It’s already March and we at Herrman and Associates would like to remind you its time to get serious about filing your 2010 Form 1040 – especially if you expect a refund. Here are a few overlooked tax-saving tips by Market Watch that could make your refund bigger or cut what you owe.
1. Claim Making Work Pay Credit
All but forgotten is President Obama’s signature making work pay credit (MWPC), which was considered a key part of the much-criticized Stimulus Act. You could claim the MWPC on your 2009 return, but few seem to remember you can also claim it on your 2010 return. The credit can be as much as $400 for an unmarried worker or as much as $800 for a married couple. It is phased out starting at adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or $150,000 if you’re a married joint-filer. To claim the MWPC, complete Schedule M (Making Work Pay Credit) and include it with your 2010 Form 1040. Enter the credit amount on line 63 of Form 1040. Since the MWPC is a “refundable” credit, you can collect the full amount even if it exceeds your federal income tax bill. Note that self-employed individuals can qualify for the MWPC too.
2. Claim Breaks for Supporting Struggling Relative
If you helped out a financially struggling relative last year, you may be eligible for some unexpected tax breaks. They canrange from being able to use favorable head-of-household filing status (if you’re unmarried) to claiming a $3,650 dependent exemption deduction to bagging a medical expense write-off.
4. Deduct Medicare Insurance and Long-Term Care Premiums
You can only claim a Schedule A itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses, including health insurance premiums, to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your AGI. That may seem like an insurmountable hurdle, but seniors can often clear it, especially if they remember to include the following:
* Premiums for Medicare Part B coverage, which for 2010 ranged from $1,157 to $4,243 per covered person – depending on your income level.
* Premiums for Medicare Part C coverage (so-called Medicare Advantage HMO-type coverage).
* Premiums for Medicare Part D coverage (prescription drugs).
* Premiums for Medicare supplemental insurance (so-called Medigap coverage).
* Premiums for qualified long-term care insurance, subject to the 2010 age-based limits per covered person shown below.
5. Deduct Fees to Charge Taxes to Your Credit Card
Surprisingly enough, the IRS says you can treat credit card convenience fees paid to charge personal federal income tax bills (including estimated tax payments) as miscellaneous itemized deductions. However, you only get a write-off to the extent your total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of AGI (other miscellaneous expenses include union dues, the aforementioned job hunting expenses, fees for tax preparation and advice and investment expenses). Fill out lines 21-27 of Schedule A to see if you can benefit.
6. Small Business Owners: Include Medicare Part B Premiums in Self-Employed Health Insurance Deduction
Sole proprietors, partners, limited liability company (LLC) members and S corporation shareholders can deduct qualified health insurance premiums paid to cover themselves and eligible family members. This is the so-called self-employed health insurance deduction. For 2010, you claim it on Line 29 on Page 1 of Form 1040. Because it is an above-the-line deduction (meaning a deduction claimed on Page 1), you don’t need to itemize to benefit. The favorable news is that the IRS now admits you can include Medicare Part B premiums as part of your Line 29 write-off. Make sure you (or your tax preparer) take the new taxpayer-friendly IRS attitude into account when putting together your return, because Medicare Part B premiums for 2010 ranged from $1,157 to $4,243 per covered person. The additional Line 29 write-off from these premiums could lower your 2010 federal income tax bill by hundreds of dollars or more.
7. Self-Employed Individuals: Subtract Health Insurance Deduction in Calculating Self-Employment Tax
For 2010 only, a self-employed person is allowed to subtract the aforementioned Line 29 write-off for self-employed health insurance premiums (including Medicare Part B premiums) when calculating his or her self-employment tax liability on Schedule SE. Specifically, subtract the self-employed health insurance deduction in arriving at the amount you enter on Line 3 in Section A of Schedule SE. This little subtraction can be a big tax-saver if you pay the maximum 15.3% self-employment tax rate. (For 2010, the maximum 15.3% rate applies to the first $106,800 of self-employment income
twelvebooks distribution list 2016: EARLY TIMES photographed by Vasantha Yogananthan 245 x 300 mm hardcover / 104 pages / color & black and white limited edition of 1,600 copoes illustrated by Mahalaxmi & Shantanu Das designed by Kummer&Herrman published by CHOSE COMMUNE 7,800 yen + tax
When you’re interviewing one of the most accomplished bands in heavy music, it’s always a relief to find them down to earth people. There’s nothing pretentious about Portland drummer Nate Carson. He and guitarist Rob Wrong founded WITCH MOUNTAIN some two decades ago. Little did they know that the band would one day be counted among the most celebrated acts in doom metal history.
