If ye haven't heard, we slumbering scribes are putting out a compilation album on Oct. 2nd! Sleeping Village Caravan Of Doom (Vol. 1) is an exhibition of like-minded tracks that balance sludgy heft with an earthy stoner atmosphere. These are songs that would feel at home in the midst of a bog or mire, and we’ve brought them together, drenched in murk and algae, for your gloomy enjoyment. Pre-order here for the measly price of $1! That, dear reader, is a bargain.
In anticipation of the eminent release of Sleeping Village Record's inaugural compilation--a swampy collection of 10 previously released underground stoner doom tracks--we highfalutin peasants have invited the featured artists to our murky interrogation chamber for a chat. Up next are Chicago doomsters Black Road--who are frankly one of the most enjoyable live bands I've had the privilege of catching in recent memory! This crew was kind enough to lend the stellar "Radiation" to the Caravan of Doom, and, needless to say, we're very excited to have the opportunity to feature 'em. "Radiation" ain't the only top-tier track they have on tap, however--once yer done reading the following, check out their impressive debut albumhere!
Huge thanks to Suzi (vox/lyrics/piano) for taking the time to answer our nosy questions with such gloriously in-depth responses! It is always an honor to chat with cool people doing cool stuff. Without further ado, then:
Sleeping Village: Firstly, congrats on the 2nd pressing of Witch of the Future! Now that it's been out in the world for some time, do you feel any differently about the album after a little distance from the creative and logistical process of putting it together?
Suzi of Black Road: I do feel a lot differently about the album now than I did when we first finished recording, and heard the mixes that would become the final masters for the release. When we were completely immersed in the songwriting process, we weren't sure what we might add when entering the studio. Upon looking back, I do wish I could have had one more shot at fixing vocal parts and adding more keys and depth to my parts. Overall I feel the songs came out great and when I hear them now, it almost feels like an impossible feat to have written and recorded all of them. I can appreciate the risks we took, and hear room for improvement. We have a very good idea of the direction we wish to go in next, after much internalizing of Witch of the Future.
SV: Black Road reminds me of a lot of different artists, but nothing feels directly derivative--always a pleasure to encounter in a sea of color-by-numbers stoner doom bands. That said, are there any bands that you directly idolize and attempt, in some way, to emulate in your work?
Suzi: This is always a very hard thing for me to pinpoint, because we have such a vast and diverse taste in music. The bands we idolize have spanned every decade, and we enjoy them all for different reasons. It is easy to draw inspiration from bands we love, but there aren't any in particular that we would like to emulate. Vocally, I have recently been interested in falsetto-heavy vocalists with a dynamic range, such as Josh Homme. Another person I really love to sing along with would be Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand, as well as Magnus Pelander from Witchcraft. Sometimes when I want to attempt more harmonies, I will jam out to some Fleetwood Mac or Blood Ceremony. I feel the guitar does have influences as well. Tim has always been a massive fan of Eddie Van Halen and Zakk Wylde, and I hear that come through in his playing a lot - especially solos. He tends to be very soulful and bluesy in his playing, and I also hear a lot of Lindsey Buckingham influences. Queens of the Stone Age is a band favorite, so there might be some influence there as well for all of us. The obvious choice would be Black Sabbath, as our band is all about praising the riff.
SV: Given Suzi's self-professed interest in Motown: if you could cover a single Motown classic, which song would it be?
Suzi: Picking one song is a crime! Haha! Anything by The Temptations, I feel would be amazing. They really can do no wrong in my book...and it would be fun to do those harmonies. If I had to really try and narrow it down to one song, I would probably try "Just My Imagination" because that song has always been a favorite and seems interesting to sing.
SV: A million thanks for the opportunity to have "Radiation" appear on our first label outing! Is there anything particularly interesting about this track from your perspective--the songwriting process, the reception, the lyrical content, or so on?
Suzi: It's our pleasure, thank you for including us. We had "Radiation" written and were performing it as early as 2017. It sort of set the tone for the rest of the songs we would write for Witch of the Future because of its length and sound. We wanted to keep writing groovy but dark, long songs, like "From Hell" (Black Road EP). It felt super fun to play, and feels really heavy live. People would tell us right away that they loved it and the riff would get stuck in their head. I decided since it has a lot of parts musically, to keep the vocals and lyrics simple. It's essentially about the common person having all the power within their hands to make a change, and having power in numbers - creating an energy that is almost like radiation. Yet for whatever reason, we tend to allow ourselves to be controlled mainly for convenience, and it takes us further and further away from our true nature and purpose for existence on Earth. This is why we are so unhappy, and why some people feel life is pointless. It is a shame, and it is the truth. I feel it's quite obvious lyrically, and hopefully translates to being easily understood. There was a plan to add keys to this song, and perhaps other elements. Upon entering the recording studio, it sort of took on a new life. I even was able to get Tim to do some backing vocals!
SV: Picking a favorite track can obviously be a bit of a Sophie’s Choice, but if forced to choose, what track(s) are you most proud of having created across the band's career?
Suzi: We might all have a different answer to this question, because some songs were written entirely by Tim or myself, and others might be more fun to play for drums or bass. Personally I am most proud of "Morte" and "Witch of the Future" because I wrote the first and had huge input on the latter. There is a new song we are working on that I also wrote but won't name because we haven't released it yet... hehe! It is one of my new favorites because it is so fun to play and features a new singing style I hadn't attempted yet. I believe it might be Robert's new favorite song to drum based on what he has said. I am very proud of "End of Man" as well, for the entire band, because when we wrote it I feel everyone really did an amazing job on their own parts, and it came together sounding different than all our previous tracks but in a good way.
