By Tiina Liimu
VANCOUVER — With Clearing the Path to Ascend topping 2014 year-end lists, 2015 lays down a well-paved tour trail for Eugene, Oregon’s doom metal frontrunners YOB.
Just before the album was released last August, fresh from the studio, guitarist- vocalist Mike Scheidt found himself in a state, he modestly coined as “post-traumatic mix and master syndrome.” Despite this, he takes it on and opens the window into the creative and production process as YOB worked through their latest uncompromising and emotional album. “I write most of my music at home in my bedroom with the doors closed,” explains Scheidt. “I don’t come up with arrangements until I get the vibe or feeling of the album and that kinda comes first, once the first song’s vibe is dialed in, it becomes the catalyst, the soil for the songs and rest of the album.”
At some point this moves from one person to a collective effort; so enter drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Rieseberg. “I bring everything I am working on in to practice and then we word [it and] learn it all and then figure out what feels good about it or what needs work, and we’ll have all sorts of ideas about it,” says Scheidt.
YOB’s quality control involves total agreement and refinement. “I am so rigid and picky about it, and so are my band mates … if we don’t feel a hundred per cent about it, then we can’t put that on the stage, we can’t put that on tape, and we have to feel really strong about it with the three of us, the lyrics, everything,” he reinforces.
By the time they hit the studio, they are a band ready to work live and prefer it that way. They record guitar, bass and drums at the same time. “If we’re playing a 20-minute song, we do the take all the way through.” He adds, “everything’s recorded. We are shooting for keeper tracks of everything because we want the band to be live and have a live feel, we don’t want it to sound canned, we want to keep it punk in that way.” This also reinforces their playing by the time they hit stage.
Between the opening words, “time to wake up” and the album title, it’s not hard to imagine this as an autobiographical project. “I am not preaching to anybody, I’m speaking from my own experience and I’m writing from my own,” says Scheidt. Elaborating on the album title, “I found myself in a spot in my life, with things that were dogging me,” he explains. “Digging in as hard as I could, to make friends with it, make some space for it. So I kind of felt like I had to take those subjects, internally by the horns, but not to wallow in them, the whole idea of the flow of the album is that I’m gonna go really deep into this … and work through in the process of writing the album… in the end, to get to a hopeful place.”
By the time you hear the final track the album moves from turbulent to a melancholy grace, with each song feeding off the one before. “Once ‘In Our Blood’ was written, everything else was really fast on the heels of it, he says. “The thing that I wanted from the song ‘Marrow’ was, like – the three songs that proceeded it had varying shades of a kind of beauty and a kind of punishing quality and there is a point with ‘Unmask the Spectre’ where it goes from everything being minor tinged to there being one giant wrung out major chord, and the vocals get very clean and then, kinda, the major key vocal and everything shifts from that minor to major. It’s a very old school trick but it works and it conveys that sense of emotion and that resolution and a little bit of drama in it and it’s good. But that was to lead into ‘Marrow.’
“So, we got into this punishing moment of “Unmask the Spectre” that starts to open up a little bit in a major key and that completely opens up with ‘Marrow,’ for all of the hammering of molten metal…,” he describes, ”I wanted that to be shimmering, beautiful and open up to a place that really felt good, that wasn’t genre specific, even though it [employs] most every trick we use on our most [demanding] songs, same amplification, distortion, we power it the same way, yet it’s not the same.”
With a nod to artist/designer Orion Landau, as even the final artwork conveys this consciousness. “Orion is a very sensitive guy and his antennae was cranked,” says the guitarist.
Incidentally, a favourite doom-metal band of Mike Scheidt is Vancouver’s own Goatsblood, with members from Haggatha, Congress, Bison, Radioactive Vomit, 3 Inches of Blood and so forth. With a list like that you could imagine what a crusher of a live show this Vancouver night is going to be.
YOB performs at the Rickshaw Theatre on March 10.BC, British Columbia, Rickshaw Theatre, YOB