Friday 15 November 2013

Live Review & Interview : Windhand, Manchester, 5/11/2013


Windhand, Live Review & Interview, Manchester, 5/11/2013, Manchester, England

Windhand Interview

Life in a rock n’ roll band is never without drama. For Windhand, Richmond, Virginia’s doom-tinged upstarts, it is no different. Having played their first UK show in Leicester on Sunday, the band was looking ahead to their Manchester date when guitarist Asechiah Bogdan was rushed into hospital in Chester. Forced to stay overnight, with his right arm swollen to twice its normal size, the band were forced to carry on without him.

By the time the remaining 4 members reached the venue, an old punk pub a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly train station, the place is already abuzz with denim and beards. It is here, amid the pub’s noisy backdrop that Garrett Morris, the band’s other guitarist talks to Sludgelord and, despite a hectic day, he is still loving his time in the UK.

GM “My experience of the UK, in my short time here so far is that people come to see bands play and are really appreciative of the music,” he reveals. “Not being disrespectful, but a lot of the time in the US people just go to hang out, it’s more like a social scene where people aren’t too bothered about the bands.”

With a new record, the powerfully moving Soma, winning them hordes of new fans, Garrett reflects on the work.

GM “It’s a little bit more of a rock record, compared to our last [self-titled] record, but there’s something on there for everybody. We have short, 5 minute rock songs, an acoustic track that Dorthia did all by herself and we have a long song, Boleskine, which is the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”

It’s a record he feels as a huge leap forward for the band, epitomized by that album closing epic. 

GM “Everyone contributed material to this record so it sounds like a band. Some of the stuff on the first album had been written years before it came out so these songs are a little fresher to us and more fun to play.”

Sludgelord however, is not the only one to sing the record’s praises, with the likes of Metal Hammer scribe Amit Sharma converted by the record’s staggering quality.

GM “I try not to read reviews, they’re so overwhelming,” says Garrett. “We didn’t realise how well it was doing until we went on the road in the US in September and the shows were packed in places we’d never been before. It’s incredibly flattering; I’m just glad people like it.”

A dark, desolate cabin in the woods, Soma’s album is striking.

GM “We did a split with Cough and while we were doing that, our bassist Parker Chandler, who is also in Cough was looking for artwork for that record and found this artist called Chris Word.(?) We’d gone through some of her photographs and I found the one of the cabin. I filed it away because I wanted to use it for something. The way the album came out, the way the songs are it all just goes together with the feeling of the record, there’s coldness and starkness. It’s a very black and white record, there’s not a lot of colour.

“I always associate some of my favourite records with colours,” he continues. “Nirvana’s Nevermind is always going to be a blue record and it sounds blue. Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy is always going to be an orange record.

“We do all the production for the record’s ourselves and when I was in the studio I wanted to make it dirtier, grittier, almost like an old black and white movie. If you listen to the album you’ll hear pops and a sort of 1930s movies sound.”

“I’ve recorded all the Windhand records so far. We go to our rehearsal space, play the songs live and then overdub little things on top. There’s no pro tools, we did it all on a little 16 track tape machine. It’s nice having independence, we can do what we want with it and work at our leisure. I would go there and work on it through the night.”

Windhand are one of several great Doom bands that seem to be on the rise, with the genre in seemingly great health.

GM “It really does,” Garrett agrees. “It almost seems like the underground is spilling over. In the US especially I’ve noticed a definite crossover where indie rock kids and punks are coming out to the shows and it’s great.”

Live Review :

So then, with doom thriving, it is no wonder there is a real sense of occasion in the place. Set times were pushed back to cater around the chaos of the day so it was gone 11pm, the curfew in most venues, before they took to the stage one member light. The room, upstairs in the venue, is a fittingly bleak setting for their set. A small black room, with windows boarded and bare wooden floorboards, a stage stood proudly at one end, on top of which, the band performed a rousing set. After a brief banshee squeal of feedback which came hurtling out of Garrett’s Marshall Stack, they tore into Soma’s opening track, Orchard. Blisteringly loud fuzz filled the room, vibrating the walls. The power of the track on record was just as prominent in the flesh, credence then, to Morris’ production skills. As the song progresses, with Ryan Wolfe’s rhythmic poundings providing a paranoid heartbeat to the song, it is clear that this band is raw and authentic, gritty and evil. Front woman Dorthia roams the stage, both hands on a microphone that, as she belted out each demonic howl with a confident panache, you were convinced she was going to swallow whole at any moment.

Outside, as the rumblings of trains and taxis going in and out of the neighbouring station carried on as normal, the venue seemed to growl menacingly as the bands wall of sound carried itself as far as it could. It was a sound that seemed to captivate the packed out room, with each song receiving huge ovations.

Notably, it was refreshing to be at a gig where not one phone was held aloft to film the action. Everybody here was here to live the moment, to get lost in their nightmare-ish soundscapes, to be taken on a journey.

In all, the band showed a true character to stand tall in the face of drama. They could have pulled the show but instead they made the most out of an unfortunate situation which could have so easily marred their first few UK dates. The underground may very well be spilling out into the mainstream, and if it is, then Windhand are riding the top of those waves with a smile and a swagger.
Words by : Phil Weller

You can buy their new records here. Check out Phil’s excellent review of Soma here and the Cough/Windhand split review by Richard Maw here.

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