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OBLITERATIONS photo by Marc Gabor
Marc Gabor photo

Strip it down to the wires

First off, lets tear out some of pages from this black book of rock’n’roll and piece together the six degrees of separation between vocalist Sam James Velde, guitarist Stephen McBean, bassist Austin Barber and drummer Flo Schanze. A question still remains in this rat’s nest of punk and metal wires. Which one of these connections will cross and which of these bare cables will burst into Obliterations?

Growing up in an era of “plugged in,” music, somewhere a safety manual heeds the warning of voltage and current. In one act of defiance those labels were torn off and the remains become tinder for a cautionary tale.

“The magic of being in a room with a few people and creating something out of volume and chaos that didn't exist two minutes before, makes me wanna cry joy tears. As you get older you have to keep a place in your heart that remembers being an acne-ridden teen and feeling it happen for the first time. Pound symbol war stories,” states McBean.

With a trail of cables in tow both guitarist and bass player find themselves in Los Angeles. The vocalist crosses paths with the guitarist and the two start to discuss music. “We were talking about Black Flag and My War,” says Velde, and another time, “we DJ’d together once in LA and we realized we had a lot of the same taste in records from psych, to krautrock, to weird ‘90s shoegaze stuff and of course hardcore and punk. Like Corrosion of Conformity.” McBean’s story parallels Velde’s, more or less! “Even though I have way better taste than him, Sam and I grew up listening to a lot of the same shit as it rolled out of the rock'n'roll thunder ball cannon,” he states.

This connection led to a jam with a drummer friend. What came of this may not have sounded like the existing band, but what did happen, was they decided to do it again. This time McBean arrived with a riff and a different drummer sat in. That very night, this riff grew into “Kick Against the Pricks,” a song from the first 7-inch. To bridge things further the band Saviors, ties Barber to Velde. Their current drummer Flo Schanze came by way of a suggestion through Dimitri Coats from OFF! Velde is also the vocalist for Night Horse and Bluebird.

Those rehearsals were eventually recorded and Velde had set some vocal tracks to these, which spawned the 2013 self-titled 7-inch. McBean suggested a DIY house show release. By 2014 there was another 7-inch, titled The Hole. Incidentally, drummer, Chris Common from the band, These Arms are Snakes, recorded on the on the first release.

Velde had known Greg Anderson of the label, Southern Lord. There was a deep respect for the catalogue. The front man had sent him the first four songs and Anderson had dropped in at their shows. “We actually, kinda went to him for bits of advice because we did these two 7-inch [releases.] Should we make a record with somebody? He said I want to put the record out,” tells Velde.

McBean’s tour with Pink Mountaintops left a short window for recording, but Obliterations had “a strong creative energy” and their album evolved quickly. The well-connected vocalist came to know Dave Grohl when he booked Scream in the early ‘90s. They recorded the full length at Grohl’s Studio 606, however the mix could not be finished there because of unexpected circumstance. So, Anderson from Southern Lord recommended sending the recordings to Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio. Where he literally mixed it down in a few days. These tracks became Poison Everything, an album cut, as a straight up recording it is an accurate likeness of the band live.

This is a stripped back record with weight intact. “Songs are like moods,” explains the front man. The title track “Poison Everything” sets a tone. “Each song has it’s own inquiry into different facets of modern society, I suppose. Whether it’s personal, social, or political…” reflects the vocalist. This album is made up of short tracks, and each “message” comes off as a “quick conversation.” The song “Mind Ain’t Right,” exposes an uneasy a state. “The One that Got Away” tackles relationship hindsight. Longer numbers like “Open Casket,” probe aspects of war while “Shame” dives inward into dark territory personal or environmental and “Scapegoat” questions politics. The North America release date is in October.

So, back to those black book pages, that teenage brain and the stirred up danger. With a stiff shot of spontaneity and collective instinct, what is left on the table is the band right now. “The trash can is always near and the freedom to toss should always be engaged,” says McBean. “It still feels like now because the only time anything happens is now. So you know where you want to be, when label mates Baptists and Torch Runner hit the same floor?

Obliterations play at the Biltmore Cabaret October 25.

-by tiina.l