Wolvserpent is a Boise-based duo of drone-adjacent metal that write the soundtrack to freezing to death. Half-tucked within the usually niche world of doom, the two create lurching cinematic soundscapes of lawless splendor. They play this Thursday with Wino and more. This interview by Matt Dupree.
Usually I can hear a band’s hometown in their music—like when you listen to sludge you can hear that Southern swampiness.
Blake Green (guitars/vocals): Yeah, the humidity and all that.
And you’re from Idaho. And I have no idea what that means. So part one: what is the atmosphere of Idaho? Part two: does that filter into your music?
We’re very inspired by our surroundings. It’s an interesting place. In the south [of Idaho] there’s huge deserts, and up north they have a lot of mountains and fir trees. So I think we’re inspired by the desolation of the desert. There’s a lot of nature. Boise itself is a pretty small town. I think I’m inspired by the isolation within our lives as well. So a combination of both. Both being in a small town and being surrounded by some pretty awesome nature goes into the music quite a bit. Just daily life too. Jobs. Dealing with bullshit.
You used to work at the Boise Weekly.
I was in sales and marketing. You gotta do what you gotta do, and that was a cool job because there were a lot of smart and talented people there. There’s not a lot of work in Boise in general so that was a good place.
Did that come in handy trying to get some press for the band?
Actually it was the opposite! They had a really strict line between advertising and editorial. And just the fact that I worked there, they were kinda like, ‘Well, that’s not fair to everyone else.’ They did an article on us a couple weeks ago and that was the first one. I worked there for seven years. I hadn’t worked there for a year and a half before they did the article. I made a lot of really good friends there, though. They’d heard us before. We probably would’ve been written about a few more times had I not worked there. On the other hand, working there—I don’t know if press from your job is necessarily a positive thing. Everybody’s just like, ‘Oh, you just got that because your fucking friend works there.’
You want to earn your press.
Sure. People could say you fucking suck, and you earn that too if you get that.
Why does drone metal—and I’m not implying anything here—sound so much better on drugs?
Ha! Because you’re not listening right when you’re sober. Drugs are mind-altering and they can enhance your experience with anything. Colors can be brighter or more fucked up. So it makes sense that music would be that way too. And when I say that you’re not listening right, I’m not implying that it’s necessarily a negative thing to get stoned or whatever and listen to drone metal, because, if it gets you there then it’s all good. I don’t know… different strokes. There’s definitely certain kinds of music no matter what genre that have sort of a drugged element to them. But I don’t know, that’s mostly what I’m attracted to—mind-altering music. Which is not to—I mean, we’re a pretty sober band.
I think drone music specifically has a psychoactive element in itself that’s more exacerbated by drugs than it is created by them.
Totally. It’s like you can just sit and listen, or watch and listen, and the feeling of the room changes. The feeling of your body changes.
I was trying to come up with a good way of describing Wolvserpent without resorting to anything corny, and I think I got one and I’d like to run it by you. It’s like reading a Lovecraft story. There’s not a lot of action, but you get lulled into it. And then you realize an hour has disappeared and you’re both terrified and soothed.
Totally. That’s it: being comforted and horrified at the same time. That’s a good example.
I’ve noticed a theme of ambivalence—sort of two competing influences to frighten and to please.
That’s definitely in our music, and part of the expression of our music. And I think that’s generally—this world is a pretty terrifying world. But as we discussed earlier it’s also beautiful. It happens at the same time! It’s a kind of darkness that’s not evil. It’s like a terrifying experience that isn’t going to bring you anywhere that you really, really don’t want to go. Though you probably should.
Most reviewers generally trade in their genre names for moody adjectives to review Blood Seed. And it’s fashionable for bands to claim that they don’t subscribe to genres, but Wolvserpent seems to just exist entirely outside of easy definition. How?
Well, first of all, a lot of people don’t generally like comparisons and people that play music try to do the best they can to be unique. So that’s probably where a lot of that comes from. But I don’t know! I don’t know if its something we did completely on purpose, we tried to make the music that sounds right to us. We listen to a lot of different music, and Brittany [McConnell, Wolvserpent’s other half] is classically trained and educated. So we try to pick up on things in other genres and integrate them. We try to play things that ARE different, but that’s not the main focus. So it’s just what we do.
Is it honestly that intangible?
Yeah, that’s what we aim for. Just trying to be honest and express what we’re feeling. Sometimes we hear things and we think, ‘Oh, that’s cool—maybe we should try to do that.’ There’s a lot of influences—it’s really hard to pin down.
Do you feel that it would be easier to simplify yourselves and fit a certain mold?
Like a quote-unquote successful band—something like that?
I suppose so. I’m not sure what success is for a band.
I don’t know either. I don’t know if it means anything! We find success is just being fulfilled with the final musical outcome. But I don’t know—I do feel that if we played death metal it’d be a lot easier to book shows in certain towns across the country. It’s difficult, or it has been, some times in the past.
When putting together the music, does the limited number of band members affect the songs?
It can be difficult creating such large sounds with just two people, but we do our best, using some technology to assist us. And we’re pretty loud, so that fills up a lot of space. And then concentrating on the atmosphere, and having that be the driving force.
Which comes first, the live set or the studio? Is the live set an interpretation of the studio recording or is the studio recording an interpretation of the live set?
Like making the record and then figuring out how to play it live, or vice versa? This last record we wrote it live first, and then recorded it. So that was pretty easy, and that was our goal. We’ve made a couple records in the past that were straight studio albums with WAY too many instruments for two people. We wouldn’t have been able to play those. So with Blood Seed we decided to go ahead and make something we’d feel comfortable with playing live so we could basically play the record for audiences. I don’t think we’re necessarily opposed to other way. That’s kinda cool because when you’re recording in a studio you have a lot of chances to come up with cool ideas. And I think a lot of times even if you write the set and then record it, stuff happens that happens originally—you can only sort of recreate that when you record.
L.A. RECORD PRESENTS WOLVSERPENT WITH WINO, STORY OF RATS AND IDES OF GEMINI PLUS BLACK RAINBOW (DJ SET) ON THUR., MAY 19, AT THE DARK HORSE, 901 E. 1ST ST., DOWNTOWN. 9 PM / $10 / 21+. ADVANCE TICKETS HERE! LARECORD.COM/SHOWS. WOLVSERPENT’S BLOOD SEED IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM 20 BUCK SPIM. VISIT WOLVSERPENT AT WOLVSERPENT.COM.