As Doomed & Stoned rallied for Psycho Las Vegas, we wanted to catch up with a few of the bands going there. Nate was kind enough to invite me and photographer Alyssa Herrman into his home on a hot August afternoon. Before we sat down to talk about Witch Mountain, then and now, we asked for a guided tour through Nate’s coveted record collection, as he’ll be spinning vinyl at the big meeting in the desert this weekend.
So, I’ve heard super exciting news that you’ve broken ground on a new recording?
Yes! We have a brand new single coming. We have taken our time, because we’ve changed out half the band when Kayla and Justin came in. Rob and I were the founding members, so the core of Which Mountain has always been there since 1997, it’s never changed. We’ve had eleven bass players in that time and gone through Rob singing and Uta singing. At this point, Kayla and Justin have done more shows with us than any other line-up, so that’s the wonderful thing about the next record, especially after these tours we’re about to do – they will be so ingrained in us. We just get along so well and are having such a nice time that I’m really excited about the next record.
This single is a stopgap in the meantime. We were like, “We have to smash a bottle of champagne and write something and see how it goes.” It was the first time Kayla had really gotten to compose with the band and write lyrics of her own. We all loved what she came up with and what she did, so we went into the studio with Billy Anderson again and recorded, “Burn You Down,” which is our new single. For the US we did an edited version for “Hare’s Stare,” editing it down from the 13 ½ minute mark down to the 5 ½ minute mark to make it punchy, so that will be the B-side for the US. For Europe, we recorded a cover by an old 1960’s band called Spirit, so that will be out over there and I’ll play it for you a little later on today.
And what can you tell me about the new record? The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you’d probably break ground on it in the fall sometime?
We had originally talked about recording the album later this year, in December or January, but since we basically have two solid month of touring in the fall, I just knew as awesome as those tours are going to be, it’s just stressful to be away from home that long and to be cooped up in a van for that long. I just had this epiphany, “You know what, let’s not force ourselves to jump back into the studio right off the road, because part of the vision Rob and I have had for this band is keeping morale up and not burning people out. It would be different if we were all getting paid a salary as a band, but we’re not. You know, we’re fortunate that after this amount of time we do come home from tour and can pay our rent and things like that. We’re not suffering or losing money to do this, which took a long time to get there and I’m very proud of that, but it’s still not replacing somebody else’s job. If there were tens of thousands of dollars to be made, I’d be like, “Yeah, we’ll go into the studio right away after we come home and everyone will have a smile on their face.” But, instead, we need a little time apart to get refreshed so we can walk into the studio feeling really excited about what we’re doing. My feeling is that we’ll probably record the album in February and have it out in time for summer.
Who came up with the idea for the new song?
Basically, our process for this one was that Rob Wrong wrote the majority of the music and gave us the demos, then he and Kayla Dixon kind of batted it back and forth until there was a basic vocal arrangement. We’ve been working a lot with Garage Band. In fact, we had a band meeting a couple of days ago where everyone brought their computers with the same version of the software and the necessary cables, set up DropBoxes and things like that, so now we’re able to develop songs together remotely and not always have to be in a room at the same time.
So a song kind of comes together piecemeal, then. What role do you play?
