Last month, I had the opportunity to listen to Crowhurst‘s new self-titled full length, and was subsequently blown away. After sharing my opinions on the effort in a review, I had another opportunity to communicate with the band and was able to conduct the following interview. The interview touches on elitism, influences and The Iron Sheik. Enjoy!
J = Jay
JC = Johann Currie
E = Eric Soth
S = Spencer Wessels
B = Brian Reis
First off, how in the hell did you get The Iron Sheik to review your album (The Iron Sheik penned a short but positive review of Crowhurst’s latest effort)?
J: I just emailed him. That’s really all it took!
Jay, you’ve described Crowhurst as initially being conceived as a loose collective led by you, but obviously at some point the lineup became cemented; when did that change occur, and what prompted it?
J: The lineup kind of solidified itself. We’ve gone through a lot of different members and this seems to be what works for us, so it kind of closed itself off. We’ve discussed adding extra instrumental elements to the songs on the next record, but in this moment – this lineup is what Crowhurst is.
JC: Collaborators came and went, but Eric, Brian, Jay and I began experimenting with postrock style song structure and guitar swells while keeping the noise and tape loop elements around. By the time we played the noise-oriented Sux by Suxwest in Austin last year, metal influences were already a bit apparent and had crept into our guitar playing a bit.
B: That music obviously contained a plethora of influences, but having a full-fledged band with the most frequently occurring members of a previous sound collective created a way to pare down certain aspects and render them in a more principled way.
In the past, your releases have been far more noise-oriented. When did the stylistic change begin to come about, and what prompted it?
J: The transition can be seen best in the live albums, and the albums like The Lightbearer Trilogy where we began to really touch on more “metal” oriented sounds.
E: Everyone in the band has brought their own individual style and influence to create the current sound, and the result is what we’ve got now on our self-titled album.
Are you planning on exclusively continuing forward in a vein similar to the new album, or could we see a return to your older style on future releases?
E: With our current lineup in place, we have plenty of content in the works, and I’m already thinking about those future releases as we prepare for our current album release.
J: The plan is to keep moving forward – I can’t speak much further than that.
JC: I think the elements of dark noise and brooding ambiance will always be in the peripheral vision of our songwriting.
The last song on your newest album features Eugene Robinson of Oxbow fame, how did this collaboration come about?
J: Again, just email. I sent a letter to Eugene and he replied.
B: I’m still amazed that it occurred. Eugene did a stellar job on “Luna Falsata,” and conveyed the ideas within the Werner Herzog monologue perfectly, almost like a man losing his grip on reality while simultaneously coming to an epiphany— and in a single take.
S: The band just jammed out a 9 minute track and handed it off. Jay added his track without having heard it and Eugene came in and crushed his vocal performance without having heard it at all.
You’ve toured or played shows with a number of ‘heroes’ in the modern underground extreme music scene, such as The Body, Bastard Noise and Atriarch – how did these shows come about?
B: Atriarch are awesome guys. Johann knew Brooks previously from having photographed some of their shows, and we got together with Alvin Alemoon, a great promoter who has his own great bands, Icon of Phobos and Sein Undt Zeit to open for Atriarch back in May, before we even had really started getting going on this record.
Your music manages to subtly include influences from many different genres, cliched but obligatory question regarding your influences?
J: All over the place. I love TAD, Hum, Unwound, Xasthur, Country Death, Mamaleek, Albert Ayler, Sabbath Assembly, Boredoms, Skinny Puppy, GWAR, Roy Orbison, Link Wray, Butthole Surfers, Humanbeast, Xinlisupreme, Manic Street Preachers and Glassjaw for sure…
S: I started to really explore in college and took a bunch of music classes and practiced with the jazz band a few times. I had very limited experience in the metal community when I joined the band and we started writing this album. I’ve definitely dived in head first into a rad thing didn’t know existed.
