Wednesday 6 November 2013

Interview with The Gentlemen Bastards

 The Gentlemen Bastards cover art

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing Bill and Böðvar from The Gentlemen Bastards. A band that impressed the hell out of me earlier in the year.

Their style of Southern Rock/Hard Rock/Stoner Metal has won then a considerable fanbase within the Stoner Metal scene. I originally said of their excellent debut album.

"The Gentlemen Bastards might be based in Alabama, home of all things Southern Rock but don't be expecting a 2nd rate Lynyrd Skynyrd rip-off. These guys have been schooled in the hard rock university of Soundgarden, Clutch, QOTSA and Sabbath."

"All in all this album is a fucking blast from start to finish. It will leave you with a warm fuzzy glow inside and that's what a great Stoner Rock album should do. Excellent and Highly Recommended."

I was asked would I mind doing an interview with these hugely talented bastards. So I agreed and I can now finally present my interview with - The Gentleman Bastards.

Q1 – Hi guys! How are things with you today? Thanks for doing this.

Bill: Hey Steve! Thanks very much for having us. It's just me and Böðvar today. So, fire away!

Q2 – For people not in the know can you give a brief history on how the band came about.

Bill: Dave (our drummer) and I had played in a band together for several years and know each other very well. We'd been jamming with other people for a while, but all of those projects had sort of fizzled out. So, we decided to start playing together again. We put together a four piece with a really good bass player and singer. But, Dave and I had a different idea from the other two of where we wanted to go musically.

The singer started to be less and less available and we finally agreed that it just wasn't working out. So, back to the drawing board we went. Will answered a Craigslist ad I posted and then took forever to send me a sample of his vocals. I wasn't sure if he was really serious. But, when I finally heard his demo, I was really impressed. He had no experience as a lead singer, which was a minor concern - but he had limitless potential. By this time, our original bass player was starting to drift away with another band that was a much better fit for his musical tastes. So, now we were looking for a bass player.

Böðvar: I found the guys through Craigslist and I sent them an email and introduced myself and we set up an audition and apparently I blew their minds. Been together ever since. On a side note, I remember my first impression of my band members was that I thought Dave was very old (he must have been sober) and that Will looked like Harry Potter; he had the same haircut and glasses, and hadn't quite morphed into the mojo pretty boy he is today. I can't remember my first impression of Bill.

Bill: Thank God haha.

Q3 – Where did you get the name – The Gentlemen Bastards from?

Bill: Will and I are big fans of Irish traditional music and had come up with it sort of as a joke a while ago "just in case" we ever had time for a project like that. But, when this band was ready to gig and needed a name, we kept coming back to The Gentlemen Bastards and realized that it was a great fit for what we do - Four clean cut, quiet guys playing very loud rock and roll.

Q4 – What category do you think you mainly fit in - Gentlemen or Bastards - Or Both?

Böðvar: In our personal lives we are all perfect gentlemen of the highest pedigree of course. As a band we are total bastards in that we're the illegitimate offspring of the rock genre; not belonging squarely to any particular style.

Q5 – You're all from different countries. Does that cause any problems for you all when you want to to tour or record new material?

Bill: Well, we all live in a few miles from each other in Alabama. So, it's not an issue. Dave and Bodie will travel back home to visit from time to time. But, they never stay gone too long.

Q6 – Your album came out last year and it has won a truckload of brilliant praise from the Stoner Metal Community. Were you pleased with the responses your music and album has got?

Böðvar: The reviews have been great, and quite honestly very well written and often witty. Also, to get the wheels rolling, we've played with all and any kinds of rock bands and always been well received by band members and their respective audiences.

Bill: Steve, I thought your review had one of the the best lines - that our album was "a fucking blast from start to finish" - How can someone not want to listen to that?

Q7 – Was it a hard album to write and record for?

Böðvar: Not so much hard as it was long, I mean band members' offspring were conceived and birthed during the process, we had a marriage, jobs were changed, lost, and gained, beards were grown. But making rock came pretty easy. It has a way of just rocking itself out sometimes it would seem.

