We like The Whiskey Priest. We also like Sad Accordions. Funny thing, both bands share frontman Seth Woods, who seems to enjoy jumping from acoustic to guitar (via western drawl and jewharp). So we got our Mexican writers, Tonan and Sam, to email them with a couple of questions.
Subjects: Upcoming tour, the recent album by Sad Accordions (review) and the best barbecue in Austin (this might be a fib).
(Seth Woods) Hmmm… well, I don’t know if there is a “one thing.” I think it’s just a matter of finding out where the songs fit. Some songs could be in a few different places, some in just one. The ones that could go in different spots can be tricky, because it would really change the feel of the record. We could have put “inside out” up towards the front, since it’s more upbeat and catchy. But then the end of the record would have sagged a bit. It’s just a different creative muscle, making the track list, the same way that mixing is as much of an important and creative step in the process as writing the song, or capturing the right sounds. It’s just another step in coming up with the whole, which for us, is the record as a whole.
2.-Your songs have a well defined structure, as waves going to and fro. While making music, what’s the magic ingredient you add as a band?
(Seth) Woh. The magic ingredient? I’m not sure… if by that you mean what differentiates my songs on their own, or as The Whiskey Priest, from songs that Sad Accordions do, I think it’s a few things actually. I think our friendship has been pretty key in our music the last seven years. We’ve made a lot of choices based on our relationships with each other. It may sound a bit cliché, but I really do think that changes the music, the songs, the vibe, all of it. Secondly, the choice to make an effort to write collectively has been very important. It’s had a serious impact on the way I personally write songs and lyrics.Again, it’s like using different muscles: writing on your own, versus writing music together, and/or writing lyrics for music that comes from outside of your own head. It’s great. Thirdly, we’ve been very fortunate to have a dedicated practice space at joy and Nathaniel’s house, almost from the get go. That freedom, to show up every week to the same place year after year, is an amazing gift. It aides the collective process so much.
3.- I hope you don’t mind if I ask about the title of your album, it’s quite interesting, though. What is the relation of music, the colors and the kill?
(Seth) Well, the title “the colors and the kill” comes from a lyric in “the holy desert blooms.” I wrote that song the week we went in to record. It’s the only song on the record that I wrote on my own. As a title, it’s seems very open and yet kind of ambiguous or cryptic, even a little mystic perhaps. As I mentioned before, the whole of a record is what we’re ultimately producing and sending into the world. So I like to try to find the story of the record in the individual songs and string them together. This is part of the running order process as well. The record tells a story, and it’s up to us to make sure the story is coming through each song, and at the same time not getting lost in any one song.
I guess for me, “the colors and the kill” evokes a sense of the beauty and harshness of life. There’s some of that in the music, I think. Lots of different shades and hues, emotions, landscapes. and there’s a harshness in some of them, a death, a sacrifice. There’s pain, and there’s beauty, and those things all swirled up together is what you get in life.
(Seth) Yeah, that’s one of the things I love about playing in this band! So I had written the song the week we recorded it (unlike all the other songs, which had been kicking around in practice and shows and demos for a couple years). I played it for the band once in the Gallagher’s living room on my acoustic guitar, and that was it. When we went in to record it, Joy kind of came up with this sweet little line, the one that comes in after the first verse and pretty much stays in till the end. It’s so sweet and simple, and so damn catchy! I love the little slide at the end of the riff! Ben and Joy are very very different kinds of guitar players, and very different kinds of creative people. But they both bring something so unique to the songs. It’s a great experience, to make music with people like that who just have all kinds of different music inside them just begging to get out.
5.- Your music has spoken of an evolution as a band, but I’d love to hear it in words. How do you realize your band has changed the ‘season’ of its life?
(Seth) Man, it’s always changing! It’s just that we don’t realize we’re in a different spot until it’s about time to change again!
I think the biggest change was the decision to write the music together, as much as possible. On our first record, “A bad year for the Sharons,” almost all the songs were ones I had written on my own and had brought to the band. They all did a phenomenal job at shaping them and adding their parts, but it really produces a different kind of energy when we write together.
