An Interview with In The Company Of Serpents
Born in the year 2011 Denver's heavy duo, In The Company Of Serpents, released this year their killer self titled debut album, which should be considered amongst the best of 2012. Been thoroughly impressed by it, thought it would be nice to have a chat with the band and find out how all this started. So, here's my q&a with Grant, the guitarist/vocalist of the band.
Hey Grant! First of all, congratulations on Your debut album! Honestly, it's awesome!
Thank you! We're glad you dig it.
Since You’re in a newborn band, would You be kind enough to provide us with a mini-bio of the group?
Sure. I originally formed ITCOS with JJ anselmi in January of 2011. We had met each other when both of our previous bands were on a bill together about a month before then. At that gig JJ heard me sound checking to some riffs by Earth off the Hex record, and we started talking about putting together a doom band together. The first few songs we wrote were what ended up being Dirtnap, Intro & (I think) Canto III Inferno, although we had different names for them at the time. By the time we had finished recording the record, JJ had accepted a teaching position at a college in another state, so I thought that was going to be the end of things, but JJ thought his departure was no reason to dissolve the band. He and I kept our eyes out for drummers we thought would be a good fit, and we eventually played a show with Royal Talons (a killer band you should check out), who had Joseph Weller Meyer behind the kit. Joe & I hit it off, and after some persuasion he agreed to join the band, and has been here ever since. He's a solid fit, and I'm really excited to hear his contributions on the next record.
How was the time when the band was almost gone and what were Your thoughts on it back then?
We still had some decent momentum even though we knew JJ was going to have to quit, and JJ was really cool & encouraging in regards to keeping things going in his absence. I would have kept going with some kind of doom project regardless, but without his blessing I definitely wouldn't have called it In the Company of Serpents.
What was the main factor that finally, kept the band going?
Joe was a solid fit, plain and simple. He is a hell of a performer live, and he has a visceral playing style that's well suited to what I want to achieve.
Were there any musical changes that came along with the lineup changes?
Sure. Joe & JJ are very different drummers, stylistically speaking. From the time he joined the band, however, I never laid an expectation on Joe that he needed to play JJ's parts verbatim. I want our music to have an organic vibe, and expecting someone to mimic another player identically is no way to achieve that.
What's the musical background of Υou guys, I mean, what's Υour main influences?
I can only really speak for myself, but Black Sabbath is the obvious one, as anyone from any doom band ever will tell you. I really dig Mike Scheidt's playing style in YOB, & Electric Wizard always delivers in terms of groove & sheer heaviness, but there are too many killer bands out there playing this kind of stuff to really whittle it down. I'd say that the vibe of the music can have as much of an impact on me as the actual sounds. A lot of times I'll hear records that are visceral and menacing without being 'Heavy' in the traditional sense and I'll be totally blown away by them. Going back to Earth, I think the track 'Raiford (the felon wind)' is a great example of that. The last two Swans records since they reformed also come to mind here, although there are certainly 'Heavy' moments on them.
How would you describe your music to someone that has never heard not even a single tune of yours?
I guess that would depend on the person. If they're into doom, then it wouldn't be a very long conversation, but if not, who knows? It's kind of hard to articulate how I'd want to convey us in anything more specific than broad terms.
Would please give us some info about the writing process of your heavy tunes?
Most of the songs have started with riffs that I bring in, and then we'll just play around with them until we've got a structure that we think fits.
You've got a pretty occult image and was wondering if there's any specific concept in the lyrics of your first album?
I'm drawn to that sort of material & imagery, and, accordingly, it tends to be manifested in what I write. With that being said, any interpretation of that sort is up to the listener as much as myself. I know what I was thinking when I wrote the songs, but someone else might view my songs in a completely different light. The only thing on there that's overtly 'occult' is Canto III Inferno, which has some imagery gleaned from The Divine Comedy, but even then, I don't know that Dante could be considered Occult. I mean, he was a Christian poet, and nearly every high school & college student in the world knows who he was, so how occult could he be?
Tell us a bit about the recording process. Are You satisfied with the thick heavy sound You have achieved?
We were definitely happy with how things turned out. We recorded that with Jamie Hillyer at Module Overload studios in Denver, and he's definitely tuned in to this sort of music, which was helpful. We're probably going to use him again to record the next record, but my rig has changed significantly since that time. You can expect the sound on the next album to be quite a bit meatier.
If given the opportunity, would you change something on Your debut? If yes, what would You change and why?
I'm a harsh self critic, so I'd probably change a thing or two given the chance, but I've been pleased with the end product.
The vast majority of the reviews on In the Company of Serpents are truly positive. Did You expect this reaction from fans and press alike and how do You feel about it?