Yeah. As a drummer, a non-melodic instrument, I tend to influence things last, which is great because I trust the people that I play with and they all have great ideas. I steer the ship on a management and booking level, but when it comes to writing the music, Rob is a great songwriter. He’s never brought me a song that I’ve disliked. I think he’s his own worst critic, so he filters out a lot of riffs before they make it to the band. So what tends to happen is we’ll get a basic working arrangement of a song and as we’re playing it, we’ll come home with rehearsal demos. Then later in the process I’ll step in and say, “You know, as a listener, as a DJ, as a producer, I feel like this verse could happen two more times right here,” or “This passage is going on a little too long,” or “There’s a change where I feel if it were just a little bit slower, the dynamics could be improved.” Because I have so little feedback like that, they tend to listen to me, or we’ll at least try it. That’s the kind of outside finesse, extra touch, I like to put on a song – making sure the dynamics are right, making sure the arrangement is tight as it can be. We all work together really amicably to take each other’s advice.
When did you start playing drums?
Well, I started on the triangle in kindergarten. (laughs) When I turned ten years old in the fourth grade I got involved in school band. I badly wanted to play the clarinet, but I also had terrible allergies that made breathing for a wind instrument impossible, so I got thrown in the back of the room on the drums. I just think about how much less sex I would have had throughout my life if I was a clarinet player, I don’t know. No offense to anyone.
But, the good thing about that is I learned a few things properly from the beginning, like how to perform basic rhythms, how to hold my sticks, and how to use various percussion instruments. I’m not going to pretend that I was a virtuoso on any of those things, because we’re talking the fourth grade, but at least I didn’t learn things the wrong way as a foundation and I feel fortunate about that.
The bigger problem is that as I progressed in school, I struggled to relate to any art or music teachers that I had. Time and again, I would say, “I want to play a kit. I don’t just want to play the xylophone on this song,” and the teacher lied to me, saying, “Well, in the winter, we’ll dig out the kit.” Winter would go by and he’d say, “Well, how about in the spring? How ‘bout next year?” So I really got disillusioned with that. Similarly, I would take an art class in high school and they’d say, “Paint this house.” I’d paint the house, but then I’d also paint someone crawling out of the chimney or hanging from the tree, then I’d get a “C” because it wasn’t an exact replica of the house. I’m like, “This is an art class, right? Isn’t this about creativity?”
My public schooling in art and music was frustrating and that’s why when I was 16, I just got a drum set and started a band with my friends. I was hopelessly bad, but you have to start somewhere and being in a basement band in Corvallis, Oregon was a way to start. Had some older skater friends with guitars and we all liked Metallica and Bad Religion and RKL. We played a couple of house parties and I’m sure I was terrified, but I don’t really remember that very well.
What’d you call yourselves?
The band was called DSL, which is LSD backwards and also stood for “Devil Satan Lucifer,” and yeah, I named the band.
(laughs) Nice. Did you play covers?
No, actually. It was all originals. I think we wrote five or six songs in one summer and played two house parties and then we dissolved. And then I started another band with some friends that were closer to my age called Radiac and that was more influenced by Stooges and Mudhoney. It was pretty unique. There as a lady singer in this high school band, which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve continued to play with women a lot in most of my projects over the years. I still like listening back to that stuff, because I think it was a pretty good band. I mean, we weren’t super-tight, but I think conceptually it was legit art punk music in the early 1990’s, so I’m happy to have been a part of that.
For years and years after that, I just kept playing, because it was fun. You know, everyone always needs a drummer and I went on to play in super-weirdo progressive bands, new wave bands, and industrial bands for a long time. Then in the mid-90’s, I was in this pop-prog band called Moon Patrol in Corvallis and we started to really blow up in this tiny town. We became big fish in a small pond. I remember it really hit me when I’d be walking down the street and someone would shout, “Moon Patrol!” One day, I was in line at the courthouse paying my water bill and this woman turns to me and says, “My kids love you guys.” And so we kind of got big heads about it. We thought, “Wow, we could move to Portland. This is happening!” We started getting gigs at Satyricon and so we all moved up there at once, but then it was like: reality check. Nobody cares. You’re a drop in the ocean. It took ten more years of work up here to get to a similar place where people were paying attention.
