Saturday 14 January 2017

Science Fiction Or Fantasy - An Interview with BOOK OF WYRMS

Mysterious and obscure Book of Wyrms was revealed in Richmond, Virginia by dedicated scholars of doom. They are Jay Lindsey (bass), Sarah Moore-Lindsey (vocals), Chris DeHaven (drums), Kyle Lewis (guitars) and Ben Coudriet (guitars). First result of their research was their demo-record in 2015 which lead the band to debut their big work “Sci-fi / Fantasy” released by Twin Earth Records.

Having this information you already can conclude that Book of Wyrms is about lady-fronted doom with lyrics about space, dragons and probably about dragons in space as well… I’m not sure about the last thing so I mailed the band decision to clarify this as soon as possible.

Hi there! Twin Earth Records just released Book of Wyrms debut “Sci-fi / Fantasy”, what are you going to do now with the finished release on your hands?

Jay: Writing some more songs, booking a few little tours, reading fantasy books, listening to Mercyful Fate.

Sarah: We are trying to play as many shows and festivals as we can the rest of the year, and we hope to do a lot more songwriting.

The band was born in around 2015, and I see that you started with one guitarist Kelsey Miller on the nameless 3 songs long demo. But then second guitarist Ben Coudriet joined Book of Wyrms, and together you recorded the first full-length. How soon did you get the effectiveness of twin guitars approach?

Jay: Actually, Kelsey left completely after helping us record the demo. Ben came on and brought Kyle with him. We all love Tony Iommi and the way he’d put a different lead on each channel so that was a technique we were into from the beginning. Ben and Kyle are really good about working together on that so the rest of the band just gets to sit back and enjoy.

I saw that only Jay played metal before Book of Wyrms, what is the musical background of others?

Jay: Chris (drums) has always played metal.

Sarah: Ben and Kyle have been in a variety of projects, mostly rock and psychedelic bands. I was in chorus in high school and hung out with my first band. We tried to cover “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Then I’ve done a lot of solo stuff accompanying myself on bass, ukulele, and banjo.

Besides two guitars I would hear very atmospheric vintage-styled keyboards you accurately use in your songs. Who’s in charge for effects in the band?

Sarah: I use a little touchpad called a mini Kaossilator, and it creates some pretty cool sounds. Jay usually comes up with some cool ideas and I implement them with my own twist. We just added another small synth to my arsenal, so I’m excited to try out some new sounds live.

How do you share duties in the band? Do you have main song-writer there?

Sarah: Jay has come up with most of the initial riffs, and then we begin song building from there. “Transcendental Migraine” was mostly Ben’s initial composition. Jay or I come up with a compelling song title and I usually write the lyrics about what the song title invokes in my mind. I let the guys know what the working titles are, so they know, for instance, that one of our newer songs is called “Dust Toad.” They craft their parts accordingly haha.

Jay: Everyone gets in each other’s business a little bit – Sarah probably writes like 95% of the lyrics but someone might have a small idea or concept to add; jay will ask the others to pick between two bass ideas he wrote, Sarah will ask the guitarists to support her at a certain part. So everyone’s mostly on their own but we all try to coordinate.

Book of Wyrms – Leatherwing Bat

There were 3 songs in the demo – “Nightbong”, “Sourwolf” and “King Mildew”, 2 of them are in the debut but you didn’t include there the last one. Why didn’t you save it for the full-length?

Jay: King Mildew was just different enough from the others that we ended up not playing it live and it sort of fell out of favor. If we hadn’t managed to write so many other songs we might have still used it on there, but something had to give if we wanted to fit everything.

Sci-fi / Fantasy” is pretty long album - 7 songs, 53 minutes. And I wouldn’t say that you focused only on repeating riffs, you have more complex songs’ structure than one could expect from doom band. What is a range of your influences?

Jay: modern doom is largely based on the genius of Black Sabbath, but it’s a caricature of what Sabbath really sounded like. The idea that every Sabbath song was slow and low is just not true. what makes them such a special band was their versatility – quiet, loud, fast, slow, major, minor, they did it all in a very dynamic way. To answer the question, though, we like a lot of different shit. Hawkwind, NWOBHM, Iron Maiden, the Melvins, OM, but a lot of things that aren’t heavy at all, too.

Sarah: We all like heavy music. But Beth from Portishead was a major influence on me. Here is this bad-ass woman who sings with loud, sometimes uncomfortable instrumentation surrounding her, and she’s still the most potent thing about the sound. Sharon Jones, Grace Slick, Ella Fitzgerald, and Thom Yorke all were and are huge influences.

Speaking about album’s name – what’s it about? Is it combination of sci-fi and fantasy topics or is it fight of one against another?

Jay: It’s how a lot of little old used book stores abbreviate the sign for the Science Fiction/ Fantasy section of the store. For me, it’s the coolest section, where you just feel like a kid about to discover a new world – hopefully through some ragged trashy used books with crazy cover art! And of course those used books are always from the 70’s and 80’s, so the vibe is just a very particular set of feelings and memories that the album title hints at.

Nightbong” is one of the most remarkable songs on the album – groovy main theme, melodic vocals, that creepy amazing keyboards’ tune… What’s the story behind this track?

Sarah: Well, we love to exaggerate and joke around, so we came up with the song title one night and I was intrigued. That name was just too cool to not do anything with. I envisioned a fantasy where there was this mystical bong that is always full of weed and transports your mind and body to all kinds of places. But it’s also kind of funny because it’s like a typical stoner concept just really embellished and so serious.

What are your other songs about?

Sarah: Well I learned from Steely Dan that it's a good idea to keep things ambiguous so that people can form their own meanings of the songs and then it becomes that much more personal to the listener. But there are some, for instance, "Infinite Walrus" which refers to a King of the Hill episode of the same title. Cosmic Filth is our comment on man's detrimental impact on his surroundings.

By the way, Book of Wyrm reminds about “Mysteries of Wyrm” (or something like that) – a fictional grimoire from Lovecraftian writings. Do these books connected between each other?

Sarah: I did not know about the connections with the Lovecraftian writings, so that's pretty cool. My uncle just sent me pictures of old books called Wyrms by Orson Scott Card. We just love dragons haha.

Where did you take speech samples for “All Hallows’ Eve” song? And by the way, what does this celebration mean for you? Do you take part into it?

Jay: I was on a trip through Tennessee, and they had taped sermons for free at the truck stops so that truckers can listen on their long rides and, I guess, find salvation. So I saw this one that said “The Truth About Halloween,” and I grabbed it and brought it home. This old dude and his wife are just ranting for 90 minutes – mispronouncing terms, making insane generalizations, and freaking out about the sinister motive behind little kids dressing up and having fun. It’s a little eerie because of their accents and how serious they are, but it’s hilarious as well - like the Venom philosophy of “if you are dumb enough to believe in Satan, you deserve to be frightened.”

Sarah: Halloween can be really cool, and I love the magic and sense of foreboding that the night has. Some of my best memories are from Halloween shows or parties.

Jay: Halloween to me is another bullshit holiday to sell crap to people who don’t need any more crap. Whatever meaning it had was subverted long ago, first into Christendom and then into the marketplace. I support the exploration of evil and darkness, and of prechristian celebrations based on the seasons, but I think it would be cool to find one that hasn’t been made into a child-safe shopping spree. Roodmas, for example, is promising.

I bet that you recorded the album on your own, how is this process expensive? And do you plan to return some funds with gigs and merch? Everyone knows that you will no gain money with doom stuff, but you need some incoming to pay costs.

Jay: I’ve seen LP’s with $15,000 budgets but we paid our engineer out of pocket. Thankfully he charged way less than he’s worth and thankfully our label helped with the manufacturing end. We have no idea what to expect money-wise but it’s important to just play a lot of different places and have a variety of merch so the people who do like you can help you continue.

Sarah: We will hopefully be getting embroidered patches soon, and we are working on small batches of t shirts. We are looking forward to releasing the album on vinyl in a few months and will hopefully recoup some of our costs with those and gigging as much as possible.

How far do you already go to playing gigs? Is Richmond good enough to play there periodically?

Sarah: We have gone as far as Tulsa from Richmond, and we are playing Philadelphia and Brooklyn this weekend. So we are trying to get out more and see the country. Richmond is a cool place to play but we try not to over-saturate the market because there's a big metal scene here.

Doom scene is overcrowded with bands who use old school approach and who have ladies on vocals. Don’t you think about competition within genre, about obstacles new band like Book of Wyrm meets on its way to listeners?

Sarah: I honestly try to focus on my own music and material and not think about what other people are doing. You can drive your self crazy if you focus on that at all. I agree that the genre has sort of exploded and there seem to be a lot of bands in the stoner/doom category. But I don't feel like having a female vocalist is a "gimmick" or a type of music. I think it's a general acceptance of heavy music becoming a little more mainstream. Also, when your instrumentation is so low, you have to be able to fill in the gaps with higher notes at times. It worked for King Diamond, but he's a beast.

Okay, that’s all for today! Thanks for your time and I wish you all the best on promoting Book of Wyrm music. How would you like to sum up our conversation?

Sarah: Thank you so much for taking the time to ask us these questions. We are looking forward to what's next.

Words by Aleks Evdokimov, Sarah Moore-Lindsey and Jay Lindsey

Sci-Fi/Fantasy is available to buy from Twin Earth Records now.