Great Falls, based out of Seattle, are an altogether interesting prospect, featuring one-time Jesu drummer Phil Petrocelli, Demian Johnston formerly of Playing Enemy and Kiss It Goodbye and Shane Mehling, also of Playing Enemy.
The resulting cacophony isn’t all that surprising – angular, off-kilter and noisy hardcore. In a year that’s seen high profile releases from the likes of KEN Mode, and after demos and split records with A Death Cinematic and Dephosphorus, the trio’s new album Accidents Grotesque comes at an apropos time, but make no mistake, Great Falls aren’t just another face in the crowd.
Great Falls’ formation was the result of a number of different changes for Shane Mehling and Demian Johnston after the break-up of Playing Enemy and the subsequent noise project, Hemingway. “We broke up in 2006 and we were sort of burnt out on noise rock,” explains Shane. “Demian had been touring with this noise project called Hemingway. When Playing Enemy broke up, I just kind of joined him. We did Hemingway for three years, just putting out random noise releases, a lot of different stuff like really harsh noise and piano stuff.
“We would just get in a practice space and fuck around. Later we started playing more structured music again and we got to the point where we were writing real songs and we’d gotten a drum machine. We started to be too much of a real band again so we decided we had to change the name and do something different. We started Great Falls, did that for a year and a half or something like that, and it just got to the point where the drum machine… it was working ok recorded but not live. We needed a live drummer and we got Phil.”
Phil Petrocelli, whose resume includes working with Justin K. Broadrick, was initially going to be the band’s live drummer and that’s it, but after one demo release with the drum machine in tow, Great Falls decided to release another only this time with Phil’s live drumming. Even though the songs had been written, once Phil arrived, he began putting his own flair and flavour to the tracks. At this point, Great Falls were now very much a real band. It was now time to start thinking about an album. “All three of us just sat down, wrote riffs and just went off from there.”
As Shane describes it, Hemingway had become more “structured” forcing the band’s hand at renaming themselves, allowing Hemingway to exist in its own sphere and begin creating something new. Great Falls’ LP certainly looks to the future after a number of smaller releases but does the band’s past, specifically Playing Enemy and Kiss It Goodbye, influence or inform the band we have now?
“In hindsight Playing Enemy played long songs, we wanted things to be completely contained,” explains Shane. “It had to have a beginning, a middle and wrap things up very satisfactory. In Playing Enemy each song was its own universe.
“In retrospect, that kind of song writing…” he continues, “one, it took forever and two, it ended up being a little ponderous. It started being a little boring to us. I think looking back on Playing Enemy, where we started to write stuff for Great Falls, we didn’t want to be all encapsulating all the time.
“We wanted to move away from that. We do write bigger songs but we’re also interested in allowing a song to end without full closure. Sometimes the songs seem a little in-and-out and not… we don’t strain ourselves to be 100%… we’re happy to let the song exist and be part of a larger thing. I think Accidents Grotesque, every song we just wanted to function as a piece of a larger thing.”
Accidents Grotesque serves as one complete suite of jarring cacophonous music in the end. “We wanted to make more of a full record. Accidents Grotesque has really long songs and it has some pretty short songs,” Shane continues. “We wanted that balance, we wanted there to be moments of juxtaposition where we could have an 11 minute song and also a minute and a half song.”
Given this juxtaposition and the album’s flow, creating one overarching piece, it raises the question on the record’s lyrical content. Is Accidents Grotesque a concept album or perhaps revolving around one central theme? It’s a question that isn’t fully answered and the only person that knows the whole deal is Demian.
“I know that the album is personal, it deals with relationships as far as his family goes. They are very personal to him and mean a lot about what’s going on in his life.”
Accidents Grotesque has been released by Irish label, Hell Comes Home. The label was responsible for a split 7” series not too long ago that included bands like Rites, Thou, Dead Elephant, The Swan King and Kowloon Walled City. Great Falls were one of these bands, contributing a song to a split with Dephosphorus.
“He [Joel] had contacted us to do that split with Dephosphorus,” Shane starts. “It just sort of came out of the blue.
“There are a lot of labels out there; they have a lot of expectations and good intentions let’s say. But the practicality of getting a record out is super hard and this guy, he had just contacted us and asked us we wanted to do a song. He was professional and did everything really quick. There was no hassle at all, just said what he was going to do and did it.
“When we had finished this record, we didn’t want to do CDs, just vinyl and a download. He had been so good that we contacted him and said could you do the vinyl for this? He’s been great so far, he’s been very enthusiastic. I think we’re just on the same page. Also, we never got to put out much vinyl, especially in Europe. It will be great to make inroads in there, we’d love to go out at some point but we don’t really tour too much; a little. If we did do a tour, we’d love to be able to come out to Europe.”