Interview w/ Steel for Brains
We’ve all been to metal/punk shows and created bands in our own head - combining the sounds we know we would want with the performance we’re watching. Any metalhead will tell you that right next to the experience of the show itself is the dream or fantasy of being on that stage creating a sound that leaves the audience not only captivated but wondering why they didn’t think of it first. I’ve never seen Bezoar, the tripped out psychedelic doom metal trio from Brooklyn, live, but after hearing their nastily unique full length, Wyt Deth, I have little doubt these guys are carving their way into a totally new yet completely familiar sound. I love discovering new bands that aren’t just “new” by way of trend terminology, but rather they’re new because they’re taking the familiarity of the sounds we know and making them completely their own. It’s an inherent trait in Bezoar and one that speaks volumes not just to what they’re doing now, but what’s ahead for the band and for you, the lucky listener. I recently had a chat with vocalist/bassist Sara Villard about the wiles and ways of being a different band in a world where “different” means the same.
Immediately when you have a band that, whether unfortunately or not, gets labeled as psychedelic, there’s a whole litany of expectations, basically, from fans and critics alike. You guys seem to rise above a lot of that with Wyt Deth as it’s a far more complicated set of songs than the “label” might suggest. What was the process for you guys, both technically and creatively, for bringing the album together?
Ugh, there are expectations whatever you call yourself. And then there is the fact that you have to label yourself SOMETHING, or no one will give you the time of day. But then, you label yourself and people argue that you aren’t really that thing, or you are really more this or that. Psychedelic really meant something specific when Roky Erickson coined the phrase, and I sort of think he was coming up with a new label to not have to box his music in. I like that idea and psychedelic to me, is a label that suggests the listener will have an experience beyond a simple musical tag or genre. I feel like we have given Bezoar a myriad of labels and not one of them alone is really going to sum it all up. We write together and shape things according to taste and intensity levels. I think, like most bands do, we are growing and figuring out how we really want to shape our music. I guess our process for this record was teaching Justin the old songs, reconstructing them, throwing out what we didn’t like, writing new ones that fit all of our tastes, and coming to more of a group decision about how we wanted to solidify it all. Creatively, we also wanted the record to flow and not just be a crazy, intense storm, so we added some extra hills and valleys to help relax the listeners ears.
What was the biggest challenge for you guys going from the Bezoar EP to the full length?
For the most part, it was finding the right drummer! Justin joined the band right after we released the EP, so we found our niche with him and really started a true band once he joined. Before it was Tyler and I writing and directing things for the most part, so it was amazing to find a guy who has constructive advice and ideas. We really started to find ourselves then, but we also had to meld and form what material we did have.
Kind of going along with that question, you guys have been a band since 2007 (correct me if I’m wrong here), but what was the evolution of the band, so to speak? What brought the three of you together?
Tyler and I have been playing music together since 2005. We started slowly hanging out and playing at the time we both had other projects. Teratoma became the name of our first endevour, which sort of molded into Bezoar as time went on. I would consider our time with Justin the real beginning, but we had a lot to work out before then as far as our styles together, so he kind of came in at the perfect time. It took me a long time to sing the way I do now, and for awhile I wasn’t playing bass with Tyler, so when we decided to have that happen, I had to learn to play all of the crazy bass parts and sing at the same time. Our drummer before Justin stole a hundred bucks from me to buy coke so that was that. We had been scheduled to go on tour and Justin joined in order for his other band Wizardry to keep the dates. We had the van, now he’s stuck with us!
I was hesitant to ask this question, but I think it merits discussion, honestly. For you, Sara, there has to be an awareness of the stigmas attached to being a female vocalist for a metal group. No one bats an eye when a woman fronts a country band or some other bubblegum pop outfit, but for some reason, even within the realm of the genre itself and its fans and critics, there’s a focus on that rather than the incredible music you guys make. What’s your take on that kind of musical chauvinism that still, even in 2012, is present in the metal genre?
It is a strange thing. I don’t encounter much sexism on a day to day basis, but it does exist here. I think if I was a screamer, it would be easier. But, if a man sang this way, I think he would also be criticized. Maybe I’m just being hopeful, but I like to think it’s the weirdo style, and not necessarily sex. I also think that in all walks of life, things are more accepted when they fit into a mold. I remember the first time I heard PJ Harvey I thought it was horrible garbage and I remember feeling a bit scared. That fear eventually attracted me, whereas that feeling may repel most people, I don’t know. Spending time on others thoughts feels like a waste so I just embrace the fact that I’ve found two other people to be misfits with. There are some unfortunate moments when I have to deal with a level of chauvinism, but I’m beyond that shit. New York is too progressive for all that, when it happens I just have to chalk it up to the fact that I must be talking to an idiot. I have friends who don’t even believe in being labeled as a man OR a woman. Get with the times people!
There’s no denying the fact that metal and punk and hardcore have become the “trendy” thing just over the last five to six years. Obviously that kind of attention, whether wanted or not, is going to garner a lot more competition. I was curious as to what the group’s thoughts were concerning the trend and just the irony that comes with it, considering the fact that these are genres that in the beginning, at least, were kind of hinged on the antithesis of being trendy.
