One of the unfortunate byproducts of a raging pandemic is amazing studio output by bands that don’t get the extra push on the live stage. Case in point: All Them Witches from Nashville, Tennessee, whose latest album Nothing as the Ideal graced many of our year-end lists. Not to mention best album lists around the globe. And for good reason: the album, recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, is yet another installment of pure, blistering, kick-ass psychedelic rock, full of riff-filled anthems and heavy grooves. It is clear the band shows no signs of stopping, even in these times, seeing as Nothing as the Ideal is already the sixth full-length in their nine year existence. Writer and photographer Kamil Parzychowski (The Buried Herald) sat down for an interview with drummer Robby Staebler to look back on the last years and talk about things to come.
Writer: Kamil Parzychowski / The Buried Herald
Hey Rob! Thanks a lot for finding the time. Well, how are things going?
Rob: ”It’s going pretty good you know, I’ve been super busy lately. I’ve been driving back and forth across the country, working on music, continuing to build the studio that I live in, making a lot of art, selling prints… Dealing with that stuff you know, my printer just took a shit so I had to buy a new print head which is really expensive and I had to get it overnight…. But yeah, just making a lot of art and working on music!”
That sounds like some productive time right there. And have you met up with Ben and Parks sometime recently or has it been a while for you guys?
Rob: ”I haven’t seen those guys since we did the last online show. And that was the first time I saw them since we were at Abbey Road recording Nothing As The Ideal, except for Parks. I saw him a couple of times when driving back and forth across the country.”
Oh yeah, because you’re neighbors back in Tennessee right?
Rob: ”We were, but he’s recently moved to a very remote location haha, he is very hard to get hold of! You have to drive across a creek to get to his house, he’s got no phone or internet, he can’t even get it when he wants it as he needs to drive to town to get it… Pretty cool though. He’s a country boy man, he likes his big ol’ spaces, haha.”
This is really cool, it was always my impression of him actually! And regarding the Live On The Internet show on 19th of December last year, how did it go?
Rob: ”Yeah so we brought Mikey who engineered this new record and Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, and we set it up at his studio, pretty much how we recorded Dying Surfer, the same concept and a lot of the same gear I think, yeah. We just did it like that, used a lot of cool stuff and it sounded really good!”
I feel like your new record, Nothing as the Ideal, accurately evoked the hectic spirit of last year and even foreshadowed your European tour with SLIFT with a track titled See You Next Fall. Will we see you guys next fall?
Rob: ”We’re excited about that, I hope this tour happens, I think it will. I think by that time things will be happening. That’s the only time time people are really booking. We have a few shows planned in the US but it’s like a 4 day run and I’m not sure it’s gonna happen. A 4 day run after we haven’t toured for over a year… we’ll see man.”
Fingers crossed we’ll be able to see you live as soon as possible. You must miss touring don’t you?
Rob: ”It was funny because the last time we were on tour, it kind of felt like a grueling tour to be honest. We were on tour for… forever it feels like. Just lots of tours. At the end of last tour we were like: “shit man, I’m looking forward to the break”…and careful what you ask for man…
But you know, I’m enjoying my time. I definitely found my routine, figured out how I can support myself and just keep things going. It was seriously rough for a lot of people but I used however best I could. Just putting in a lot of energy, working every day, waking up early and staying busy until I can’t stay awake any longer. I’m feeling really good but I look like shit right now.” <laughs>
Your last tour was in Europe in 2019 with Ghost and Tribulation. Quite an unusual combination of bands touring together, I thought at first. All orbiting around the ‘heavy’, yet all having a unique spin of their own. Can you tell me more about this tour?
Rob: ”We thought the exact same thing. First of all, when Ghost asked us to go out, we were like: “well, that’s a weird combination”. But it was cool and we were really excited about it. And then Tribulation got on there and it was just like… total insanity. Yeah, all those guys were super cool. A long but fun tour for sure. But it was hit or miss man, with the audience I mean. Ghost fans are diehards you know: “you’re not like Ghost so get the fuck outta here.” kind of thing. And then with us, it’s like completely different music than all that stuff… Yeah, hit or miss.”
So you can say the reception was varying across the board depending on the country and venue right?
Rob: ”Oh for sure, definitely. You wanna know where… and when?” <laughs>
<laughs> I’m noting it all down!
Rob: ”London was surprising. It might have been like in the top 2 biggest shows we did on that tour. We were like: “Oh man, we’re gonna crush it!”. It’s London, when we played there in the past people were really digging it, we’ve sold out a bunch of shows there, we’ve played The Roundhouse last year… But yeah, that last time I don’t think people were into it. Maybe the London music scene is like really divided, dunno.”
That’s interesting, especially considering the rather strong underground scene built around Desertfest and all. Perhaps the crowd was truly dominated by Ghost fans.
Rob: ”The Desert scene seems just like bikers and weed and the Ghost scene is like crazy theatrics and explosions. <laughs> No but seriously, it definitely kept us on our toes and forced us to not give a fuck, and when you don’t give a fuck, sometimes you can do way better.”
Still on the topic of live music. All Them Witches have done two KEXP sessions so far, which are both fantastic by the way. Your performance looks so relaxed and on-point there, especially considering the welcoming vibe brought about by Cheryl Waters who has hosted you twice. Did it actually feel so chill?