You and Rob have been playing together since 1997?
Yeah, when I moved here in the beginning of 1997 and I saw Iommi Stubbs perform, which was his old band.
That’s such a great name for a band, too.
Yeah, it’s an awesome name. I mean, that grabbed me right away, because I actually knew what it meant. Also, in the late-90’s here, you had to have a cardigan sweater and a garage sale guitar and you weren’t supposed to be able to play and you weren’t supposed to be loud and you weren’t supposed to be good. I walked into EJ’s one night to see Iommi Stubbs and Rob’s got a full stack. He’s playing a Strat with his left-handed style super, crushingly loud and doing leads. I thought, “This is the guy I want to play with. This is what I’m into right now.” I was getting heavily into Candlemass and Saint Vitus and things like that.
It had very recently dawned on me that there was a whole genre of doom. I liked that stuff by default, just because I liked slow metal music. It was in 1996 one night, when I was listening to Saint Vitus’ Children of Doom three times over and over again, that I got onto my parent’s 300 baud modem and looked up Lee Dorian’s Rise Above Records website. There was a manifesto there talking about Solitude Aeturnus. I was thinking, “Oh, I love Solitude Aeturnus. I love Candlemass. I love this Saint Vitus record. Oh, I’ve heard Trouble before.” It was this big epiphany for me when I realized, “Oh, this is not an accident. These people are being part of the tradition on purpose.” I had always been in eclectic bands that were such kitchen sink projects, that I’d never tried to do something traditional before. So that was part of the idea when Rob and I got together: let’s do something in that doom mold. But, of course, we were such fans of Jesus Lizards and Melvins and Butthole Surfers that there was always a bit more of a weird element to it.
Yeah, Witch Mountain’s really early stuff does have that to it.
It’s more angular, it’s more noisy and screamy. Certainly, there was never a thought of, let’s write ‘Holy Mountain II’ – we were never trying to ape it, we just wanted to fit under that umbrella. I’m really proud that 19 years later, we still do, but we sound like ourselves more than… I think it’s hard to listen to Witch Mountain and say that’s an exact rip-off of X, Y, or Z. Certainly, we all have a debt to Sabbath, Hendrix, or whatever, but I don’t think we’re going to be confused for any of those bands, either.
Do you feel you feel the direction of your upcoming record is different? Is it a departure from your more bluesy sound?
Definitely “Burn You Down,” which I’ll play for you in a little bit, is more mid-tempo and metal, but I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of the blues as long as Rob’s playing with us. I also think that Kayla’s voice works so well in that capacity. At the same time, she’s younger and into modern, progressive metal, so she likes to growl, as well. With both Uta and Kayla, anytime you hear death vocals, that’s their idea and input. We’ve never, ever stepped in and said to sing dirty here or sing clean there – that’s the prerogative of the singer. There’s definitely a section that’s pretty brutal in the new song, which I think is good because if we were to just return with a laid-back 6/8 swing like we’ve done before, it would sound lazy to me. It’s not that we won’t continue writing songs like that, but the fact that we introduce Kayla as a song-writing member of the band with something more aggressive is just great.
At this point, we break to listen to both sides of the new single. You’ll hear a short clip of “Burn You Down” in the following video, which also introduces us to Nate’s cat, Whiskey.
Are you able to do Witch Mountain for a living now?
My main living is from booking, DJing, and writing. Definitely, Witch Mountain is not an income for me, but, like I said, we’ve come back from a tour with a couple months’ rent. To me, that’s already surpassed what I’d hoped for, especially considering where doom metal was at when we started. There was never a vision that we could get rich off of playing slow, doomy metal in 1997, because no one knew what it was. It’s changed a lot, since then. We’ve witnessed several cycles of feast and famine throughout that time.
Do you feel we’re about to go through a bubble burst?
