The difference between expectation and reality has been explained before as being the root of one’s happiness. If reality doesn’t meet the standard of what someone expects their reality to be it can create a lot of discontent. However, the inverse of this phenomena is someone being overjoyed when reality exceeds one’s expectations and they are living in a world they hardly anticipated. Listening to Nashville’s All Them Witches falls in the latter category.
All Them Witches music is an unexpected surprise that instantly feels unique and special. Charles Parks (bass/vocals), Ben Mcleod (guitar), Robby Staebler (drums) and Allen Van Cleave (rhodes piano/ keyboard) have created a powerful and deep howl with sonic tones of metal, blues, punk and heavy rock. The towering rhythms and hellfire guitar solos are surprising for how informed they are by the groove and you can usually find yourself unexpectedly dancing at one of the band’s adrenaline filled shows. Another unforeseen highlight of the group is its penchant for open-ended jams when it plays live, always searching for the magic in the moment. All Them Witches are tuned into that jamband ethos more than one would initially think and they would be a dark horse undercard showcase at jam festivals like High Sierra, Lockn’ or Jam Cruise.
You would also be forgiven if you didn’t think bassist and vocalist Charles Parks was a big harp guy. But in our revealing conversation, the down-to-Earth Parks ticks off Joanna Newsome, Dorothy Ashby and Edmar Castaneda as constantly in his musical rotation as sources of inspiration. It makes sense when you consider the layered breadth of All Them Witches’ music and the compositional edge to the songs. But you can feel a lot of different currents running through the music and who or what you hear could change depending on where you are or what you’re doing, the impressionism a quality Parks appreciates about his music.
For its latest album Sleeping Through The War, All Them Witches just ran with whatever came from its band members’ collective synergy over the course of four days of writing. The band’s off-the-cuff process produced another honest and gripping record that might be its best. The record is more streamlined and agile than previous efforts and songs like “Bulls” and “Alabaster” are potent fits of unbridled energy. Those vibes are balanced out nicely by the slow burn psychedelia of tunes such as “Am I Going Up?” and “Internet,” giving the whole album a rolling and open continuity to it like a desolate desert valley.
The group is touring the world in support of its new album, finishing up with American dates in June before shipping off to Europe for much of the summer and fall. In the midst of All Them Witches’ west coast tour Parks was kind enough to share his thoughts on the new album, playing for a worldwide audience and what is most fulfilling in his life.
What is striking to you when you play this new stuff from Sleeping Through The War ?
We knew that this album was going to be a little bit faster and more aggressive and that is fun to do live. It’s fun to do the slow heavy stuff, but sometimes I just want to jump around and yell and I get to do that with these new songs. The material is just growing at this point, so I am having a lot more fun onstage. I guess more than I’ve ever had really playing in this band. It is just more fun as time goes on.
When you started putting this stuff on record, for you, what was the starting point of this album, sonically, lyrically, psychologically, or whatever?
Right after we did Dying Surfer we kind of just threw out the word “Spacepunk.” It’s funny it came out this way because we didn’t pursue anything and just like everything we do, it just happened naturally and showed up whenever it did. We didn’t have much direction. We only had four days to write it, so whatever happened in those four days shows up on the album.
Those 60’s guys only had that much to do that and they had to be back out on the road. We only had four days to do it and then we went back to Europe. Then when we got back from Europe, we recorded it in about six days, and then went on tour again. It doesn’t work that way for every band but it works that way for us.
Is that more out of necessity or how you guys interact together as musicians and humans?
Totally, whatever you hear on the record is how we were feeling that day. Then the next day we might not have made the same record. That’s just how we work as people. Give everybody space to breathe and to have their own room, but you’re paying attention and losing yourself. You’re paying attention with what everybody is doing because you have to pay attention to the changes.
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