Chuck Schuldiner Project

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interview with Pallbearer

Right before their crushing, earthshaking performance at Social Club in Paris last Monday, I was lucky enough to sit down with none other than the guys from Pallbearer, one of todayshottest Doom metalsacts, on their second European tour promoting their sophomore full-length album.

So to start things off, how did you guys start out?
Brett (B): So basically Joe and I had been in a psychedelic heavy drone type of improvised project. We had that going for a few years and after a while we just felt like doing something that was a little more "song-oriented" I guess. Our hometown Little Rock has a very good doom scene with a lot of heavy and experimental bands. So it felt natural to start a doom band as well. We knew Devin from him playing in other bands around town and we got along. He's a good guitarist so we just asked him to join. It's a pretty simple story.

Last year you put out your 2nd full-length album, titled "Foundations of Burden". Could you give a brief presentation of the record for those out there that've yet to hear your music?
Brett : It's kind of hard describing my own stuff I guess, I can't really be objective about it... Well it's heavy, proggy, very melodic, with a lot of textures and guitar interplay. Songs tend to be pretty linear, generally without verse/chorus structure.
Devin: We focus on getting different interesting sounds, exploring different sounds, different leads... There're a lot of different "flavors" to enjoy, nothing drastic but there are lot of dimensions fitted into this coherent whole I guess.
Brett : A lot of different guitar tones, tons of them.
Devin : Lots of vocal layering and harmonies, big sounding vocals... all of that just comes together to create the recipe of the band I guess. Those are the big ingredients, with the big, soaring melodic vocals and the deep low plodding guitars.

Could you explain the title of your latest album? Where it came from?
Brett: It's supposed to relate to the things that we do to ourselves, our lives, the decisions we make that can lay foundations for your troubles. It also relates to the foundations of society and the things that we can't escape, like decisions made by people in the past that we have to deal with now.
Devin: In the modern world you inherit a lot of bullshit. In our generation, a lot of the movies coming out are end-day movies; our science fiction is about the world being destroyed whereas a lot of older science fiction was about exploring. We've inherited this bad situation where we HAVE to change or we're going to die, whereas the previous generations just enjoyed themselves and didn't worry about all of that as much as they should have.

It was more of an optimistic outlook.
Devin: Well it was also kind of ignorant. They didn't know that they were fucking things up. So it's about that too I guess.
Could you tell us a little more about the lyrics and the subject matters that you explore? There seems to be somewhat of a progression from what I've understood
Devin: That's interesting. But no, actually Joe and I write the lyrics pretty much 50-50. He writes some of the songs; I write some of the songs... we wrote them separately so we didn't have any intended "theme" or anything. Then again maybe there is one that emerged on its own. Other than that, it's very difficult for me to explain the lyrics because I've only got some ideas as to what Joe's songs are about. I also prefer to leave it more open to interpretation, because a lot of the songs that I write tend to revolve around at least 2 distinct ideas. So the songs mean something to me that I don't intentionally try to put into the lyrics. I guess the simple answer would be that I don't explain my lyrics.

This is just another assumption, but I sense some Lovecraftian influence when it comes to your writing style.
Brett: That's sort of true. It was taken from a direct experience though, this "trip" where I encountered this "thing" that could only be described as a sort of Lovecraftian entity.

Considering that your music has a strong atmospheric, "visual" aspect to it, what would you say are some of the non-musical influences that come into play in Pallbearers' sound?
Brett: I know that Joe is really into Murakami (Haruki), and I think that there's some influence in some of his lyrics of this last album. I haven't really had any direct influence from any particular writers. I like a lot of sci-fi stuff. Philip K. Dick is a favorite. I like Greg Egan a lot, I've also been getting into some Charles Stross lately. I have a tendency towards hard science fiction, SF that, although weird, could seemingly be true under the right circumstances. I read a lot of comics as well. Anything by Alejandro Jodorowsky is golden. Visually, Im inspired a lot by artists like, Moebius, Michael Whelan, Roger Dean... Artists who create fantastical and awe-inspiring worlds to get lost in.