The latest wave, which probably started six or seven years ago, has just sustained. It wasn’t like it built to a breaking point. It’s actually just continuing along, which is great. A lot of that, to me, is that there’s no longer this anti-metal mindset we used to have to work against. For a long time it was like, “Oh, you’ve got guitar solos? That’s lame. You’ve got a high-pitched singer screaming? That’s lame. You’ve got a double-bass? I hate that.” Most people really don’t care what’s trendy any more, it’s “Do I like it or do I not like it?”
Doom twenty years ago was really hard for people to get into. They thought, “Slow and boring.” But nowadays, it’s actually a very accessible style of music. People who don’t listen to extreme metal can listen to Holy Grove and be like, “Well, that sounds like rock ‘n’ roll to me.” I think the bigger issues we’re dealing with are the same as the overall music industry right now. It’s not that this style of music is swept under the rug anymore or that it’s overhyped, it’s that it’s hard for any bands to make a living because no one really buys records like they used to. Another reason why I’m really happy and proud I started an agency, Nanotear, rather than a label, because people still pay to see live music.
It’s definitely forced a lot of innovation and I think that’s exactly what the scene needed, a lot more collaboration with artists and filmmakers, for example. I thought the music video would die off completely, but it hasn’t.
Yeah, YouTube changed that, that’s for sure. We so badly need a music video with Kayla and it’s going to be so cool.
It’s only a matter of time.
It will happen and we’ll make it rad, it’s just that (a) they’re expensive and (b) our songs are 8-minutes long! At some point we need to either figure out a song that’s shorter or make an edit that works and then come up with the money somewhere. We did a sort of no-budget video with Uta years ago, but decided not to release it. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good enough, you know? That’s neat, but after five minutes it starts feeling repetitious. We can play a hole-in-the-wall bar and I’m not worried about production value in an intimate environment, but when you’re presenting yourself you don’t want to put out demo quality shit. We spent a lot of money out of pocket just on this single, but it’s such an important promotional tool to us right now. I mean, there are a lot of people wondering, “Is this still Witch Mountain? What’s the new record going to be like?” You’d be a better judge than me, but I feel that song sounds like us, but also represents the next step forward.
Yeah, it totally does. It feels like natural evolution.
It helped that Kayla was already a fan and had learned a bunch of our songs and has toured with those songs, so she fit right into the mold. At the same time, the lyrics and vocal harmonies of the new material are not something Uta would have written. All in all, it’s still something that’s recognizably us. Of course, it’s the internet so someone’s not going to be happy, but for the most part, I think people are going to be satisfied. It’s got all the different touchstones of what Witch Mountain has done. I’m just so happy with that song.
Just when you think it’s going to go in one direction, it surprises you.
It was cool, too, because when we recorded that, Rob had just come off of multiple tours with The Skull. He’s been playing guitar more than ever before and is getting better than ever, which is scary. (laughs) And Kayla’s getting better because she’s more confident and more experienced. Me and Justin are in the pocket, so that’s really nice.
I’m curious, where did you get the record pressed?
We’re going to make 500 12-inch singles with a song on each side and there’s actually a press right here in Portland now to do that, down in Milwaukie. It’s a neat business. They’ve found all the used presses that were for sale and bought them, gotten the one guy who knows who to fix them to fix them, and opened for business here. They take orders from all over, but give precedence to local bands.
As far as touring, you’re booking it all through Nanotear. Give us a peek into that what it’s like to book a tour.
It’s 99% email. I tend to do about 100 emails a day, which is how most of it is scheduled. Usually the calls are to fix problems, because email can be lacking in tone, so every once in a while you just have to hop on the phone and sort it out. I’m really, really thrilled I didn’t have to book tours in the 80’s on payphones and deal with long-distance charges and things like that. When I look at those Black Flag tours, it blows my mind they were able to do anything, let alone how much they did.