E: Personally, all of my influences on drums are way better technical drummers than I am, so I wouldn’t be able to sound like them if I tried. I’m a big fan of drummers like Matt Garstka from Animals as Leaders, though, and I’m sure deep down it affects how I play, even if I’m not consciously trying to sound like anything in particular.
JC: John Gossard’s guitar work with The Gault on Even as all Before Us has definitely left a huge mark on me, as well as Another Great Love Song-era Ludicra. Fantastic fucking albums, both. Outside of the realm of metal, I really dig ambient artists such as Solar Fields, Woob and Carbon Based Lifeforms. The “spaceyness” of my guitar tone is a direct result of long nights spent with Movements, 1194 and Interloper.
B: Neurosis’ take on heavy music has always had a gigantic impact on me, as well as the orchestral post-rock like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, epic and crushing doom like Skepticism and Thou, as well as atmospheric/folk black metal like Drudkh. The most inspirational band I can think of is Weakling. I wish I could make music that good.
You songs generally convey a lot of emotion and atmosphere, is there any kind of overlying theme or message that inspires you or that you are trying to convey when it comes to this album, or the band’s music in general?
J: A lot of what I write about deals with mental health and desperation and depression and whatnot.
E: I like to fall back on the idea of having themes that stem from Donald Crowhurst’s doomed final voyage. Themes of isolation, suffering, and … doom. It is nice to have a starting point like that, but we try not to let those ideas restrict us from going other directions.
S: The emotional energy dynamic was definitely a focus in the songwriting.
I love the artwork on your latest effort, tell me a bit about it.
J: Nicole Boitos of Swans fame did the front cover. She had creative freedom and just went for it. Johnny Ryan is one of my all time favorite cartoonists and artists and I was super lucky to be able to work with him. His prompts were the Criterion cover of Salo and the film Begotten. In the future I’d like to work with folks like Bill Griffith (of Zippy fame) and Peter Bagge and other artists of that ilk. The visual element plays a big role for me personally, just because I’m a visual artist.
The music Crowhurst produces obviously carries a lot of elements of noise and black metal. Both of these genres have a reputation for elitism to a degree. What do you think of elitism in music or ‘purism’ in metal?
J: I feel like elitism and purism hinders progress. It creates pressure to not do things that are outside of the box, not to experiment – and that’s how you end up with a million bands that sound the same. Nobody wants to be made fun of, and that kind of rigid mentality that people sometimes feel like they have to have in order to prevent that from happening is what stops people from moving forward and making artistic progress.
S: If I don’t like a particular type of music, I just won’t listen to it, but I can still respect the courage to drive to create art and perform.
E: We are just trying to make music that we consider to be good and interesting, and if it doesn’t happen to fit cleanly into a genre then that is fine by me. It is tough to be an elitist without being a bit pretentious, and I’d like to keep our music as unpretentious as possible.
JC: We’ve definitely received a few raised eyebrows and sideways glances when we were wheeling guitar amplifiers into art galleries at noise shows. I was first attracted to noise when I discovered John Cage’s take on it – approaching the prospect of “everything being music” from a very music-theory based background.
B: I enjoy atmospherics, ambient soundscapes and all that, but they have to interact with music or exist independently as a piece of art properly, and therefore elitism in that scene which seeks to divorce itself from convention is deleterious to the art itself, art which otherwise can be really cool.
JC: At what point that experimentation with noise, ambiance, soundscapes etc became a full on “rebellion against music,” I’m not sure. There are some very, very cool noise acts out there, regardless of the race-to-zero the other ones seem to be focused on.
What are immediate plans for playing live shows? Any tours in the works?
J: Record release show is at Loaded in Hollywood on April 10th, and then I’m touring as Girl 27 to support a tape on Ascetic House with Orbweaver in July and Caïna in September. We hope to tour to support this LP as well.
Crowhurst’s self-titled album is currently streaming in it’s entirety on their bandcamp page where you can also purchase digital or physical copies.