When our good friend Peter Kusek left the band to move overseas with his wife, it was really a time of restructuring and figuring out how to BE. And what to be. We missed him immediately, and had a hard time filling in (or living without) parts that he played (mostly on his sweet lap steel) that seemed very integral to the songs. I think that was a big catalyst for us to come up with a new way of being, of writing. There was some intentional restructuring of the “whats” and the “hows” of the band. We all took some down time to deal with other parts of our lives, and when we started up again, it was a brand new beast in some ways. We still had the old songs of course, and we learned to play them in new ways. But it was really a second beginning for us.
The other big piece of that change was meeting Michael Maly at Above the Radar PR. He really helped us out in big ways, from booking and pr, to asking some bigger questions of vision and direction and all that stuff that you don’t think about when you’re just jamming away at practice. He has been such a motivator and supporter. We would hire him as our manager if we made any sort of money to pay him with!
And now we’ve struck up a friendship with Owen at Rainboot, which feels like a beginning of the next chapter. We’re all for it.
6.- Congrats on managing to get the money for the tour sorted out. What’s your opinion on Kickstarter as a viable source of income to up and coming artists?
(Seth) I think kickstarter is a great idea. It’s pretty scary too! We were really sweating it there towards the end. I don’t really understand the policy of all or none, with them. I’m sure it’s a legal issue. Regardless, it’s a good way to try to raise money. You still have to do a lot of getting the word out yourself. Emailing friends and fans and such. it was good practice for begging. Just swallowing my pride and saying “hi. it’s me again. just wanted to remind you for the tenth time about the kickstarter page.” A humbling thing to do, but nice to get over the shyness of it, and realizing that the worst thing someone could say is “no.”
(Seth) Mainly the British part. Just kidding. We’ll be all over, I think. Plans for Wales, Scotland, the London area, a couple stops in and around York, and other places in the works. Ben from Sad Accordions is coming with me, so while it will be mostly Whiskey Priest songs, I’m sure we’ll break out the Sad Accordions material from time to time. Come see us! We’re excited (and nervous) about playing in your country!
8.- I find myself repeating ‘Falling Czars’ quite a lot, I really enjoy the instrumental outro. Can you share with us a little bit more about the story of this song?
(Ben Lance) The first line, “They’re filling all the houses in with sand…”, came from a dream I’d had. I woke up and wrote that line down. In the dream, I saw a cluster of houses being buried by these giant dump trucks or bulldozers. Initially, I had a character in mind that made some choices that affected some close friends and their reactions were of loss and hurt. The character tried to explain the reasoning behind the choices made, but it just left the friends more confused and hurt.
But as the song sat on the shelf, being that we didn’t play it much after it was written, the band experienced some hard life situations. I had gotten divorced and was in a lot of pain. as a result, I put myself into the song and rearranged the storyline of the lyrics. I imagined escaping to a world where I could numb myself of what I was feeling, involving myself with people who lived life entirely different than how I did. As a result, I found myself trapped, or buried, in that world without much hope of escape, living on the streets. Thankfully, I’m in a much better place, but that song is a reminder of a moment in my life.
9.- ‘The Way of the future’ is my fave The Whiskey Priest ditty, so, gotta ask, is ‘Inside out’ lyrically related to it? Sounds slightly similar while still having its own identity.
(Seth) I’ve never made a connection between those two songs before, but I think they could be related. I wrote “the way of the future” a couple years before “inside out,” while I was on the road with my friend Alex Dupree. We were driving around America for nearly four months, and I really fell in love with the road, as well as being very interested in creative people who push the edge of sanity to break free from societal norms and expectations, and create something beautiful.
I think the character/narrator might be the same in both songs. they are both in love with the road and the freedom they perceive it to offer. “The way of the future” strikes me as being more optimistic about it, going crazy and then breaking free, even to the point of wanting to drive right off the map. “Inside out” is from a place of not being on the road, not feeling free, really feeling stuck in a lot of roles and in things like shame (which connects it to “sacrificial chumpsucker diatribe”). I think there is some desperation and aggravation in both, but it takes a more proactive outlook in “The way of the future.”
10.- Can you tell us a bit more about the story behind the painting in the album cover?
(Ben) I did the painting for my parents. I painted it on christmas eve of 2004 and gave it to them as a christmas present. This past christmas, my parents gave me a digital camera and I took pictures of that painting. The album cover is a detail photo of that painting.
What’s interesting in the detail photo is that there are two images facing each other. I don’t know what those two images represent, but I like the idea of the music and the album cover influencing and interpreting one another.
Thank you very much!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López