All Them Witches

  • Date: Sun 9th October 2016
  • Doors Open: 7:00 pm
  • Supported By: t.b.c.
  • On Sale: Tickets Open

All Them Witches colour promo photo


In each buildup and breakdown, every riff and groove of Nashville band All Them Witches, there is a story. The rockers’ narratives are often unspoken, sourcing musical touchstones from across the States, offering an almost cinematic experience wrapped up in their propulsive rhythms and subtly funky anthems. “As a band we pull from every moment that we experience,” says vocalist/bassist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., “our influence is not just music, it’s our everyday life.”

Their explosive live show earned them accolades from their ceaseless touring schedule and festival performances at events including their 2015 Bonnaroo debut. “None of our shows are the same twice,” Parks says, “we like not having to get up and playing the song the same way every night. It’s like jazz, where the main parts are there, but the rest is made up. We never say it, it just happens, we let the music talk for us.”

The band began as a project between drummer Robby Staebler and guitarist Ben McLeod, then expanded to add Allan Van Cleave on keys and Parks on bass and vocals. In the early days of the band, Staebler says, the band’s influences cut a wide swath. “The spectrum of what we listen to is off the chain,” he says, “but the music that shaped the way I play early on was Pink Floyd, and jazz, especially Sun Ra, and ambient music like Brian Eno, and Boren and Der Club of Gore.” The band’s sprawling performances would often coagulate into a singular unit, a live-wire electrifying sound, which was captured on their live recordings and first two studio albums, Our Mother Electricity (2012) and Lightning at the Door (2014). Those albums were a snapshot of their onstage chemistry and started their evolution into sophisticated psych rock that lurches forward but never spirals out of control. “This band is really like having four guitars,” Parks says, “I play bass like a guitar, Allen plays keys like a guitar, and Robby even plays drums like a guitar: he’s doing fills and rolls. It’s almost like the percussive element of fingerpicking, the sound of fingers on strings.”

Their upcoming album, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker continues their exploration of rock music’s furthest reaches, while grounding the sound with a solid skeleton of strong songwriting. “I like stripped down songwriters,” Parks says, “just a guy and his instrument. But on the new album, each song seems to change multiple times throughout it makes a five minute song feel like a 20 minute song without the extra time being spent.”

Recorded in Pigeon Forge in Eastern Tennessee, they set up a studio in a remote cabin where they lived and recorded their album over the course of six days. “You couldn’t hardly walk in there, dodging cables, mics and guitars,” Parks says, “the cabin was a wreck. We immediately got up there, unloaded our 15 seater van and a trailer packed to the brim with gear, and started moving things around, set up amps, and a mixing board.” They recorded much of the album live, but used the studio as an instrument in itself, helmed by producer Mikey Allred and McLeod. The location, Parks says, also had an influence on the feel of the album. “[Pigeon Forge] is tourist central, with Dollywood and moonshine distilleries, pancake houses, and Christmas stores. But our cabin was up on the mountain. We were the only ones there. We didn’t have to worry about anyone calling us in for being loud. It was quiet. In the morning, the mist would be hanging over the city, then it would clear up and you’d see all these terrible tourist shops. It was nice to know we didn’t have to be a part of it. There’s a duality that happens throughout this record, that of the solitude of the mountain and the absolute Babylon that is Pigeon Forge.”

The sound of Dying Surfer Meets His Maker mixes together a diverse sonic palette too, which Staebler says was designed to be experienced as a full album, where “core songs lead into each other.” The album opener “Call Me Star,” starts with downbeat acoustic arpeggios, slowly melting into grittier chords, leading into the firebrand distorted bass of the barn-burning next track, “El Centro.” Parks says that the song was inspired by a rowdy show they performed in the wayward town of El Centro, California. “We were in a little beer bar on Halloween, and there wasn’t a ton of people there, maybe 20 or 30. All of our gear was in a big pile behind our drummer, Robby. Only one microphone for all of us. Ben and I were wearing dresses. The guy in charge said ‘you guys can play for however long you want,’ so we played for two hours. On the album, we channeled the riff from that crazy show, it’s completely live, just us in a room, doing what we did on that night over again.”

On the cerebral and sweeping track “Open Passageways,” Parks mined his experiences living in the remote locale of Elmgrove, Louisiana, stranded in a house once owned by his grandmother. “I didn’t have any money, there’s one heater in the place, it was freezing in the middle of the winter,” he recollects. “Everything broke and I was out there for four months and lost my mind. Not being able to do anything, no Internet, no TV, no phone. Just me and my dog in this house. Then I wrote ‘Open Passageways’ in a strange tuning on a classical guitar, and it became something I never heard before. When I brought it to Ben, we used three more songs on the album from my time in Louisiana.” Staebler creates all the artwork for the band, from the album imagery to the t-shirt designs, gleaning inspiration from their travels. He says that whether he’s creating visual art or pounding the drums, channeling his creative spirit is an almost meditative state of reflection. “Playing drums for me, it takes me to a place where everything disappears and you accept everything that happens to you as it happens. With drawing and photography too, I have these other tools in my bag, to keep my mind occupied. It’s when you get home from being on the road that you begin to reflect on where you’ve been that those places start sinking in. Our favorite thing is to go out West and check out canyons and mountains. We spend time there. We welcome ourselves to the space, and absorb it.”

A sense of place permeates the album, providing a kind of soundtrack drawing from each band-member’s hometowns, from the Southern Gothic of Park’s Southern life to the coastal sound of McLeod’s St. Augustine, Florida roots to Van Cleave’s soulful upbringing in Ohio. For All Them Witches, music is the conduit to channel experiences into sound, creating filmic landscapes rendered by guitars, keys, and drums. “When we’re in California, our music sounds like California, or the redwoods,” Parks says. “When we’re in El Centro, it sounds like El Centro and the sand dunes, like where the sandworms were in “Beetlejuice.” We’ve been through all these beautiful places you’d never get to see unless you were in a rock band, that you’d never see unless you were travelling the country with your friends, making music, and appreciating it all along the way.”

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