We've heard that quite a few people (notably in Europe) were reported to have come out of your shows crying. Have you ever had any feedback from people who were that moved by your albums or some of your live shows?
Brett: For sure man. I've had multiple people come up to me and say that they've played some stuff at peoples' funerals, or in some way mention that it has helped them deal with with death in their families or other difficulties. People who were going through rough periods of their lives that have listened to Pallbearer as a form of healing. So yeah, it's a fucking great feeling.

Brett, I've read that you consider Pallbearer to be rooted in European influences rather than American influences. In what way do you see yourself closer to the European doom scene?
Brett: Generally a lot American doom bands have a lot more sludge and hardcore-type influences I suppose. It seems like European bands generally sound more mournful, more drawn out, with more melody. Most of the good funeral doom is European, then of course there's My Dying Bride and all of the Peaceville stuff. Then there's Prog rock, which was never that big of a thing in the US, which was a big influence for us. So we generally listen to a lot of European music.

To get to a lighter subject; what're some of the weirder experiences you've had while on the road?
Brett: Everything, literally every experience is weird.
Devin: We were accepted into a homeless community one time.
Brett: Yeah homeless people thought that we were homeless while we were walking around because we were so stinky and homeless-looking.
Devin: We had been on tour for so long and hadn't showered. We looked and smelled terrible. We were walking around late at night looking for food. There's this thing in the US where you've got a Drive-Thru where you have to have a car, you can't go inside but the Drive-Thru is open. But because of insurance and people getting injured or whatever you have to have a car to go through it. All that they had open was fast-food so we were trying to figure out how to get food this late without having a car, because our van couldn't fit through the drive-thru. So these homeless guys were like "Come with us to Wendys' they'll let you cheat here, they'll serve you food". So we all ended up following them but the guys at Wendys' were like "No, get the fuck out of here, we're not going to serve you food" (laugh). There were also a couple of their homeless friends across the street, so we realize that we had been accepted as homeless people that night.
Joe: Instead of getting hit up, asking for change, the just kind of assumed that we were just new to the city.

So did they ever find out that you weren't homeless?
Devin: I don't know, we didn't bring it up.
Joe: It was kind of after the fact that we realized what was happening, that they thought we were homeless too (laugh). Essentially we are.
Devin: We're just one step above.

So whats' next for Pallbearer after this tour?
Brett: Well we're pretty much touring non-stop until August and then we're going to take some time off to write, getting our next album ready.
Joe: ...Then do the same goddamn thing for like... forever (laughs)
Brett: ... until we die.
Joe: Which will probably be really soon.
Brett: Yeah.

To finish things off: could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?
Joe: One of my most recent favorite books is Hardboiled Wonderland at the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.
Devin: Probably our favorite movie of all-time for all of us would be This is Spinal Tap. We're all obsessed with it. I have a little tattoo of it. Spinal Tap is definitely the best movie ever created as far as I'm concerned.
Brett: Yeah, no doubt.
Joe: Our collective favorite album is St.Anger by Metallica.
(Everyone laughs)
Brett: I really like Diaspora by Greg Egan. It's a really crazy, far-future sci-fi, a transhumanist-type book. It's pretty cool. His stuff is pretty amazing in general. Again, any Jodorowsky. The Incal, and the whole universe that spun off from it, is essential reading as far as Im concerned.
Devin: My favorite album, at least for metal to make it easy, would be Mob Rules by Black Sabbath.
Joe: That's also mine.
Brett: One of my favorite albums would be Long Misty Days by Robin Trower. That's a really good one.
Joe: Animals by Pink Floyd is one of my all-time favorite albums.
Brett: Close to the Edge by Yes
Joe: Herz Aus Glas (Heart of Glass) by Popol Vuh. I really like the whole Popol Vuh discography, I listen to it frequently.
 Brett: Chapter III: Parasomnia by Colloseum, the finnish funeral doom band. That third album is one of my favorites. All of their shit is amazing.

(Taking note of his Magma shirt) Any favorite Magma album? 
Brett: That's a good question, man. I'd say Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh

Joe: Yeah, that or like... Üdü Ẁüdü. Those are the 2 Magma albums that I listen to the most.

Thank you to Lauren, to the band and everyone who made both this amazing show and this interview possible!

Interview by Robin Ono
Official Website

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