SV: Has the process of losing and gaining members over the past few years significantly changed the band's approach to songwriting, or approach to existing as a band in general? In a similar vein, does Black Road have an identity that transcends the individuals in the lineup?
Suzi: Losing and gaining members has been paramount in the way our sound has shaped itself. When we first started in 2015, we were trying to do it all and discovering what felt right to us. It turns out that some are more willing to allow the sound to flow and others have a more set idea. I feel we really found our footing when we gained Casey on bass in 2016, right after Robert joined on drums. We had exceptional band chemistry, became great friends, and truly enjoyed the time we spent together. It never felt like work and never felt like a burden - not to say it ever did before. Songs flowed out of us very easily and everything just clicked. Although we all do share a lot of favorite bands, there are of course polarizing differences. I think this is what makes the songs we've written so far interesting. We try and maintain a sound now, having realized what we really did best and enjoyed most as a group. There absolutely has to be a stoner doom element. While it transcends us as individuals, it also defines some of us naturally, haha! We are currently writing new songs, and have gained a new bassist, Trey. He has awesome ideas and a different sound than the previous member. As usual we are letting him do his own thing when it comes to writing bass parts, and I am excited to see how the band's sound will evolve yet again.
SV: I'm always interested in the relation of substances to music in a genre that explicitly intertwines the two, and in your case, your new shirt design drives the point home pretty effectively. Given the nature of the genre at hand, how essential is weed to a listener's experience with your music--or with stoner metal in general?
Suzi: I agree, it is very interesting to see how these things seem to go hand-in-hand and seem completely acceptable. I can't tell you how relieved and comfortable I felt when I realized there was an entire group of people who didn't give a damn, and loved to sing and write about their reality. Some were so blunt they had names like Weedeater and High on Fire, and I was immediately attracted to that. They weren't trying to hide anything. It's a sense of freedom I had never known before. I found an entire group of new friends who would accept me for me, Tim for Tim, and our love for freeing your mind and enjoying yourself. I do not feel you in any way need weed to be able to enjoy our music, or stoner doom metal in general. I know tons of people who do not imbibe and yet are huge fans of the same bands, or fans of ours. Shit, not even our entire band partakes.
I am the one who approves or creates every single piece of artwork for the band, and I also write all the lyrics. I guess you could say this is a platform of expression and release for me. I feel the same way about Tim, knowing him so well. We are very alike and mainly enjoy all the same things, and I think that comes through in the music with a balance and harmonious nature of guitar sound and lyrical content. If I'm being honest, I would imagine our music sounds "better" and more psychedelic depending on your level of soberness, but being intoxicated in some way is not necessary to enjoy the music.
SV: Prior to all this pandemic fuckery, Black Road was a real staple in the Chicago doom show circuit--my intro to you was at Sacred Monster's release show, and from that point on I noticed your name on flyers on, like, a monthly basis. Because nostalgia is always worthwhile, particularly in these less-than-upbeat times, what show(s) do you remember most fondly from back in the days when they were a regular occurrence?
Suzi: I sure am glad our buds Sacred Monster asked us to play that show. Oh and I am happy you saw us there first, because I sort of sounded okay if I remember correctly... normally I sound like shit haha! The sound guy was on point with those stage monitors! There was a point in 2017 when we were playing 4 or 5 shows a month... and it was getting a little out of hand. We didn't realize there was such a thing as too much, and quickly learned what we were doing and doing wrong. Lucky for us we had met tons of people in that time and forged awesome relationships with other Chicago area bands. Near the fall of 2017 was when the band started gaining serious momentum. We have been blessed to play with some of our absolute favorite bands, and huge international touring acts. I think my favorite large shows have included Elder, Ruby the Hatchet, Wo Fat, Year of the Cobra, Lucifer... too many to name. We have had some serious fun and made great memories with local and underground bands like Sacred Monster, Bionic Cavemen, Dead Feathers, Pale Horseman, Doomstress, Fox 45, Archarus, Liquid Signal, Fairie Ring, Wizzerd, Spirit Division, Old Blood... I could go on for days. As you may be able to sense, I really miss playing out live... but mostly I just miss our friends.
SV: As a followup: favorite local venue?
Suzi: Without a doubt and no disrespect to the other bad ass venues around, but Reggies Chicago is my number 1, always!
SV: In your professional opinion, what other Chicagoland doom/stoner bands are worth checking out?
Suzi: Gotta start with some I listed above, because they're worth mentioning again! Sacred Monster, Bionic Cavemen, Dead Feathers, Pale Horseman, Faces of the Bog, Starless, Canyon of the Skull, Hunstmen, High Priest, Scientist, Of Wolves, Rosaries, Uncouth, Sasquatch Turf War, Coyote Man... shit that's a lot! I know I'm missing a ton :(
SV: Thank you again for taking the time! Stay safe out there. Are there any last thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
Suzi: I just want to thank the record labels who have supported us and done releases with us, DHU Records (Netherlands) and BloodRock Records (Italy) and our new stateside label for the vinyl repress The Company. I never thought my dream of having a physical album would come true, let alone the amazing opportunities we have had. I can't wait to get back at it and start playing shows again, and finish writing these new songs so we can record another album!
All proceeds from this project will be split evenly between the bands and the label, with any of the Sleeping Village’s cut going to fund further compilations (or a possible physical release.) Pre-order here for $1! That, methinks, is a damn good price for an hour and a half of high-quality doom.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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