UNDERSMILE follow in a British tradition of sludge and doom. Not music for those of you who like to buy it pre-packaged in a nice envelope. But if you dare venture beyond the conventional you’ll be in for a journey. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Both Oxford and Cambridge are more known for higher studies than dark rumblings on lower frequencies. How do you go about forming a band in a place that people don’t stay too long in?
-We’re not really involved in the student side of Oxford to be honest – there are plenty of students in Oxford and a lot of student bands but Oxford has a well-established and respected music scene and many of the bands, musicians and publishers have lived here all their lives. We’re pretty much one of those bands.
What is there in the description “sludge” and what is doom too you?
-When we think of sludge we think of slow, discordant music played quite loosely (bands like Melvins and Eyehategod). For us doom is that gut feeling of emotion, of fear etc. A lot of music is labeled as doom because of the tradition which Sabbath started but we tend to take the definition of doom literally in our own music and try to create a feeling of impending doom.
When you form a band you are pretty much nothing until you start writing music and present it to somebody. When do you know that you are a part of a scene?
-It was difficult in the beginning because we were getting put on weird, eclectic bills with bands that sounded nothing like us. We knew we were part of a scene when similar bands got in touch with us and we started playing with like-minded bands and musicians. Playing with bands like Weedeater and Zoroaster helped to establish us on the sludge/doom scene which has been getting bigger and bigger recently. Now we definitely feel part of a vibrant UK underground scene.
When you write songs that lasts 10+ minutes how do you know when to stop? Why doing so long songs and not break them up into 3 three minutes one instead?
-We don’t sit down and try to write long songs – we just play quite slow and don’t want the songs to feel rushed which tends to mean that they can go over the ten minute mark. When we do write a shorter song we’re normally quite pleased because it means that we’ll be able to play more than three songs at our gigs! We do have some musical interludes on our upcoming album that are less than 3 minutes though so that might surprise a few people.
How do you write lyrics to songs that are that long?
-It’s the same situation as when we write the music – there aren’t more lyrics than in any other kind of song really, it’s just we play slow!
When do you know where to insert the lyrics into the music? What part does the lyrics play in the music?
-It’s intuitive really – some parts lend themselves to having vocals on top of them. We all think interesting lyrics are an important part of a piece of music because words can be so suggestive/evocative. As for the vocals, we like to think of them as two parts of one voice.
How does a small band from the UK get a big time American name to be involved in the process of the new album?
-To be honest we just sent Billy (Anderson) a message and asked him if he’d be interested in mastering the album. Fortunately he liked what he heard and had a space in his schedule so we agreed to do it. It was really pretty straight forward!
Does it make any difference having a big name mixing/mastering than somebody totally unknown if the skill level is the same?
-No it really doesn’t make a difference who does it as long as it sounds good. We just really wanted to work with Billy because we all respect him and admire his work. (He just mastered the album though, the album was produced and mixed by Jimmy Evil)
You’ve released two EPs (one of them being a split) that are both available as downloads (pay what you want) and as CDs. What are your take on this “digital download is killing music” debate that is going on?
-Obviously we’re a struggling band so the money is important to us so we can afford to make more music. But on the other hand the internet gives us more opportunities to reach new fans and if people download our music illegally it’s not ideal for us but at least it helps to spread the word. We all still love physical releases though because there’s something about holding a piece of music in your hands and admiring the artwork that digital music will never be able to replace.
When the new album is out what are your plans in terms of promoting it? How big sacrifices are you ready to make for the band to break big?
-The album is out at the end of May on Future Noise Records and we have a couple of tours coming up (with Conan, Serpent Venom, Grimpen Mire, Cultura Tres, Banda de la Muerte, Pendejo) as well as some high profile gigs with Dylan Carlson (of Earth) and some other bands that are yet to be announced. We all make sacrifices to play our music – we all have children so it’s hard work just to do gigs sometimes (Taz only had two weeks off after giving birth before we did a gig) but we’re just plugging away because we love what we do. Some people thought we’d slow down after Taz and Olly had their baby but if anything we’re more determined now than ever and 2012 looks like it’ll be the best year yet for our band.