Black Sheep Wall – Interview & Album Review

Whereas Los Angeles’ Black Sheep Wall’s debut offering I Am God Songs gave us the terrifying sense of being caught in a storm of razors, the band’s follow-up, No Matter Where It Ends, (released this past June through Season of Mist) emits a slower, groovier vibe, all the while maintaining the menacing sound that has come to be known as Black Sheep Wall.

There is a certain sparseness apparent in many of the songs, yet nothing is actually lacking; instead, these open spaces allow for mood and tension to build. The sluggish pace of “Black Church” and “Torrential”, for example, is borderline trance-inducing at times, ushering the listener into a slow, reflexive head-bob that is impossible to resist. Balancing out the sludgy bang is Trae Malone’s consistently ferocious vocal delivery, which, if even possible, is becoming even more powerful.

I had the opportunity to touch base with Brandon Gillichbauer (bass) to talk about Black Sheep Wall’s latest release, the mood they strive to create, getting goofy, and the Kickstarter fiasco.
Daniel Robichaud: There seems to be a touch more of a groove, more cohesion, on No Matter Where It Ends than on I Am God Songs. Am I imagining this?

Brandon Gillichbauer: No Matter Where it Ends (NMWIE) is the product of a band that has grown up and matured four years after their first their album. We made a conscious effort going into the writing process for NMWIE that we definitely wanted songs to be a bit more structured, and to, for the most part, stay away from syncopated, polyrhythmic, one-note riffs to avoid any sort of “djent” tag.

DR: What kind of mood, if any, are you hoping to instill in someone listening to the new album?

BG: Admittedly, the album is a test of endurance, but it is not designed in a way that you’re supposed to endure a bunch of shitty songs, but rather an emotional test of endurance, if that makes any sense? I don’t want to sit here and say the album should make you sad or happy, but I do hope people walk away with something meaningful, not necessarily positive, after they soak in NMWIE.

DR: Is this approach any different from what you were going for with I Am God Songs?

BG: Not really, with both albums we knew we wanted listeners to think. There is a stylistic difference between I Am God Songs, and NMWIE so I think giving each a listen would put you in a different mood respective of which album you listen to.

DR: “Black Church” ends with a short voicemail clip; “Cognitive Dissonance” is a mess of industrial distortion loops, traffic sounds; the end of “Flesh Tomb” sounds like a steel monster ripping itself apart… How do you decide where to put these non-musical pieces? Why use them at all?

BG: For me, the aforementioned parts are some of the most human parts of the album. The voicemail from our old singer at the end of “Black Church”, and the industrial sounding parts done by Jay from Wire Werewolves represent who we are as people. We can be tongue-in-cheek as demonstrated by the voicemail, but those industrial parts, those are something else entirely. Those sounds are vicious and terrifying, and represent just how terrible and scary being part of this world can be.

DR: There’s something unique about the viciousness in Black Sheep Wall’s songs and delivery, both vocally and instrumentally. What do you think sets you apart from other aggressive, apparently “angry” metal out there?

BG: As cliché as it may sound, it’s because we play and write our music with our hearts on our sleeves. We’re not trying to fit into any type of scene, and we’re out there doing, and saying, whatever we want musically. The viciousness you mention was intended when I Am God Songs was written, but we wanted NMWIE to be a much more open to different kinds of emotional expression. I think it’s fair to say we’re not entirely angry as much as we are bummed out.

DR: I’ve seen some tour clips of you guys just hanging out in hotel rooms and having stupid fun. You don’t seem nearly as ragingly murderous as your music does. What’s the deal?

BG: We are, and always have been, goofy dudes. What you saw is kind of how we hang out after you take the music out of the equation. All of us like to hangout, drink beer, talk movies, and occasionally do silly shit like light off artillery fireworks in New Mexico, and then run from the cops.

DR: What’s your song-writing process like? Have you established some kind of pattern or routine that works, or is it different every time?

BG: Up until now the song-writing process has generally been the same; I come up with a riff in my head and try to flesh it out with the band. Sometimes, I accidentally stumble upon a riff while setting up my gear before practice and then the song-writing becomes a collective snowball process. We just recently had a discussion as a band to no longer rely on our previous song-writing methods as the primary vehicle to write new songs. Now it will be a much deeper, hands-on process with more creative input from all the members of Black Sheep Wall.

DR: You tried using Kickstarter to fund a U.S. summer tour. That doesn’t seem to have worked out so well…

BG: The Kickstarter was an idea our singer had that he really believed in. I can tell you from a personal standpoint that I was never really comfortable with the Kickstarter, or how it was handled. There’s a myriad of apparent reasons why it failed miserably, but in the end it was a learning experience for all of us.

DR: Despite the Kickstarter setback, will Black Sheep Wall be playing any shows this summer?

BG: We just got back from our first full U.S. tour so I think we’re going to be slowing down a bit. The reality of the situation is we all have real life to tend to, and some of our priorities back home, such as working full-time and going to school full-time, have to take priority over the band by default. That’s not to say we won’t be playing any shows, but it maybe a little before we trek across the United States again.

DR: The readers are ready to hear your closing statement.

BG: I don’t have much to say other than thank you to anyone who has supported us, and stuck around through the tumultuous times we’ve had since starting the band. With my fingers crossed, I think it’s safe to say those times are over, and that we can keep our focus on the musical progression of Black Sheep Wall.

 

Check out Black Sheep Wall’s music right here, then pick it up your local music store. Tell them to order it if they don’t have it. That’s what I did. It’s worth it. They have a bunch of wicked shirts available too.