XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Jay: Yeah, the new LP, Occult New Age, is out May 7 on Desert Records on vinyl and CD, and then a little later the tape version will be out on Stoner Witch Records. The pre-order period has been pretty amazing, we’re still not used to strangers being that interested in our shit. Other than that, we’re all just trying to get vaccinated and be ready to hit the road whenever it’s safe again.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Jay: I think we started jamming in late 2014, and we were playing shows and had a demo out in 2015. I think Kyle (guitar) joined in 2015 right after we released the demo. He played our second show on.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Jay: I feel like I’ve always been in a band since I was a kid. I was always making weird solo stuff, or just writing songs that I didn’t try to share, whenever I wasn’t in a band, so I’m always in that creative frame of mind. But being in a band with other skilled and motivated people is just a really inspiring thing, it makes you a better player and person. For this particular band, Sarah had been singing in another metal project and I was just really impressed with what she could do over heavy riffs.. So when that band fizzled I was really quick to suggest we start jamming. I think we both needed that outlet, and honestly the traveling and socializing part of being in a band has become really important to us. It’s like having a weird extended family all over the country that we get to go party with sometimes.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Jay: I started playing bass in my first band because the other two kids already owned a guitar and bass (this is a shockingly common story for bassists). I got to take Music Theory and play in the jazz band in high school and started trying to compose a little more seriously. In college and after, I was just in any noisy punk band I could find. I didn’t really consider myself skilled enough to be in a real metal band at that point. Sarah’s always been a singer, I think she did chorus in school and then just always played and sang on her own. Kyle went to school for guitar, and Chris has been a drummer forever.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Jay: You know that scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke meets Yoda in the swamp? I hope we’re like that.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Jay: We wanna play Canada and Europe. We were actually starting to plan a Canada thing before COVID hit. We also still haven’t played the West Coast, and it’s just such a killer scene out there. The Holy Grail, though, the one honor every musician aspires to, is a sponsorship from WaWa. Can you imagine?
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Jay: It’s so hard to think that way – there’s always these immediate goals and obstacles to address. I’m rarely thinking past the next tour, or which riffs go together. I know that’s not a great way to approach your goals, but I’m mostly just trying to enjoy what we have while we have it. I don’t wanna bank too hard on the future because literally anything could happen. Long term, if the band is still getting fun shows in cool places, I’ll be pretty stoked.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Jay: That’s such a tough question. The two experiences couldn’t be more different:
Writing and recording is a really cerebral and introverted experience – it’s almost like math equations, where you’re just kind of doing tetris in your mind with all these pieces of sound and feeling. Sometimes it would be months between when I came up with a riff and when I figured out what to do with it. But then when you’re done with a song it feels like you climbed a mountain or built a car. It’s just like pure contentment. Recording is really different now than it used to be – when you’re just making shit for fun you can mess with it forever and try whatever you want. When you’re on your third record, there’s deadlines and expectations, so even though recording is still super fun, it’s a little more businesslike. Everyone knows their role and nobody wants to gum up the works, so there’s less farting around. You still feel really satisfied and accomplished afterwards.
Live shows are almost the exact opposite – there’s nothing cerebral or introverted about it. You know your parts so well that you can turn your brain off, and just be a conduit for those songs you wrote. I’m describing an altered state here – I don’t know if every musician feels this way, but live shows are a trance-inducing drug. It feels amazing but then sometimes there’s a pretty big comedown after the show, when the adrenaline is gone.
So you’re talking about immediate pleasure versus long-term achievement, and I honestly have no idea which is better for me, but playing live shows is fun as fuck.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Jay: The unifying theme is probably weirdness and imagination. The first two albums (SciFi/ Fantasy and Remythologizer) focused on science fiction and fantasy: there was an undead Pegasus, a toad that can turn you to stone with its glance, and dungeon-crawling murder mysteries. With the album titles, we were signaling that these are the kinds of things you’d find in old used paperback novels. The new record, Occult New Age, looks more at superstition (“Keinehora”) and alien conspiracy theories (“Hollergoblin”). It’s still about weirdness, just from a different section of the used book store. I guess we also thought it was kind of funny to lump the UFO books in with the dwarven warrior novels. It’s all just suspension of disbelief anyway.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Jay: Oh god I could write a book just on what we’ve seen in Texas. We met a real-life Peggy Hill – it was like 3 am and we pulled into a hotel outside Dallas and got a room. I remember thinking the desk lady looked and sounded just like Peggy Hill. Anyway, there was a dude with a video camera and we thought it was really strange that this dude was filming the hotel at 2am, but again we’re just tired and go up to the room. Kyle went to sleep and I took a shower and Chris was next in line for the bathroom so he was all toweled up. By now it’s like 4 am and all of a sudden the door starts pounding. I look in the peephole and sure enough, it’s Peggy Hill and the dude who’d been filming the hotel. She accused us of stealing this dude’s bag of tools and his car keys, and he’s just standing there looking embarrassed as fuck, like he didn’t want to be doing this at all. So now I’m in a towel all wet, yelling at this lady in the hall, and Chris pops up behind me in his towel, and Sarah is standing with me, so now it’s looking like a real freaky scene. She’s talking about the cops and seeing our bags, and I’m getting really pissed and then she said that the bag had been in the dining room, and I was like “lady don’t you remember we came in the front and left again out of the front, so there’s video that we never went in your stupid dining room,” and you could literally see her start to panic as she realized it couldn’t have been us. She just kept apologizing and it sounded exactly like Peggy Hill apologizing, and I just was like “lady it’s cool please just let me sleep.” I probably could have gotten a free stay out of that, but I didn’t want to get her in trouble. When we were leaving in the morning, that poor dude was still just hanging out by his car (not having found his keys), and was super apologetic. Over time we’ve invented an entire King of the Hill episode where Peggy gets a job at a hotel and then gets fired for accusing a guest of theft. She’s too embarrassed to tell Hank, so she sleeps in her car at Mega-Lo Mart at night so he’ll think she’s still working.
