Posted July 18, 2016 by Jeff in Tunes

Sometimes All Them Witches Defies Explanation

All Them Witches by Robby Staebler
All Them Witches by Robby Staebler

After a lengthy European tour and an appearance at the Shaky Knees Festival, the Nashville-based psychedelic rock band All Them Witches will play a few select shows and festivals before heading back overseas. The extensive touring comes in the wake of their latest album, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, which recently came out on New West Records. Singer-bassist Michael Parks, Jr. recently phoned us from his Nashville home to talk about the album and the upcoming tour dates.

I think you just played in Europe. What was that experience like?
Europe was crazy. Everyone says the hospitality is better and that’s true. They go above and beyond treating the artists. We started in Israel and went to Greece and the UK and drove all around Europe. I think we saw 12 countries. The experience is amazing. I hope the one coming up can be as fun. We’re hitting it three times, which is insane.

The band first formed in 2012. What were the circumstances that brought you guys together?
We met just kind of in normal natural ways. It’s how anyone makes a band in Nashville. You meet people at bars. Allan Van Cleave and Robby Staebler have known each other for a long time. I met Robby at a store where I worked. Not long after that, we were making music together.

Do you share the same taste in music?
Yeah, but we have something in the van called shitty music hour. We go through all the songs that Ben and Rob like that drive everyone crazy. We have very similar taste in music but we don’t listen to the same thing at the same time. Ben will be on some big kick while I’ll be listening to something else.

Nashville is best known for its country scene but there are plenty of rock bands there too. Was it difficult finding a local audience and a place to play?
You can find any kind of band you want here. There’s good people in every genre and some of the best you’ll ever see. I’m starting to realize that more as time goes on and you see these amazing bands you’ll never see again. Sometimes, people just have to feed their kids and they can’t tour and record. But we’ve played with Americana and blues and really heavy metal bands. That’s fine because we listen to a lot of different music.

What was the experience of making your debut, Our Mother Electricity, like?
We tracked ten songs the first day. I think there are eight songs on it. We tracked it in a day and it took a week to put it together and we had it mastered for a case of beer. My buddy who lives in Florida is an awesome engineer. He mastered our stuff on the cheap. It’s like making any first record. I wasn’t the primary songwriter at that time. I was just playing bass. I didn’t expect to sing. Our buddy Andy, who is super awesome engineer helped us and made the second one too.

When did the songs for the new album start to come together?
Some of the songs are three or four years old at this point. I wrote the “Open Passageways,” “Talisman” and “Call Me Star” when I was living in Louisiana over the winter. I had nothing to do. I had no money and was stuck in my grandmother’s old house. There was no TV and internet. I just went crazy and started writing songs.

Did you have a big budget for recording?
It’s the only time we ever had a budget. The first two were independently funded. Our buddy Scott, who plays drums in Zen Buffalo, fronted the money to get Lightning at the Door pressed. We had a bigger budget but the records never cost a ton of money. We don’t spend a lot of time on it. It’s all about the moment and the experience of playing those songs. Live, you can see the songs change. We practice for about six days and then go into the studio and record.

What inspired the album’s title?
Honestly, I have no idea. It’s the title to one of Ben’s solo songs. We liked it so much, we took it. Every time you ask him, he says it’s complicated. There’s lots of lyrical content I can’t explain.

I like it when the other band members have secrets.

Are there themes that run through the songs?
There are multiple. Everything from fictitious storylines and real events. My brain is pretty scattered and it comes out in a jumble. Each line could be a different scenario. They have themes and they make sense to me. People come up to me all the time and ask what certain lyrics mean and I can’t tell them. That makes it more special when people tell me what a song means to them. It’s never wrong. I would rather not force my interpretation on anyone.

The album shows your range. Talk about that a bit.
We’re just big fans of bands who can do everything. We like Floyd and we like the Dead and early Fleetwood Mac. That’s why we all came together a couple of years ago. We thought, “What if the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac kept going? Or if Sabbath were a jam band?” It sucks getting stuck in one thing. I don’t play metal. It’s fun being loud and singing softly, and it’s better to do something other than just throw devil horns in the air.

What inspired something like “Mellowing”?
I don’t know. Ben wrote half of that and I wrote half of it. He had part of a song and I came up with the other part. It just turned into this guitar duet thing. It just worked out. It was just about being in the moment.

Do you play the instrumentals live?
We try sometimes. We haven’t played “Mellowing” or “Welcome to the Caveman Future” but maybe a handful of times. Ben doesn’t want to be showboating and sometimes it’s not the right crowd.

Any idea what your next album will be like?
I feel like you can see the change in each record. There’s usually a song that forwards where we’re going to go with the next record. We’re all really excited. It’s a little bit faster. I’m excited to be loud and fast for a while and see how that goes.

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Indianapolis, IN @ The HiFi

Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle

Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop

Burlington, NY @ The Tralf

Oro-Medonte, ON @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival

Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe

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Brecon Beacons, UK @ Green Man

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Atlanta, GA @ The Earl

Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works

Bristol, UK @ Thekla

Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute

London, UK @ Scala

Brighton, UK @ The Haunt

Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club

Glasgow, UK @ The Classic Grand

Nottingham, UK @ Bodega

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Hamburg, DE @ Logo

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New Orleans, LA @ Voodoo Music Experience


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.