Poison The Well
Silent Uproar: Well, last year's Take Action Tour was pretty diverse, with bands from Jimmy Eat World to The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Of the eleven shows you've played so far, has this year's more similar mixture of bands felt the same or different than last year's tour?
Derek: Yeah, it has, but not in a bad way. It's just different. I prefer the more diverse bill, because it's cool for someone who listens to our style of music to come to a show where all the bands don't sound alike. They could get exposed to band they never would've heard before, which is always a positive thing.
SU: What made the band decided be involved again?
Derek: Well, we support the tour's cause and what it benefits. And the topic really hits home with us. So, when we they asked us to do it, we said, "of course, we have to."
SU: So when was the tour officially dubbed the "Fuck St. Anger Tour"?
Derek: Oh, man, is that the rumor?
SU: Actually, it's just what Ryan wrote on the tour journal. It just seemed like a joke…
Derek: I don't agree with that at all. I don't know why that's up there. I'm sure Metallica doesn't give a fuck… whatever, it's silly.
SU: Did you have any say on whether or not Charlotte was picked over Raleigh? I know they were debating on having it down in Raleigh or Carrboro.
Derek: No, we didn't.
SU: Well if you did, I was going to say "thank you", because Cat's Cradle gets all the good shows. And since you packed the place out last year, it seemed natural for you guys to play here again.
Derek: Well, cool.
SU: So, you were on the Warped Tour virtually all summer long and you're well into this tour. Assuming you're trying to favor the new album in your set list, have the crowds been reacting well to the new songs?
Derek: Oh yeah, definitely…
SU: Well, I guess I would think you would have people standing in the crowd waiting for "Artist's Rendering Of Me" or "Nerdy"…
Derek: Obviously, you're going to have people in the crowd who just wait for "Artist's Rendering Of Me", but you have the people that enjoy the new songs. It's just different at every show, but there's been a good reaction.
SU: In my opinion, the new album is a big step and is just amazing. But, even though you guys are probably used to a reasonably hot-and-cold reaction from fans and critics towards your constantly evolving sound, have any of the press or fan reactions to the album changed your attitude towards the record at all?
Derek: No, man, that's the good stuff! I love getting people riled up in a good or bad way. I love being a band that can affect people. There's nothing worse than indifference. Like you said, we're used to it, so we're cool.
SU: Do you still like it as much as when you first finished it?
Derek: Definitely not, definitely not… but that's how it always is. I don't really like any of our stuff (laughs). It's great while we're recording it, but the second we're done with something, it's old news and I'm ready to move forward. I guess that's just the nature of it…
SU: The first thing I noticed when I heard the entire album was the different guitar sounds. They reminded me of Tear From The Red, but one or two steps beyond that. It was a pleasant surprise to see you guys continue to revamp your sound each step of the way. Did you go in wanting to shoot for a new sound with the album? Or was that the influence of Pelle and Eskil on the record?
Derek: Really, it was a little of both. We wanted different sounds and they helped achieve those sounds. Like with our heavy, high gain guitar sound, we didn't want to do the same thing that we did before. Even though it's different, our sounds still have a similar character. Actually, this is first time Ryan and I have used different sounds. There's not a single instrument [on the record] that is doubled, it's all separate sounds. I actually prefer that way of writing a record; I think it's more fun and a little more colorful.
SU: How was it working with Pelle and Eskil as well as recording part of the album in Sweden?
Derek: Recording with them was one of the best experiences of my life; it was exciting to meet someone who cares as much about making records as I do. For me, I don't really give a fuck about doing anything else. It's refreshing to meet someone who's that obsessive and who obsesses about making records. We see eye to eye and, for the most part, we have the same opinions about what makes a good production and what makes a bad production. For the part of the record we did in Sweden, it was fun, but it was fucking cold and it wasn't like home. Any place that isn't home isn't always that comfortable for us.
SU: It's not home, but you did get to do part of the record in California, at least…
Derek: Yeah, we did half the record in California and half the record in Sweden.
SU: What do you think they contributed to the album overall? Since, in the album's liner notes, you stated them as being the "6th and 7th members"...
Derek: Yeah, totally… they just make us really comfortable. As a band, we didn't fight with each other in the studio, when we were with them. The vibe that they create is very relaxed, you're performances come quicker and they're better quality. They're just… it's hard to describe. If I could tell you exactly what is was it wouldn't be as special. It's just something they bring to the table. It's like, when you're with Pelle and Eskil, you want to be good.
We're going to work with them on the next record. Knowing that I love their taste in music and knowing that they're going to be criticizing those songs, I want to be better because of that. I just love it. I'm in love with those guys (laughs). There's just a vibe and sound that they have that, to me, doesn't sound like anything else. They don't make records like anyone else and I think that's why they're good.
SU: The first track that really drew me into the album was "Meeting Again For The First Time". To me, that song really epitomizes the whole album, with the atmospheric part of "For A Bandaged Iris" fading into the beginning, and the melodic parts building into the brutal parts. It's all contrast. Was that an effort of the band to try to infuse more of those types of contrasts into the music during the writing and recording of the album?
Derek: Yeah. I mean, I think it's a trick that we've fucking used up. It's cool and it works, but it's so dramatic. It's like a sucker punch, but in a good way. It was very intentional. What easier way is there to affect somebody? It's like kicking someone in the face; it's hard not to feel it.