I learned to book tours by booking Witch Mountain during our early days of touring. It was largely done through stonerrock.com, because there was basically one band per state in that style at that time, in like 1999, 2000, 2001. If you were playing Salt Lake City, you played with Burnout, if you were playing Madison, it was with Cuda, and in Portland we were that band for countless people, which is why I had Electric Wizard sleep on my floor during the Dopethrone tour and we played Satyricon with Orange Goblin for the Big Black tour. High on Fire were with us the week ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ came out. We were the only band in town until Yob sent us a demo in 2000. They sent a demo to Rob and Rob came to me and went, “Dude! Come and listen to this demo!” We listened to it and said, “These guys are from Eugene? Are you kidding me?” We brought them up to open for us a number of times, then after a couple of years we started opening up for them. When they were ready to tour they ask me if I would help.
I booked two successful US tours for Yob. After that I realized, “I guess I should be charging people for this.” Yeah, I think it was 2004 or so when I just realized, “OK, I’m building enough in all these places to book tours, I’m learning how to negotiate and ask for guarantees, and I know a bunch of really great bands that have no representation.” The idea of metal being “hip” hadn’t happened yet, so bands like Ludicra and SubArachnoid Space and Amber Asylum and Yob – no booking agents were seeking out bands like that, even though they were on good labels like Relapse Records and Alternative Tentacles and had strong followings. The roster was built by people who had slept on my floor and done show trades with me. You know, it’s a hard job and I built it from the ground up. It was just me and a laptop. Since then my roster has really blossomed, I’ve put on thousands of shows, and gained a reputation as an honest person. There are so many agents that burn bridges just to make an extra buck here and there. To me, you don’t want to gut these people you’re working with, and so I’ve built a lot of great relationships over time.
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“It’s been out honey pot for a while,” Andrea says of Bonfire Lounge here on Stark Street in Portland. “Let’s light some stuff up. Make some noises.” We walk over to her favorite pinball machine: Elvira and the Party Monsters, with its flashy backbox. “Luckily pinball isn’t really a spectator sport.” Although on this particular Sunday afternoon, Alyssa Herrman from Foto Phortress was on hand to snap some pics for Doomed & Stoned, as the band burned off some steam ahead of their scheduled performance at Psycho Las Vegas.
Trent jumped on to Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. “It’s easy to get good enough you don’t feel like you’re wasting your quarters.” Gregg joins in, stacking coins for a match up with the Andrea and Trent. The three take turns biffing the flippers and bumpers in a spirited attempt to avoid the drain and get to the coveted gobble hole (without nudging, of course). It occurs to me in writing these words how vaguely obscene pinball slang sounds. There’s nostalgia about pinball. For some, it’s a relic of a bygone era, replaced by Xbox and ubiquitous online gaming. For Holy Grove pinball, like good music, will never die.
This group of plungeroos have hovered just below the radar for years, but this spring Holy Grove made some exciting sounds of their own when they introduced their debut LP via Heavy Psych Sounds. The self-titled album, produced by none other than the Engine-Ear himself, Billy Anderson, awoke to rave reviews. Now they’re gearing up to play Psycho Las Vegas and fly across the ocean for their first major tour as a band in Europe. Having followed Holy Grove’s career from nearly the beginning and filmed them on a half-dozen occasions, I am thrilled for the four of them. I sat down with smoky songstress Andrea Vidal and her bandmates, guitarist Trent Jacobs and bassist Gregg Emley for some bacon fries, beers, and conversation.
You know how much I love origin stories. Do you guys go way back or….?
Andrea: God… Kismet. Yeah, it was kismet.
Trent: The stars just aligned.
How long have you all been in the Portland area?
Gregg: I have here like 12-13 years.
Trent: I just passed 8 years.
Andrea: About the same.
Gregg: We didn’t know each other before the band. We all had played in various band in the area. This is Andrea’s first band. We all kind of knew what music we wanted to play when we met each other.
Extended Interview with Andrea Vidal
So when you conceptualized the music you wanted to do, what did you call that? How did you talk about that to each other?
Trent: There are a few bands we all considered to be our favorites. We’ve just been really lucky that we’ve always been on the same wavelength. There’s never been an in-depth discussion of, “This is what we’re going to do.” We’ve just always known what we wanted to sound like.
