By Andy O'Connor (TX)
2012 has been Pallbearer's year. The Little Rock group released the year's best album, Sorrow and Extinction, an exquisite piece of mournful, yet somehow also uplifting doom. They toured all over the United States, playing festivals like SXSW (their Show No Mercy performance in particular was unbelievable), Hopscotch, and, soon to be, Fun Fun Fun Fest. All festivals that can deliver on their promises, unlike a certain San Antonio fest in December (more on that later). Many outlets took notice -- metal and not metal -- and the band has seen plenty of new and friendly faces on the road. What more is there to say?
We caught up with bassist Joseph Rowland on what Pallbearer has become.
Crustcake: It’s been a crazy year for Pallbearer. What do you make of all the tours and all the acclaim?
Joesph Rowland (bass): It's been great. Acclaim is definitely not something we ever would have anticipated, but no complaints either. We're really glad to have been able to have the opportunity to get out and play all the places that we have thus far, and hope to continue building on that. We've even had the opportunity to buy a good bit of new gear here and there, which is totally exciting.
Crustcake: Do you think that there’s a Rites of Darkness effect? I mean, you guys blew up, Inquisition got signed, you see plenty of Rites names on MDF and Chaos...what’s the deal?
Rowland: There definitely seems to be some kind of after effects from ROD III, but I don't quite know why, and I don't know if a lot of of that was because of the fest or not. It very well could have been, it was definitely our most high profile show to date at that time. I'm just glad that some good came from it for a lot of people it seems. We pretty much got royally screwed by D. Serna. I hear he went out and bought a house with the money he made from the weekend, ha.
Crustcake: Of all the bands you’ve played with this year -- has anyone stuck out as being exceptional?
Rowland: Man, we've played with a lot of really incredible bands this year. Royal Thunder needs no introduction obviously, those guys/girl are literally at the top of their game and somehow only getter better. Pretty much one of the most perfect bands I've ever seen, night after night. Also, Pinkish Black totally floored me. So dark and well orchestrated for just a duo. All of my senses were just totally bombarded by these guys. One other band that really impressed me was Before the Eyewall, they opened our show in Columbus, Ohio back in September. Very heavy and psychedelic, they reminded me of a less aggro Yob. Totally killer.
Crustcake: Given that you’ve traveled so much recently, does “Foreigner” have a new meaning for you, giving that it’s about treading into unknown places and feeling lost?
Rowland: Well, that song isn't meant to be quite that literal, so not really.
Crustcake: “Given to the Grave” is such an agonizing, lush, beautiful song. How did it come together? What made the additional touches necessary? Was it intentional to have a minimal approach to lyrics for this song?
Rowland: The majority of that song actually just came together in a jam. We experimented with some of the additional touches here and there, it actually started out with layers and layers of real choir vocals overdubbed by Brett and his sister Kelsey who is also a talented singer, but we ended up moving towards something a bit less grandiose by the time the album was really coming together. We ended up laying some analog synth and some affected Mellotron samples since we didn't have access to a real Mellotron for the desired atmosphere which I think worked well. As of right now we don't add those touches live, but I think they were necessary on the record to instill the sense of beauty and finality that I think the song has. The lyrics were always meant to be minimal. A lot of what makes up the song fell together from the start. That's my personal favorite piece from the record. I think people that really hone in on that song as the high point of the record tend to really get what we're about.
Crustcake: How does Pallbearer like to po’ it up? Really though, why is purple such a prominent color in y’alls artwork? It’s fucking cool.
Rowland: Purple swag! Honestly, it just works. I'm not really much of an artist, but from the early days of doing a bit of design work before we had a lot of other, better artists working on pieces for us, I just found that purple always fit best with our visuals. I guess we're just innately drawn to it. The original Sorrow and Extinction cover mock-up didn't incorporate purple, and it didn't feel right until that element was altered, and ended up being a bit part of the final art.
Crustcake: On that note, when is the chopped up not slopped up edition of Sorrow and Extinction coming out?
Rowland: Actually a friend of ours who does some minimal electronic work started some remixes of a few pieces of Sorrow and Extinction, but I'm not sure what the outcome of that would be. I'd love to hear some other takes on that type of stuff. If anybody is into that type of thing, they should hit us up.
Crustcake: Does the rotating drumthrone mean that Pallbearer is some type of doom metal Spinal Tap? Also, aren’t rock writers using Spinal Tap to describe a band just fucking hacks?
Rowland: We prefer the name Primal Tap, thank you. And it's entirely possible that we're hacks. That said, we've finally got our drumming situation on lock; our newest drummer Mark Lierly has really fit in remarkably well and we're actually able to rehearse regularly now instead of once every couple of months due to distance.
Crustcake: If Whataburger had a Pallbearer sandwich, what would it be?
Rowland: Take the Honey Barbeque Chicken Strip Sandwich, replace the sauce with buffalo sauce. You're set.
Crustcake: Any new material in the works?
Rowland: Yeah actually we've got a good deal of new stuff in various stages of development, both for the second album and for some smaller projects. We always work really slowly but the new pieces are beginning to materialize in a pretty stellar way. We'll probably start incorporating a few new things live here and there soon.
Pallbearer play the Black Stage at 12:55 Sunday.