Rob: ”Oh yes Cheryl is a great host! But no, that was not comfortable at all. I mean it was really cool, super stoked about that, but it was kind of a high-pressure thing as KEXP is rad. And you don’t want to mess it up. But we still messed something up both times I think. Yeah I mean both times were early in the morning, somewhere around 10am I believe, which is early when you arrive the previous night… And it was like: “Okay, this is live. I am tired. Let’s go.” <laughs>
I wanted to quickly come back to Nothing as the Ideal. It feels like here you referred back to some heavy ideas while leaving lots of room for experimentation and unpredictability. Not to mention that it was recorded in a legendary studio pretty far from home. What did the creation of your newest record look like?
Rob: The process behind it was relatively similar to what we did with the previous albums. Basically: “Alright we’re making a record. We need to be in the same room.” And yeah, it went fast. It was around 2 weeks of jamming together and figuring it out when we hit the studio. My plan initially was to record it all in my studio, and we were kind of doing that, jamming, recording demo’s you know… But then Ben was just like: “Hey, Abbey Road is available.” I was actually totally against going anywhere, I wanted to do it here, at home. That kind of thought just never crossed my mind but yeah someone suggested it to Ben, we could afford it and we just decided to go for it. And it was awesome! When we were there we were like: “Oh man we should come back!”. It was just so nice, they got catering there, the gear is awesome… But if we do it again it’d have to be in the summertime, certainly not in March.”
Sounds like an amazing experience! Robby, you also have a project on the side that you’re running under the name UVWAYS. It incorporates photography, graphic design and even music. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Rob: ”UVWAYS is just this name I came up with a long time ago that later ended up being my instagram name for an account I wanted to brand and sell my art with. And then I started this other music project which was really just a bunch of soundchecks of me and my buddy setting up the studio gear and playing around. And then when I went back and listened to it and I was like: “Man there’s some really cool stuff in here that we have to figure out.”. It was just after the quarantine started, I hit up my friend Evan, sent him the music, he sent me some vocals and guitars back and then I thought this was gonna work. And then I just thought to keep it all under the same name as what I’d been doing before. Weird sounds, video edits, artworks for bands… Hope one day people will be like: this picture, this song, this design- that’s Robby, that’s UVWAYS.”
Your visual aesthetic is recognizable and cohesive across the board, especially in All Them Witches and all the artworks you designed for the band. Each work is different and I feel like this visual language is a crucial component to immersing oneself in the world you guys are building with your music.
Rob: ”People are seeing the development of it, because I always did this stuff but I never had a focus outlet where it needed to be done and it was exciting, working and paying off. So then I realized I can pursue everything that I want to do through the band. The Dying Surfer Meets His Maker cover ended up being not the one I wanted actually. There’s been a few times where I had to compromise on what I wanted the art to be as I was getting outvoted and I ended up being bummed. But when you pull out the insert of this album out of the dust sleeve there is an image on the front and back which is what I wanted the actual album front and back cover to be. Then I got this idea that I could just basically do a couple more covers for each album, putting them in the inserts for gatefolds and stuff. I really like maximizing that space.”
But the cover art of your debut LP, Our Mother Electricity, wasn’t designed by you, was it?
Rob: ”No it wasn’t right. Yeah it’s a straight rip off of an absinth bottle label design or something. So many people have used this image, all that text and stuff. When we went to Europe for the first time we suddenly started seeing it everywhere and I was like: “Oh man…”. But I think one day we’re gonna rehash that album, and if we do, I’ll make some new artworks for sure. Yeah the whole thing was random, we barely knew each other. Ben would just come over, we would record me playing drums and then we would just record stuff on top of it and that eventually turned into songs.”
It does have this DIY feel to it for sure, love coming back to it. So perhaps to round it off, what is the future of All Them Witches looking like now?
Rob: ”Oh we’re hopefully going to meet up as a band several times before that upcoming European tour. I want to do some new music so I really hope we can make it. And I’d like to do this new record in a different way, like I want to just build it. The way I’m doing stuff here in my studio is really surprising and exciting because it sounds totally different than when in a professional setting, and when I get to that point I start getting tons of crazy ideas. So I want to really experiment with this record and see it more as a science experiment rather than a jam. It’s kinda my safe place where I feel most comfortable at and where I can just get weird, go down all these wormholes you know. Whenever we go to another studio it feels more like a performance. You have other people around, you’re on the clock. And I want to be able to spend hours just being able to tweak this, check out that. Instead of like: “Let’s get this song done. We got a job to do, we paid money to be here and we need to get out AND it’s got to be good.” But we have all this time off now so I’m trying to get everyone aboard to just experiment and make some fucking bizarre shit.”
You’ve actually tried some new things on the recent album, in terms of soundscaping and adding some ‘sonic novelties’ let’s say. Is that a taste of what’s to come?
Rob: ”Yeah I was excited about that, all the loops and weird sounds I had to make. I was just like, taking the cool shit that I was doing, that process, and just taking a little snippet and be “that’s cool, just put that right there.”. Now I want to take the whole process, and put all of us into it to see what it sounds like, I think it would be something definitely no one has ever heard before.”
This sounds really exciting, can’t wait for that. Thanks so much for your time Robby, take care and all the best!
Rob: ”Thanks, I appreciate the fun conversation, see ya!”
Nothing As The ideal was released on September 6th 2020 via New West Records, and is still available in various physical formats via Bandcamp. All Them Witches are scheduled to play Paradiso, Amsterdam together with SLIFT on October 2th 2021 with tickets available via the Paradiso website.