I think we can pretty much say it’s official: New Orleans is the sludge & doom metal capital of America. Starting out in the early 90’s with bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, the genre only gained more exposure when Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar formed Down in 1995.
As the years went on, the harsh environment in New Orleans has spawned a darker, grittier second generation of these bands. Formed out of the disjointed NOLA musical scene after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Haarp has created some of the heaviest and powerful doom metal nationwide. With their debut, “The Filth” out in 2010 and have just released their second album, “Husks”.
“Husks” expounds on the material from their debut, with two of the three songs on the album clocking in at over 15 minutes. It is an ambitious effort for a band just starting to hit their stride.
The band will be getting some major exposure when they go on a few week run with the previously mentioned Down. The night before the release of “Husks” and a few days heading out on tour, I had a chance to talk with drummer Keith Sierra. Keith and I discussed the decision to expand those songs and how the events in New Orleans over the past several years has helped shape the band.
Here’s my interview with Keith:
AM: With the album and touring coming out, what is the feeling of the band at the moment?
KS: Right now, we’re just trying to come down from all of the work with the album- the mixing, mastering, the packaging for the album. It was really a long process and we’re happy to see it finally come to fruition. It’s like Christmas came early this year (laughs).
AM: How does the material on “Husks” build upon the first album?
KS: I think we are adding some influences that might have not been heard before. I think there’s some crooked tempos more reminiscent of Celtic Frost and Slayer. I don’t think we were setting out to just be the heaviest band on this album- there’s more of a textured and layered feeling this time around.
AM: Was there a conscious effort for the band to write the longer songs we hear on “Husks”?
KS: When we’re in the studio, we tend not to work very fast. It can be a slow and tedious period at times. There’s a lot of talk about how riffs or the drums should go. Some of the parts on one particular song could be debated about for as long as a week at a time. The songs just started writing themselves- I hate to sound clichéd- but it is that way. When working on these longer songs as they came together, sometimes the first take is the best. When it’s done, sometimes you just need to take a walk, maybe throw things around just to get out of that mindset. But no, there was no conscious decision to intentionally write long songs for the sake of writing long songs.
AM: Has the band changed their lyrical or writing perspective on the album?
KS: I am always pulling from whatever I am reading, whether it’s novels, short stories or magazines. A lot of the material tell stories based on what I am reading at the time. It’s also based on observations on real life experience. There are songs on this album that discuss how someone can look and say they’re happy when you can just tell are not actually feeling what they are saying. It’s that moment of realization, seeing that someone is in that state is something that came out this time.
AM: How has the events in New Orleans over the past several years shape the band’s sound?
KS: Actually, the bands we were in before helped shape things. In 2005, right after Katrina, Grant (Tom) and I were without bands because most of the guys ended up all over the country. Grant and I started talking on the phone, just to see if we were interested in jamming and it just came together from there. I think the different bands and the sounds of those bands helped shape what we sound like today. Some people take the idea of musicianship and playing guitar or drums for granted. But with situations like Katrina, it’s real easy to appreciate it after it’s gone and when it starts back up.
AM: What can fans expect from the upcoming Down tour?
KS: We’re gonna be playing all three new songs, and a couple of songs from the first album. All I can say is we’re gonna make things sound as heavy and uncomfortable as possible before Down comes in and finishes the job (laughs).
Haarp opens for Down at the Crofoot Ballroom on Sunday, September 23rd. Tickets are $25 and are available at ticketweb.com. Additional tour dates and band info can be found at www.facebook.com/haarpnola.