gonna be a little bit longer. But still keep your ears open.

Awesome. Are you guys working with anyone specifically in the city for recording?

right now we’re- we have a couple options. We recorded with Dave Gibson. Our full length was okay and he did an awesome job. So, uh, that’s always an option. We have a lot of other people that are offering that really wanna um, help us out. So mostly we haven’t really decided yet, yeah.

Awesome. Looking forward to it. What’s the process like for you guys when you’re recording? do you guys have a unique recording process? I mean, do you guys work together pretty well?

Cassie: We work together pretty well.

Is it a vocal first into melodies? Or is it…

Cassie: Um, actually… Normally, I lately have been doing vocals last after everything else has been recorded.

So, do the instrumentals really influence kind of the broader, broader music you guys made?

Yes, absolutely, yeah.

Where do you think your lyrics usually come from?

Well there’s a lot of different um, inspirations for me. For one, like you said, it comes from just the sounds of the song. You feel the song in general. Um, whatever I feel inspired by the emotion of the song I’ll pull something. Or things that are happening for me in my life at the moment. Or things that are there throughout the day. I try to keep it pretty varied. I try and be original which is hard but you know, try to stay interesting.

So how did you end up playing GWAR B-Q?

Well we’re—a lot of the members of the band are good friends with the GWAR guys and a couple of the GWAR dudes heard us, came out to some shows, and liked what they heard, what they saw. So, this is the third year that we’ve played it. And I don’t know- it seems like they wanna keep us coming back which is totally awesome. It’s totally fine with us.

How is this year’s GWAR-B-Q different from years past?

Well, relating back to the question you asked me earlier; if I’ve ever had any issues being a woman in a metal band- At first, it seemed like it was something difficult for some of the crowd to comprehend. But now they’re totally into it and they get pumped. They get really excited. So, I guess in that sense it’s seems like maybe they’ve uh, pushed back a little bit and are more open minded now.

What do you think was more influential in changing that? Anything specifically that stands out to you?

Not necessarily. I just think we got out there and played and they liked it.

Word. That’s all that you can fucking ask for.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner




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