In a reaction to that, I'd like to makes things a little more simple. Take what I'm doing now and simplify it, but make it more interesting. That's the fun of writing songs and writing records. But, contrast is something we're fond of.
SU: Well, "Meeting Again For The First Time" is first song on the album with the verse-chorus-verse structure…
Derek: Yeah, it's pop! It's a pop structure, which I enjoy. I enjoy it because I just look at it as a really great template and it's a challenge. Some of our favorite songs are like 7 minutes of one groove - like a bass groove.
SU: Yeah, there are plenty of James Brown songs that are just one groove…
Derek: Yeah, man! James Brown could just groove on something for 6 minutes. I mean, fuck, "Payback" is just a sweet bass groove, sweet horns, and 6 minutes of him talking shit. And it's a better song than any band with a million, fucking parts will ever write.
Or, for me, there's a song called "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths, which is basically a verse and chorus - with similar sounds - that just rolls for 7 minutes. And, it's an amazing song that doesn't rely on all these sucker punches. It's creates a vibe and that's hard to do, but I want to go there.
SU: One of the other things that is obvious is the stronger vocal presence from Jeffrey. From Tear From The Red to this album, the evolution is amazing…
Derek: The way we recorded the vocals is like night and day. Before, everything was doubled and it was very slick - the scream and everything. This is was just fucking raw. It was nothing: one track, a scream, and that's all. There are exceptions, of course, where we were looking to create vocal effects. But, it was fun to do it that way and we all like the way that Jeffrey sounded. In the future, I'd like to make sure we do a little more with the vocals, but that's the way we approached it for this record.
SU: Have all those melodies been difficult to manage live?
Derek: Not at all… I mean, shit, it's not perfect, but that's not what we want. No one's perfect. We don't want perfection; we would rather have the crowd feel the song than notice that it's perfectly recreated.
SU: You just made a video for "Apathy Is A Cold Body". How was that experience and did the video turn out like you wanted? Or, did you have much say in it?
Derek: Yeah, we did everything. There is no "did we have a lot of say", we have full say about everything that happens with our band. That's the only way we ever signed anything with any label.
SU: Well, despite what any naysayers might have to say about the actual content, it's unquestionable that you've ever covered your records with anything but excellent artwork. Did you guys give Don Clark at Asterik Studios any idea of what to do or did he just come up with the images and idea on his own?
Derek: I worked very closely with Don Clark on You Come Before You. It was his interpretation of the ideas that we all had of the record. We had many long conversations about the songs, why we made them, what we were trying to accomplish, and the mood of the record… what the band meant to us, everything. That's what you see when you pick up the album, a person growing in the form of a flower, with rough edges and things falling away. It can have a lot of interpretations, so I think it's very clever.
SU: It's not what you'd expect…
Derek: Yeah, which is cool.
SU: I also liked the album information on the cover like old 50's and 60's jazz records.
Derek: Yeah, I wanted it to have that old Blue Note feel. "Poison The Well proudly presents…" and there's the new songs.
SU: I thought it was funny that a few people viewed that as a major-label influence on the album. Like it was Atlantic putting their stamp on the album…
Derek: Man, the only thing that Atlantic did was fucking write the check. When creativity is concerned, we do everything. Most bands are content with letting a label make decisions, because they trust their label. And I really love our label, they're really great to us, but they don't know what to do when it comes to creativity. That's our fucking job. Whereas, their job is putting records in stores and helping people notice them. We have very defined roles, in that respect, which is why we have a very good relationship with our label.
SU: On the same note, throughout the whole process of writing, recording, and touring, the album hasn't been pushed in the public's face the way some might have expected it to be.
Derek: That's the idea, because, if you notice, we don't have a single out right now. These are decision that we've made, because we're not in a hurry as a band to get somewhere that we think we need to be. We are all about doing things at our own pace, on our own terms, and going very slowly. If things ever happen, that's great. If not, that isn't the ultimate goal; we just want to enjoy ourselves. We love doing this, so whatever.
SU: You guys don't rest at all! After this, you get a couple weeks and then you're headed out with Deftones in the middle of October…
Derek: Nope, we don't have a couple weeks off. We're doing something in between…
SU: What's that?
SU: So, you're doing a couple weeks with AFI and then on to Deftones. How does that feel?
Derek: Amazing. I'm excited about it. I can't wait.
SU: How did that get hooked up?
Derek: Well, I think Stephen likes our band, so he hooked it up.
SU: Yeah, there's another band on the bill that we do a lot with…
Derek: Denali! I love Denali. They're a great band. We played with Engine Down last year [on the Take Action Tour], which has some of the same members.
SU: Yeah, Keeley and Jonathan…
Derek: Yeah, we've been friends with them since we played with them the first time. I can't wait for their new record.
SU: You are one of the main draws on this tour, but any chance for a Poison The Well headlining tour in the coming year after all this exposure? You might actually get to play "Sounds Like The End Of The World" then?
Derek: Exactly… probably March of next year or around then, we'll get together a headlining tour before we settle down to start working on the next record. It will probably be a very diverse show. I want to go on tour with Cursive, personally.
SU: And to conclude, just because I'm always interested in what bands I like listen to, what albums have you been coming back to a lot this year?
Derek: I've been listening to a lot of old U2 - October, War, Boy, The Unforgettable Fire - and tons of Scott Walker. And then some of my favorite bands like Radiohead, The Smiths and Bob Marley… I love that shit.
SU: We'll that's all I got. Thank you.
Derek: Thanks, man.