In advance of the band's Wednesday gig at Sonar in Baltimore, drummer/vocalist James May phoned in to discuss life in Savannah, working with producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden) and the band's unlikely new hipster fanbase.
What is it about Savannah that breeds so many metal bands? Is it the oppressive weather?
That probably has a lot to do with it. It's so hot down here. We have winter for maybe two weeks out of the year. Sometimes it's Christmas and we're wearing shorts. So when you're at your practice space and it's really [swampy] ... then you go outside and you feel as if you're about to literally burst into flames, you're gonna make angry music.
Savannah seems like such a genteel city, and sort of creepy underneath.
Oh yeah. There's a whole, like, haunted culture behind Savannah. Even when it's not Halloween around here, it still looks creepy.
Even though you're friends with a lot of the other metal bands around here, there's got to be an element of competition, right? Especially when you see them getting national attention?
Not so much. It was Kylesa, then Baroness, then us, and it's not much of a competition, it's more like, when are you going to get here, too? It's like, more of a helping hand. No one's ever stepped on someone else's head to get higher around here. It's kind of like a close family.
In their review of your new abum, Stereogum accused you of being "catchy." This definitely feels like a more accessible album.
It is. We slowed it down a little bit, and it might have a few catchy chorus-y things in it. I was kind of like, let's do an album that people actually can sing along to.
What's been the reaction from longtime fans who are used to your harder-edged stuff?
They seem to like it. We were kind of worried in a way. It didn't lose its heaviness so there was no reason to worry about that, but the last one was a little more thrashy sounding. But I don't think that it changed so much that we lost fans over it. We probably gained them, if anything.
You had a song on an episode of "Criminal Minds" recently. What was the context?
The guy [in the episode] tied his parents up in a closet and then he goes over to the radio and turns it up, and it's our song. And then he shoots his parents. And then one of the investigators comes in later and hears the music and goes, "Yeah, they must've turned this up to mask the gunshot sounds." And the other detective goes, "Or torture them by sound." We thought that was hilarious ... My parents watched it, and the neighbors. It was something more cool than [the regular] band exposure thing.
What was it like working with Jack Endino? He must have had some stories.
That guy is super laid-back, super cool. Even him having all the experience he had, he still listened to what we had to say. He was laid back about recording schedules — I don't really want to be laying down metal tracks at 9 a.m.
Did you find yourself asking him about working with Nirvana and Soundgarden?
We briefly mentioned it, but you don’t wanna ask the guy too much about stuff he's done in the past. He said that hopefully one day when people referenced his name, they'd reference Soundgarden, Nirvana and Black Tusk, that we'd be [in that category]. And while we were there, Krist Novoselic called the studio. So I know he's stayed in touch with those guys.
It seems like you're at a place where you've become a metal band that hipsters like. Have you noticed that at your shows?
Absolutely. And whatever the hipster crowd wants to do, if they like it, it's cool. But I know that things might change the next day, what they might like. The hipster movement moves around a lot, you know? We have nothing against appealing to them. If we keep them, that'd be awesome. But if we don't, I won't be surprised. That's how that scene kind of works. They're always looking for the new thing, you know?