Bill: We're pretty productive when it comes to writing. So, that part wasn't hard. Things were chugging along pretty smoothly until it came time to record. Then, every major life event that could happen - good and bad - happened during the recording process. So, there were a lot of starts and stops that slowed everything down and made it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.

Q8 – Is there anything you want to change about it or is it perfect the way it is?

Bill: There's little things here and there that I might do differently today. But, overall, I think it's pretty damn good for a self-produced debut. The next album will leave it in the dust, though. I can promise you that.

Q9 – How would yourselves describe your sound?

Böðvar: Sound? What's in a sound? Let's break it down. Dave plays an 80's version of a John Bonham-sized Ludwig which he literally upholstered with red velvet. I play my wood-sounding Warwick through my GK 800RB grunchy, punchy head, and Bill has his Gibson SG, and his Russian knock-off of a Marshall head; Sovtek, which has a very unique dirty-clean sound to it, and Will sings through his, uh, "microphone extraordinaire", with his gutsy, but smooth voice. So I guess we're velvety smooth, grunchy, punchy, dirty-clean, gutsy, communistic sounding?

Bill: I have no idea how to follow that answer. Translate that into Icelandic and back again and see what you get.

Q10 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians?

Böðvar: Well, I've always liked all kinds of music, especially if it has that soulful element. But I don't remember the names. I don't know famous albums and when they came out and all that jazz. That's a Bill question, fan boy number one. My favorite bass players have always been Paul, John Paul, James, I won't divulge their last names. I also like what's his face from the Stones.

Bill: When I started learning the guitar, I would just sit and play along to anything that was on the radio. I think that helped me develop a good sense of rhythm and timing. I wasn't just learning chords out of a book, I was figuring songs out on the fly. As for favorite players, Ritchie Blackmore, Angus Young and Dave Murray/Adrian Smith are the first names that come to mind. Glenn and K.K., of course. I was drawn to music where the riff was the cornerstone of the song. But, all of those guys also understood how to balance power and melody in their playing. It wasn't just shredding for the sake of shredding with no soul like some of their modern day counterparts.

Q11 – What is the local scene like in Alabama? Do you get regular gigs in your home town? Or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly?

Bill: We get regular gigs. But, frankly, the scene around here kind of sucks. Not because of the bands, but because of the lack of interest from 99% of the population. Now, there is a very enthusiastic underground - really good bands of all different styles that support each other and great people who come out to all the shows whether it's punk or rock or metal or whatever. There's a local radio show called The Invisible City that just put on an all day festival to highlight the variety of talent in the area and all of the underground regulars were there.

But, "invisible" is definitely the word because the vast majority of people in our area couldn't care less about a band playing original music. Outside of that small scene that you encounter at a handful of bars, people here proudly stick to what's "safe" and familiar. There used to be a big music festival here - it died out, in part, because they just kept booking the same old acts every year and cut out the local bands - even though they weren't paying them anyway. We are very appreciative and loyal to the people here who have helped and supported us. But, it must be so much easier in Europe where there's a different stoner rock festival every week and everyone seems really hungry for new music.

Q12 - What are your favourite bands you are currently listening to? Any bands that myself or our readers should check out?

Böðvar: The Vintage Caravan and the band Kaleo from Iceland -especially their single "Rock n' Roller"

Bill: The last album I listened to before I started on this interview was the newest one from Gozu. But, I am constantly looking for something new and awesome. Los Asteroide from Argentina are cool. Let's see. I doubt there are many you haven't already heard of. But, a great band out of Alabama that your readers would like is Beitthemeans. They deserve to break big very soon.

Q13 - Do you all have regular jobs or is being a musician your main job?

Böðvar: I don't have a job currently, I'm a food science student. Dave drives around the South and troubleshoots electronics or plugs in computer screens or something like that, Will builds rockets or something, and Bill is a lawyer whisperer aren't you Bill?

Bill: Something like that. As much as we would love to be able to do this for a living, we aren't even close to that level yet. But, there are a lot of great bands out there with day jobs. So, we're in good company. I think I read that Orange Goblin JUST quit their day jobs last year or something, which seems unbelievable. But, people don't realize how hard it is for bands to make even a little money. So, if you really like something you hear, give that band a few bucks for their trouble. It really is appreciated.