Andrea: I hate to say it, but it’s true: you take one look at their gear and you know, these are the people I want to play with.
Gregg: I asked, “What kind of gear do you have?” and Trent says, “SG, Orange, and Marshall.” I was like, alright dude, I’m there. You just kind of know what that’s gonna sound like.
Trent: Talking gear is kind of shorthand for, “Are we on the same page?”
Gregg: You can tell a lot by the kind of drum kit a guy uses.
Andrea: I showed up without a microphone. (laughs)
Gregg: She was green
(everyone laughs) But that was part of how great everything was, just to have her come in and…
Trent: I don’t think we expected to hear how great she was. We were like, “Oh shit!” It’s all felt really organic from the very beginning, for sure.
Gregg: Also, GMOs.
Trent: Yeah, GMOs.
Trent: We’re glutton-free. (laughs)
Andrea: We care so much about a glutton-free lifestyle that our practice space is right next to a glutton-free bakery. True story! (everyone laughs)
Trent: So if you ever want to come and hear a band that also smells like cinnamon bread, come to New Cascadia.
Gregg: Makes better than the alternative!
There’s gotta be frequent breaks for cinnamon rolls.
Trent: People in the know will know exactly where we’re talking about.
So, you mentioned you kind of bonded around your three or four favorite bands. What would those be? I could probably guess, but…
Gregg: Yeah, that sounds fun. You guess and we’ll tell you if you’re right.
Gosh, I could guess, but I feel I’m probably going to get it wrong because it’ll be some collection of niche seventies bands.
Trent: There could be a few of those, but let’s start with the basics.
Andrea: The Stones, definitely but the stones on my list.
Gregg: Oh, Jesus, yes.
Trent: I would say Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple. Those would be the three that instantly come to mind that all three of us feel very passionate about. It’s not like we said out to recreate these bands, but we all speak the same language.
Gregg: We all have this huge range of stuff we’re into and that’s where they all kind of converge.
Trent: We never wanted to be super-sludgy. Just a band with good riffs and awesome vocals.
Andrea: Yeah, just rock ‘n’ roll.
I don’t know why, but ever since I heard you perform at the Ceremony of Sludge almost three years ago now, the initial comparison I made was to the band Down. I felt really strong, riff-driven, and, yes, a sludgy, southern vibe with authoritative vocals. That was my first point of reference.
Gregg: I’ve actually heard other people say that.
Trent: We’ve gotten that before, yeah.
Gregg: I don’t feel like that comparison is off, by any means, but I really feel like the main reason for that comparison is that both bands have a shared interest that goes back a ways. They’re probably into Deep Purple, too, for example, but they’ve just slowed it way down.
Andrea: Down is probably influenced, for example like Deep Purple and Cheap Trick, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and so are we.
I really hate making comparisons, but it’s sort of a necessary evil in writing about music.
Gregg: Influence can be so elusive and subjective. Sometimes you’re influenced by shit you don’t even realize. You play something that’s so completely out of left field, you’re not entirely sure where it came from.
I was listening to your LP again on the way over and I wanted to ask you about the production. How did you get hooked up with Billy Anderson?
Trent: We met him through Witch Mountain. He was at a show we played with Witch Mountain and, of course, we were all aware of who he was and were introduced. We remained in contact.
Andrea: He was in Europe with Agalloch around the time we wanted to start recording and while he was there I hit him up. “Would you ever record our record?” And he said, “Yeah.” He was always super nice.
Having recently visited Type Foundry Studios when Billy was working with Ape Cave, I had a chance to see how he operates. There are some touches on the record that you haven’t done live and I’m just wondering the extent to which you collaborated in the production?
Gregg: The songs are fully-formed, so it’s not like we spent a lot of time working with him on arrangement and stuff like that, but more like vocal harmonies and atmospheric stuff. The whole acapella thing at the start of “Hanged Man.”
Trent: When you get to work with Billy, of course you’re open to trying things he suggests.
Andrea: That’s why we wanted to work with him.