I have a certain pride in our band, but I didn't expect such a warm reception. Our goal initially was just to write music that we'd want to listen to ourselves, and if anyone else wanted to listen to it that would be a bonus. It's flattering, and we appreciate every accolade we get. On the flip side, we're still virtually unknown, so we don't have to worry about our heads getting too big!
The album's self-released. Is that something Υou wanted to do and maybe continue doing or Υou’re interested in searching for a label in the future?
We never attempted to have anyone else put it out, & just planned on self-publishing from the outset. We'll continue doing things in this fashion, but we wouldn't be completely averse to label support if the terms were right. Tools like Bandcamp are great for independent bands, but bandcamp isn't going to finance a tour. In any case, I'd prefer that we have complete control of our output, so we'll probably remain a DIY band.
You've recently updated Your merch quantities. Is it the lives shows or the internet sphere that sells the most?
Probably the live shows, but we do OK online.
Live shows were pretty frequent for You guys. Is that something You’ve always wanted for the band, to play as much live as possible?
Both Joe & I love playing live, and we'll continue to play whenever we can. For the moment we're taking a break from playing live in order to focus on writing & refining the material for the new record.
Recently Υou’ve played at Denver fest. Is there any good stories to share with us from the fest and if Υou ever were to choose the bands for a fest of Υours, what bands were Υou going to choose to play with and why choose them?
That was the second annual Denver Doom fest, and we had played the first one as well. We had a killer time, and had been looking forward to it all year. I thought Adai and Black Sleep of Kali both killed it, as did Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire. I wish I had better stories for you, but let's just say my memory from that weekend is a bit foggy.
Are we talking about a fest that is realistic or like a fantasy fest that I'd curate? If it's the latter, then I'd want Black Sabbath c. Master of Reality, Sir Lord Baltimore, Neurosis c. Times of Grace, Electric Wizard c. Come my Fanatics, Yob c. The unreal Never Lived, Melvins/Big Business, Black Flag when Keith Morris was the signer, Eyehategod c. Dopesick, Grief, Godflesh c. Streetcleaner, Bad Brains in 1982, the 13th Floor Elevators c. Easter Everywhere, The Velvet Underground in their druggy 'sister ray' heyday, and a whole bunch of others. Let's go get a time machine and make that shit happen.
How's playing live as a duo, better, worse, easier or more difficult than with 1 or 2 or 3 more guys on stage?
As a band, fewer people equals fewer headaches, but you do have to work harder to pull it off live. People expect less from two pieces because I guess they don't consider you a whole band, so you have to strive to reset that expectation as violently as possible.
Is there any chance of adding a third musician on a regular basis on the band?
We've had numerous friends from other bands offer to join the band on bass, but I'm happy with the two-piece approach. I've only auditioned one person to play with us, and while he's a great dude and a solid musician, there were logistical issues that kept it from going anywhere. Plus, I now have a full bass rig in my backline, so there isn't much need for a bass player when I'm playing a baritone guitar through it. If we could pull it off, it could be interesting to try a two drummer approach like the Melvins have done, but I doubt that would ever happen.
Do Your musical thoughts on the band include any sonic experiments with more instruments or different approach to your heavy sound?
Sure. I'd like to include some different stuff on the next record, but we'll see where it goes.
Shall we expect a new recording from You in the near future and what are Your plans in general?
Definitely. We're hoping to have finished writing the next record by the end of the year, and after that we'd like to tour around the country a bit.
Since we're approaching the end of the year, would please tell us 5 or more if you wish, of the bands and albums that impressed you during 2012?
In no particular order, my favorite records released this year are: Ladybird/ Ontological Physicalism, Royal Talons/self titled, Ice Dragon/ Tome of the Future Ancients, Alkerdeel/Morinde, & Early Graves/Red Horse.
Is there any hidden heavy gem that you think we might all listen to the soonest possible?
Keep your ear to the ground for Western Ritual. They're another Denver band, and they're amazing. They don't have anything recorded just yet, but they will soon, hopefully. I wouldn't call them Doom per se, but fans of heavy psych rock and stoner/desert rock will dig them. Once they put out their record, you can bet you'll have their tunes stuck in your head for days. Another great Denver band right now is Primitive Man. If you like your doom misanthropic and menacing, look no further. They've released two songs from an upcoming album on bandcamp, and they'll make you feel real ugly and bad about yourself.
What are your ambitions and wildest dreams about the band?
It would be really cool to be able to tour Europe at some point.
Thank You very much for this interview Grant, really appreciate it. The epilogue is yours.
Thanks for the interest! Keep supporting underground music, & if you download something from a DIY band and you enjoy it, BUY THE RECORD!
In The Company Of Serpents: