Tuesday 30 August 2022

An Interview With Zach Amster From Psych Stoner Rockers ABRAMS

Psych Stoner Rockers ABRAMS have steadily been building up a well deserved reputation within the underground Psych Stoner Rock scene thanks to acclaimed albums such as "Lust. Love. Loss.", "Morning" and "Modern Ways". However, they may have released their definitive work to date with their upcoming new album In The Dark.

A stunning mix of Psych Rock, Stoner Rock, Sludge Rock and Ambient Rock. Perhaps influenced by bands such as Torche, Baroness and Mastodon. ABRAMS deliver their own blend of fantastical heavy Psych Stoner/Sludge Rock. 

Newly signed to Small Stone Records, ABRAMS ultimately aim BIG with In The Dark and exceeded on all levels.

I caught up with Zach Amster (Guitars/Vocals) from ABRAMS where we discussed their musical history and the making of the new album. 

Read on what Zack has to say.

Hi Zack. How’s it going? Thanks for doing the interview.

Hi Steve! Doing great, getting ready for the album release which is always exciting but also a little stressful. Thanks for the high praise in your review.

For folks not in the know, can you give a brief history of the band and where it is today/

Hailing from Denver, Colorado we formed in 2013 and have 4 LPs and 1 EP. You can hear the gradual progression with each release from a more post hardcore, sludge sound moving to a more progressive, psychedelic, heavy rock band. Taylor Iversen (Bass/Vox) and I (Zach Amster G/V) are the founding members. 

We are so happy to say we don’t have Spinal Tap syndrome anymore with the addition of our incredible basher Ryan DeWitt who has been with us since Modern Ways (2020). We have recently added our good friend Patrick Alberts on second guitar, formerly of Call of the Void (Relapse Records). Not only has he helped shift the band to a new musical direction, but we can more easily recreate our ‘wall of sound’ in a live setting as a four piece.

How would you describe your music in your own words?

At the end of the day, we are a Heavy Rock band. Like I mentioned previously, you can hear a cool evolution with each record from post hardcore to a more heavy progressive rock band. I believe with our newest release, ‘In The Dark’, we have found our true and honest sound. We’ve recently heard comparisons to Cave In, Quicksand, and Torche which I think pretty rad.

We’re here to talk about your upcoming new album In The Dark. What can people expect for this album?

We are very proud of this record and how it came about. They can expect a slight shift in our sound with a new psyched out, heavy shoegaze element added. I feel like we upped our game in the vocal department. We don’t scream anymore and put a huge emphasis on hooks. The production quality is top notch, thanks to the incredibly talented Dave Otero. I’m still a huge fan of putting on a record and listening front to back. I may be biased but this one flows really well.

A different sound compared to your previous albums. More Progressive and more Ambient in places. Was this the ultimate creative goal for this album to release something different for people to listen to?

For sure! A big part of the shift happened when Patrick brought in ideas of what would become ‘Body Pillow’. We were so stoked on these beautiful riffs, but there was definitely some hesitation that had us asking, "is this an Abrams song?" I'm glad we answered that question rather quickly. This song opened up a lot of doors for us creatively and gave us the confidence to realize it's ok to chill out a little. We realized that we don't have to be blasting on 10 for an entire album let alone an entire song. The playfulness with the dynamics in Body Pillow really helped us create a better vision for how we wanted the record to sound. I think this is one of our favorites because it was just new to us and a slight turn from our past efforts.

What is In The Dark all about and why did you call the album that.

We never had a concept going in. It kind of naturally happened as there is a common lyrical element. Thematically, the song ‘In The Dark’ encapsulates the overall concept of the record. So, it seemed fitting to give it the album title. There is a general concept of not feeling comfortable in your own skin. What appears on the surface often times does not tell the true story of what lies beneath. It’s dark in nature but offers inspiration to overcome. "Not wearing my own skin, it doesn't feel like my own"..."it's the way you act when you're alone"..."when you're in the dark, are you hiding from me, just hold your head up high, it's all you can do".

I’ve been a fan of Abrams ever since your debut album. What a fantastic album that was. Looking back at all of your albums. Were you surprised at the receptions they all received and would you change anything about them?

Thanks! We had a lot of fun with the first record. It’s always nice to receive positive feedback from something you have spent so much time on. I wouldn’t change a damn thing! I love everything about the writing process and each record serves as a stamp in time. When listening back I get pretty nostalgic thinking about all of the memories, good and bad. Hearing the natural evolution and progression from LP1 to this new one really trips me out. As a band, we are very happy with the direction we are heading.

What were the recording sessions like for the new album? Was this a hard album to write and record for?

We recorded with producer/engineer extraordinaire Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cattle Decapitation). Recording is always stressful. It’s expensive and we’re always wondering if we’ll have enough time. Not only is Dave an amazing engineer, he’s a fantastic producer with an amazing ear for melody and harmony. His relaxed demeanor makes for just an overall great time. This was our 3rd time working with Dave and we were the most prepared we’ve been prior to going into the studio (more on that in the next question).

Did you do anything different when recording this album compared to your previous albums?

This was the first time we did any legit pre-production for an album. Previously, we mainly wrote as a unit in the room together. During the heights of the pandemic we did not get together. Instead of going batshit crazy, we beefed up our home recording setups and just demoed pretty much nonstop. This was key in shaping the way the songs turned out, especially for vocals. I learned how much easier it is to write vocal hooks when I put the guitar down and just dig in.

What is the creative process or setup within Abrams? Do you all write the music and lyrics together or do certain people within Abrams do that?

Like I mentioned in the last question, we wrote the majority of this material during the pandemic in isolation. I would demo out mostly full songs to a drum machine. Patrick also came in with a lot of solid riffs and song ideas too. Once we felt comfortable, it was really cool to go from hearing the demos to fleshing them out in the room together. 

The songs took on a new life of their own with each member adding their own personalities to them. Since I used a simple drum machine on the demos, the drums saw this the most. Ryan’s style is very flashy in nature and his influences are different than us. He loves a lot of techy, insane heavy stuff mainly because all of those drummers are incredible. It’s a huge advantage to have this. He comes up with rhythms none of us would have thought of and gives the songs a fresh attitude. It was super cool to see the music go through every filter from demos to rehearsals and then finally to Otero! I write the lyrics I sing and Taylor his. Patrick lended his hand to some lyrics as well.

Who and what influenced your lyrics for the new album?

I write from personal experience so I guess life is my main influence. I try to keep the lyrics on the more ambiguous side of things to leave them open to interpretation.

Who designed the excellent artwork. Very Seventies inspired and heavily Psychedelic which I dig.

Robin Gnista. A fantastic artist who has done a number of album covers, concert posters, and shirts for a lot of amazing bands. He did a fantastic job!

Will you be touring this album heavily in the USA or perhaps even overseas dates in the future?

Yes! We are working on finalizing dates in November for a short West Coast run with our good buddies in the excellent In The Company of Serpents. Those dates will get released as soon as everything is finalized. We plan to hit it harder in 2023. Keep your eyes peeled! We’d absolutely love to make it overseas so if anybody is interested in booking, hit us up!

Small Stone Records are releasing this album. How did you hook-up with that legendary label?

We were introduced by Jesse from the incredible Lo Pan who have 3 releases through Small Stone. I gave Jesse the record, he loved it and sent it over to Scott who contacted us pretty quickly after the fact. We are really excited about this partnership!

How did you get involved with music. Was it a particular album, group or artist that made you want to write and play your own music?

I’d have to credit my Dad. He’s a huge Neil Young and Springsteen fan. Once he got me into grunge I never looked back.

What is the current state of the Denver, Colorado Rock/Metal scene. Do you perform gigs on a regular basis and do you have a local scene that you're actively involved with?

The Denver rock/metal scene is pretty happening. We’ve seen a lot of our friends grow from locals to getting on some big labels and rad tours. It’s a friendly community of musicians where everybody has your back. Touring acts seem to love playing Denver these days with all the awesome venues we have and crowds like to get rowdy in the mile high. We play somewhat frequently around town.

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans currently out there?

Thanks for listening! Spread the good word and share our music with your friends!

Thanks for the interview!

Words by Steve Howe and Zach Amster

Thanks to Claire at Purple Sage PR for arranging this interview and thanks to Zack for doing this interview.

In The Dark will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Small Stone Recordings from September 9th 2022.


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