Gregg: Working with Billy was pretty mind-blowing. He’s able to take the sonic scope of it all and expand it out.
I’ve heard these songs performed live for years and had a certain expectation coming to the record for how they’d sound. So frankly, I didn’t like it at first, but over time I’ve grown to really love it. It definitely made a statement. So how did you get from the finished record to being picked up by Heavy Psych Sounds?
Trent: We shopped it around to different labels, knowing that we wanted it to come out on vinyl, for certain, and had several interested labels. When Gabriel from Heavy Psych said he’d put it out on vinyl, CD, and also book us a tour in Europe, that was it for us. He’s got vision behind what he’s doing.
Andrea: And for the record, Sony has still not responded. (laughs)
Trent: We submitted to Geffen Records – is that still a thing? Geffen ain’t said shit. (laughs)
Gozu and Holy Grove are about to do some globe-trotting. Where all are you guys going?
Gregg: Nah, it’s gonna be easy, because all the drives are short.
Trent: I think I’ll be ready for a nap by the end of it, but it’s going to be exciting.
Gregg: You can nap in the van. (laughs) Trent and Andrea have been to Europe, I have not.
Let’s talk Psycho Las Vegas. You gonna play all the songs on your record, or…?
Andrea: We just have half an hour, so all the hits
Trent: There will be a surprise, though.
Andrea: And it’s only a matter of time before Trent tells everyone what it is. (laughs)
Should I try to guess the surprise?
Andrea, Trent, Gregg: NO!
Gregg: Because we won’t be able to contain ourselves if you guess it correct.
Trent: We’re planning a very fun, up-tempo set that’ll make the most of the 30 minutes we’ve been given.
Gregg: We’re so excited. It’s going to be so fun. Even if we weren’t playing, just the fact that we get to go there and see so many bands is crazy.
Trent: Blue Oyster Cult! There are so many band there, it’s mind-blowing.
So you all have full-time jobs. What kind of challenges does that present with being a rock ‘n’ roll band? A lot of people would look at your record deal, a spot at Psycho Las Vegas, a tour in Europe and say, “They’ve got it made.”
Gregg: No way. That’s the dream, that we’re completely self-financed as a band, but right now we pay out of pocket for everything we do and just cross our fingers that we’ll make it back. Ninety percent of bands are doing it that way right now. You’d think it would be different for a band like Witch Mountain that’s been around for a long time and has a huge following. People have a huge disconnect, thinking, “Oh yeah, they’re totally living off their music.”
Trent: I see Rob from Witch Mountain on the bus at 5:30 in the morning, just like me, going to work. It’s tough, man. We never expect we’ll make big money. If the band can pay for itself one day that will be great.
If you think about it, with the exception of a few big decades in the 20th century, that’s been the artist’s dilemma for ages. In the good old days, you’d have a wealthy patron who take care of you.
Gregg: Yeah, we don’t have a Miss Havisham. (laughs)
What do you like about being a part of this community, here in Portland?
Trent: Compared to other cities I’ve played music in, it’s definitely more supportive in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be much competitiveness. Everyone just wants the scene to be successful.
Gregg: I think there’s competition, but it’s friendly. Everyone’s sort of pushing each other to be better. You see a band out on a Friday night and you think, “Wow, there good! We need to work harder.”
Trent: Absolutely. There are so many great bands in this city, that we’re always striving to get better.
Gregg: The bar is high and you’ve got to make sure that you’re working to meet it.
Have you started writing new material?
Trent: Yes! We’ve got about three songs on the table.
Gregg: The songs are in various stages of development. Cross our fingers, knock on wood, we should start recording by next spring.
So what comes first, the chicken or the egg, when it comes to songwriting?
Gregg: Usually it starts with a riff or a couple of riffs. It’s kind of mysterious how it happens, because sometimes we’ll have a few riffs, but we can’t figure out where to take them and they’ll be laying around for years. Then other times you get together in an afternoon and a whole song gets done. Sometimes you just jam out into space for three months. When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.