Q14 - What are your views of bands using websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund their new album releases? Some people and bands are for it. Some are not. Would you consider doing some thing like that yourselves?

Böðvar: Never heard of it. Bill?

Bill: I haven't looked into it that deeply. But, it seems to me that if you're offering people a copy of your forthcoming album in exchange for their market value investment in the creation of said album, then I guess it's not that different from a "pre-order" type of thing. Granted, it's a much longer pre-order. But, fair enough.

Now, if your band is offering fans some stickers and a smile in exchange for a $50 donation because it's your "dream" to record in a fancy studio or with a big time producer - and then those same fans have to pay again to buy the album when it comes out - that's where I start to have a problem with it. However, there appear to be plenty of suckers people willing to contribute to those exact types of projects. So, maybe I'm just a grumpy old codger.

Q15 – In 5 words or less describe The Gentlemen Bastards live experience.

Böðvar: Came, saw, conquered, almost, word!

Bill: I wish "a fucking blast from start to finish" would fit into five words.

Q16 – What is the songwriting process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual?

Böðvar: Usually starts with a riff that someone comes up with or is born out of 3 hour long jam. Then we play with it, sleep on it, polish it etc. Will seems to throw up lyrics as he goes but I think he writes them in his diary when he gets home.

Bill: Will and I are the ones most likely to bring in an idea or a riff that we've been working on at home. But, then we all jam on it for a while and put our own fingerprints on it. So, while one or two of us may be driving the creative process, in the end everyone has made some contribution to the final arrangement.

Q17 - Has Bandcamp been a big help in getting your music across?

Bill: Yes, Bandcamp has been great for us. We have a website also - - and sell our music there, as well as iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, etc. But, besides gigs, we've sold more albums through Bandcamp than anywhere else.

Q18 - What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band?

Böðvar: Obviously, the reality of how expensive it is being in a band could be considered as a negative aspect.

Bill: Most rewarding is definitely that moment where we see that someone else understands and appreciates what we're doing - whether that's through a positive album review or somebody rocking out at a show. Even one of those experiences makes up for a lot of the negative stuff.

Q19 - If you could provide words to wisdom for people wanting to start a band – What would they be?

Böðvar: Find people you can get along with, who challenge you musically and live similar lifestyles. For example, don't be the only married guy in the band.

Q20 - What pisses you off most in music? Or do you not let the bad things in music stop you from performing and writing songs?

Böðvar: We absolutely do not let the bad things hinder us in any way, but, it's a shame how often looks, suave, and style supersede or even halfway dictate the music that gets put out these days. That maybe truer with Pop but it's sad how much Rock, a genre that used to go so much against the stream, has become very mainstream and categorized.

Bill: It doesn't affect us in any way because we do our own thing. But, I get pissed when I see a trend become so overwhelming that every band starts to look and sound the same. Like, every metal band on American corporate radio is pretty much identical to me, right down to their digital distortion sound and the way the songs are arranged. And every indie hipster band has the same guy playing an ironic folk instrument or headbanging as he mashes one note on his keyboard for an entire song. Don't even get me started on country music. My wife laughs at how outraged I get. But, I just can't understand why these bands are so huge. If more people would just follow The Sludgelord's recommendations, the world would be a better place.

Q21 - So when can we expect a new album or music from you guys. Anything exciting in the pipeline.

Bill: We're writing for a new album right now and are really excited about the new songs. We'll probably keep at it until the holidays and then start fine tuning what we have. Look for another eight or ten track set in early 2014. We feel like we've taken a big leap as songwriters and performers. So, we want to make sure we find the right studio to help us make a big leap sonically - as well - from the last album. You won't be disappointed.

Q22 - Finally do you have anything to say to your fans.

Bill: Thanks again. The best is yet to come.

I want to thank both Bill and Böðvar for such a great interview. Hugely entertaining and informative. Two of the nicest bastards around. Thanks guys. Best of luck in the future.

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