We live in a trendy hipster environment and want to go on with whatever we like and want to do based on our feelings and desires without considering that environment. Unfortunately it is not super easy to do that with media and social networking involved. Bezoar is sort of the antithesis of the ‘trendy band’ in the way that we do things. We definitely have friends all over the spectrum of Brooklyn, but our style isn’t really fitting with the hipster ways of Brooklyn right now. From what I can see, crappy re-hash garage bands are still all the rage here. I know, right?! New York is amazing on many levels, but when it comes to music we are not setting the stage as a city. When I see the hip thing to do is go see a derivatave stoner rock band or a wanna be Jay Reatard band, I know I’m in an industry town. There will always be great bands here doing metal, punk, and every other genre! The trendy thing right now is focusing on taking whatever style music and getting the poppiest, easiest to listen to versions of that genre and spitting it out into the world. New York has that special transient quality where people come here to specifically do one thing and do it to ‘make it’, so I suppose there will always be this industry driven world. On the underground side of that there are bands playing the craziest, most insane music. People who live here who are mad geniuses and musicians who will shatter your skull. Those are the ones. I think anyone involved in any area of the arts could tell you they have this experience in New York. It spans all areas of art and music.
With Wyt Deth you guys definitely tap into the prog elements of metal, specifically regarding songs like Are We Not Alone. How difficult was and is it for you guys to have that kind of free flow to your music yet maintain a kind of conscious cohesion at the same time?
It can be hard to feel free when you are so restricted in what you are doing in a way. We do make it a point to make the songs have free form sections though, so that makes things flow more organically. I really have to say that practicing together a lot is really the key, because once everything is sort of muscle memory, it’s easier to have the songs morph into feeling, rather than a stiff, prog style jam. Getting to that point is a really indescribable feeling.
You guys have a range of influences, but you certainly don’t employ any mimicry in the music you create. What other types of art, outside the realm of music, work as catalysts for the music Bezoar makes?
I guess we are really inspired by our surroundings and the people we meet on a day to day basis. I’m really inspired by the human mind, the inner workings of a thought and how that comes to be a piece or a structured movement in society. Science is inspirational. The people who work to better our lives everyday with their extraordinary brains. Exploration and discovery in spite of monetary, or political restrictions. Science fiction literature has been inspirational as well through Tyler’s obsession with P.K. Dick, William Gibson, and many others. I love all forms of art and am inspired by different things all the time. Mostly it is the artist or visionary who affects the world in some way and their thought process that takes us there.
Kind of going on my previous question regarding the current trend of metal, Bezoar obviously doesn’t play or sound like a band riding on any marketing scheme, so my question for you guys is – why metal? To you, as fans of the music and as a band, what’s the draw or the allure of heavy metal, and how do you see Bezoar in that huge spectrum of sound?
It would be nice to ignore the labels and come up with our own genre, but that is so pretentious. I’m really into metal and we saw ourselves as a part of this genre for awhile. I think Bezoar has naturally morphed into what it is and perhaps ‘metalheads’ won’t relate. It’s just a short answer to let people and clubs know, this shit is going to be loud. And there will be some searing sick solos, and there will be blast beats. So put in your earplugs and enjoy. That’s as far as I care about it. In my perfect world there would be no labeling of anything and we would all take the time to get to know people, art, bands, projects, pieces, etc. What a confusing world it would be though, no one has time for all that!
What advice would you guys have for a startup band in the social networking age? I think Bezoar is a perfect example of an incredible band being exposed to a lot of people thanks to social media and relentless touring.
Tour, remember people, get on the internet. Also, pay someone to do something if you suck at it. I don’t know the first thing about building websites, taking photographs, making album covers, whatever. You want to get paid for doing ‘your thing’. Extend a hand and pay some of your artist friends to do their thing. It will look better, believe me. I have a hard time doing all the things that need getting done in a band. I will do all I can myself, but there are a few things someone else can do better. I think if a band is serious, they have to realize they are starting a high risk company. And the work involved never ends. Enjoy!
When you guys aren’t writing or touring or basically dedicating everything you’ve got to Bezoar, what do you do in your leisure time? Feel free to elaborate here regarding hobbies, etc. I’m always interested to hear what incredibly talented musicians are doing when they’re not working their asses off for their craft?
I collect old band T shirts and an insane wardrobe. I’m really into vintage and designer clothes. Specifically, I love anything you might see at the ren fair, but the real deal. Tyler and I are always playing games. He is obsessed with pool. He plays everyday if possible and as a result I also play a lot of pool. And as a result Justin ends up playing a lot of pool too, Ha! We all have numerous musical projects. Justin plays bass in Blackout and is starting a new band he is going to play guitar in. He is an awesome guitar player. He likes to collect weird trinkets from the street and rides his bike everyday. Even in blizzard conditions. We are all getting into scoring films together. We are now working on our first full length feature, ‘With all my Might’. It’s kind of a Coen Brothers esque action quirky thriller love story…pretty rad. We watch a lot of movies, cook, play games, basically anything fun. I rule at Monopoly. Tyler and I are foodies. I play the saxophone. That is all.
You can find all things Bezoar (and you should) at their website here. If you’ve yet to check out their Facebook page linked with their name at the beginning of this article then do so. Thanks to Sara and the rest of the Bezoar crew (Tyler Villard - guitars and Justin Sherrell - Drums) for their time. If you’ve not listened to Bezoar yet, then fill the vast void in your life as I did mine and check them out below.
Cheers. - A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y, AND Z