That same tour, a hotel ran out of normal rooms and gave us a “honeymoon suite” which meant that the shower faced out into the room, I guess so newlyweds can watch each other bathe. Basically, me and Sarah had gone in to order the room while Chris and Kyle waited in the van, and the hotel just assumed it was a romantic getaway. So nobody in the band wanted to use the shower except me. Everyone’s seen my ass at this point anyway and I wasn’t going to waste an opportunity to feel clean.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Jay: Our fans have all been really cool so far, just normal requests like signed records, which is totally fine and super flattering. I think you have to maybe be a little bigger than us before you attract the weirdos. Something about being well-known really seems to flip a switch for some people, and I’ve heard some weird stories from bands that are further along than us, but so far we’ve been lucky I guess.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Jay: To an extent, yeah. It was like the only thing I really seemed self-motivated and ambitious about, so I think they were relieved I wanted to work on something and not just play Sega all day. When I got older, they got a little more worried about me having some stability, but they’ve always understood that music is a part of my life and it’s not something I can just stop doing. They don’t necessarily get the music, but they see me working hard and being satisfied, and every parent wants that for their kids.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Jay: Probably “Blacklight Warpriest” – we’ve usually played at least one song by then, so the nerves are good and everyone’s feeling loose, and then we get to break all the way down to just bass and drums and a drone, so there’s a little breather before it gets heavy again. On top of that, Chris does the Purdie shuffle on drums, and I get to play with polyrhythms around that, so it’s just a fun workout for the rhythm section. Halfway through the song we switch from a shuffle to a boogie and people lose their shit. Then the outtro starts with a part that’s just bass and vocals doing a melody alone, and that’s a pretty unique moment before everything builds.
“Spirit Drifter” is cool because it was the single from the last record, and so it’s always a trip when people recognize the riff right away. I’m not used to that yet.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Jay: As a kid, Nirvana, GWAR, and Black Sabbath all made me want to be in a band. GWAR made me want to move to Richmond, where I learned about punk shows and DIY touring. That’s a big shift, when you go from thinking rock tours are this thing that can maybe happen one day when your band is big enough, to just hitting up friends in other towns and making it happen. Literally anyone can start a band and hit the road, and I’d be naming Richmond bands for multiple pages if I thanked everyone that inspired us to do this, or showed us how to do it better.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Jay: If we’re talking all-time, just let us open for Hawkwind in the 70s.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Jay: This guy told me his little daughter would listen to “Undead Pegasus” every day on the way to school, just staring at the cover art illustration of the Pegasus and asking metaphysical questions about it.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Jay: Either forest ranger or failed recording engineer.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Jay: Same as for recording. I have a Godin Shifter bass, a Pigtronix compressor (I like that it has a dry blend control), a Solid Gold FX germanium overdrive, and an MXR chorus pedal (again I like that it has a dry blend), and those pedals are always on. That goes into my Fender Bassman 500, and out into two SWR Big Ben 18″ cabs. People always have some smartass shit to say about the 18’s, but I love the way they sound, and the sound person usually goes direct out of my head anyway.
Kyle has a Reverend and a Gibson Flying V, and he’s got the usual guitarist pedals and a Marshall stack. I think it’s a Plexi head.
Sarah has a Yamaha FM synth and a Korg Kaossilator synth pad, and those run into a DI box so the sound person can just hand her a mic cable and it’s ready to go. She used to use a vocal delay pedal but now she just relies on whatever delay the PA has.
Chris has red drums and a cowbell.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Jay: It’s absolutely amazing. Even as live shows are on hold, people are staying enthusiastic and supportive about buying records, and I definitely feel like tours will be back when it’s safe. I think it was really hard to compete with Netflix and Door Dash, but if you planned and promoted your shows well, and had a decent reputation, you could still pack a venue. Again, we’re really lucky to be from Richmond, it’s one of those places where a show can and will happen at a convenience store or in a parking lot or under an overpass. Like there’s nothing that can stop people from that life (except the current pandemic, and I’ve been really impressed with how responsible people have been).
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Jay: I cook a badass green gumbo, I’ve seen Steely Dan live multiple times, and I can’t drive stick.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Jay: We call it Space Metal – it’s got elements of space rock and heavy metal, but you can tell we listen to a lot of other kinds of music. So yeah there’s the Hawkwind and Sabbath influence, but we also like WAR and Band of Gypsys, and Bolt Thrower and ZZ Top.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Jay: Thank you all for your interest and support – it really does keep us going. Just a reminder that the pre-order for our new record Occult New Age is live on our Bandcamp, and the official release is May 7.
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!
Jay: Thank you for these really thoughtful questions and being interested in our music.
Book Of Wyrms are:
Chris DeHaven – Drums and Percussion
Sarah Moore Lindsey – Vocals/ Synthesizer
Jay “Jake” Lindsey – Bass/ Synthesizer
Kyle Lewis – Guitar