In the midst of a metal lineup, we caught Nashville based blues-rock band All Them Witches while they performed at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn this past Saturday. They brought their own psychedelic and folk influences to put on a spellbinding performance.
The exterior of Saint Vitus was painted entirely black, as was much of the inside. There was no sign indicating the name of the venue, but we knew we were in the right place when we spotted a shirt for sale above the bar that read, “Satan is great, whiskey is super”. Dimly lit red candles were set before a hanging picture of Jesus near the restrooms. Don’t bother lighting a candle there, because your prayers won’t be answered. Thick black velvet curtains closed off the stage area until it was time for the first band to perform.
We caught up with some of the members of All Them Witches before their set to ask them a few questions. We headed to the quietest place we could find, which was their trusty van, with their guitar player Ben catching a nap inside before the show. He was nice enough to join us for a quick interview along with vocalist and bassist Parks, and drummer Witties who was filling in for their regular drummer.
P&W: So let’s start with your band’s name. I read that it came from the movie Rosemary’s Baby. I’m a big horror fan, so your name is referencing the book she’s given in the movie titled “All of Them Witches”, right? What made you choose that name and what does it represent?
Ben: That’s one of my all time favorite horror movies and I was watching it one night. I thought that it would make a really cool band name and as soon as I got a chance to be in a band where I could come up with the name, that was the first thing I chose.
P&W: So you kind of had that figured out before you even got into a band?
Ben: Yea and I ran it by Robbie, our drummer, and he liked it. Then we were kind of stuck with it after playing a whole bunch of shows in Nashville and coming out with an EP.
P&W: So your LP, Lightning At The Door, was just re-released on the 16th. The album has a heavy, trippy feel to it. Are there any themes that run through the album?
Ben: Guitar solos. Parks: Not as much as the first album. The first album had a lot of guitar solos. Ben: Parks kind of kept me in line, but in a good way. On the first record I was just going back to the tracking room and laying down a bunch of guitar. We all played the Lightning At The Door songs basically live in the studio and I would maybe do one solo and as soon as I would go back in to do something else Parks would be like, “Do you really wanna do that?”
Kept in line or not, Ben managed to break his favorite guitar slide during the set as it shattered in pieces to the floor. You can check out one of his stellar guitar solos in the live video we took of Swallowed by the Sea, a track off Lighting At The Door. They also played The Death of Coyote Woman, and closed out their set with Charles William, both from the album.
The heavy groove of All Them Witches was a change from the more abrasive sounds of the metal bands that preceded them, but the crowd ate up their hypnotic performance. The atmosphere their sound creates is almost haunting. Rhythmic sounds slowly build up around Parks’ bluesy, enigmatic vocals until finally setting off with a whirlwind of unremitting tempo and undulating instrumentals.Once All Them Witches get going, it seems like they and the audience are locked in a groove that they’ll never come out of.
While discussing guitar solos, Parks began speaking about the lyrical themes of their album.
Parks: I personally don’t like to just write songs, I like to write stories when we do albums, so lyrically for me all the songs tie together for one specific narrative. The music also usually reflects that for the mood of each story or album.
P&W: So in terms of lyrical content, how does that process work? Do you guys write lyrics collaboratively?
Parks: Well for the first record Ben wrote most of the songs and sang on most of them, but then he didn’t want to sing anymore so I picked up that. I write the lyrics now. I don’t think they would fit together if we were trying to write them separately. Ben: Parks is a really good lyricist Parks: It’s all metaphors Ben: It’s best to not ask questions about the content. Parks: There are things you just can’t put into words and the words that you put down in a song are the closest you can get to explaining it to somebody. It’s hard for me to explain in straightforward English what a lyric means.
P&W: So I probably shouldn’t ask you my next question. Parks: Oh, you can go for it. P&W: Well, I was going to say that in the song Charles William there are a couple lyrics that really stand out to me, specifically “I wanna raise the dead” and “Jesus was my dad”. Can you explain those lyrics at all? Parks: I think that song is easier to explain than most. That one is halfway about my grandfather, Charles William. I had this dream about him one night and it always kind of stuck with me. That was a good six months before we actually wrote the song. I came up with something on bass and Ben reminded me of the story I told him and it all just kind of came together very quickly. “Jesus was my dad”, yea that one’s harder to explain.
P&W: You guys are from Nashville, which is a huge music scene. Did coming from there have an influence on your musical style?
Parks: Well none of us are actually from there except for our drummer, but we live there now. Ben’s form Florida, I’m from Louisiana originally. Robbie and Alan are from Ohio. So really Nashville hasn’t had too much of an influence on us in the band. It’s been more of what we grew up listening to or what we currently listen to.
P&W: So who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Ben: Jimi Hendrix. I know it’s really cliché`, but Hendrix is the best. My dad’s a huge Grateful Dead fan, so I grew up listening to The Dead. Of course being from Florida, listening to the Allman Brothers because they’re from Daytona Beach and I’m from St. Augustine. If you’re into music and you’re from that area, you listen to Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, that kind of stuff. Parks: My dad was a musician so music was always around. I learned about all the classic rock stuff from him. He also played in a lot of R&B bands. It wasn’t until I got to New Mexico and got away from all of his influences and whatever my sister was listening to, which was a lot of like Rob Zombie and stuff, that I started listening to my own stuff. I started listening to a lot of world music and delta blues stuff. My go to is international folk music. A lot of Appalachian music too. The less instrumentation the better for me. Just the idea of growing up in the mountain regions where people are totally cut off from everything else and they’ve taken these songs that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and made them their own, the style of picking a banjo or playing a fiddle is totally different from anywhere else, I think that’s really amazing. Witties: I grew up the same way with having my parents influence me with classic rock stuff. When I was younger I definitely got into a lot of punk rock stuff, Dischord Bands from DC and that whole scene. Then I moved on to a lot of crowd rock stuff. A lot of world music for sure. A lot of African guitar stuff and Turkish garage rock from the 60’s and 70’s.
P&W: You guys are from an area known for really good whiskey, so do you have any special drinks you like before you go on or while you’re performing?
Ben: We drink a lot of beer. Witties: I do like whiskey, Dickel White Label Parks: Tequila’s my favorite. Everybody drinks whiskey in Nashville. That’s just what you do. I like Bulleit too.
Our interview ended with a story about their drummer selling his old Xterra For below asking price with 20 bottles of whiskey to make up for the few hundred dollars he was missing out on. Now that’s a sweet deal.
Article by: Ashley Rodriguez
Photos by: Shayne Hanley