Sludge/doom has absolutely blown up in recent years, with more and more bands vying for your attention than ever before. Typically the genre has branched off into two directions, with one side trying to come through with the heaviest, ugliest sounds around and others going for a more rock feel. So it’s always refreshing to find a group that’s doing their own thing, and this is where Sail caught my attention. Previously known as Husk, their newest full length ‘Slumbersong’ is set for release March 3rd on Hibernacula Records and incorporates elements of sludge, rock ‘n roll, prog, and everything between. Today we’re excited to premiere the opening song from the album, Praise And Hatred.
‘Slumbersong’ heads in many different directions over its nine songs, and compared to some of their peers Sail’s writing is just as focused on spacey and expansive melodies as the traditional lumbering riffs you might expect from music of this type. With this in mind, it makes sense that Praise And Hatred takes a streamlined approach while still showing Sail’s devotion to the almighty riff as well as their melodic tendencies. Following a brief intro that has a bit of a spacey/psychedelic feel to it, the distortion kicks in and the instrumentals provide that lumbering yet warm feel that makes for good sludge/stoner rock. The weight of the instrumentals and the hooks the guitar leads provide are convincing, but it’s the sudden shift into shimmering melodic textures around three quarters of the way through that makes Sail feel different. These melodic stretches are expanded upon further as you progress through ‘Slumbersong’, but this initial burst on the first track should be all the band needs to draw you in. Sail’s vocals are perhaps the most typical element about them, as the gruffer singing is closer to what listeners tend to associate with sludge and doom, but it’s delivered convincingly and suits the overall sound the group is going for perfectly.
There’s a lot of substance to be found throughout ‘Slumbersong’, and while sludge/doom are the easy ways to categorize Sail they encompass a lot more musical than the average band that gets this tag. This opening track is just a taste of what they have to offer, and you’ll be able to dive into the rest on March 3rd. We also had the opportunity to ask the group some interview questions to find out what drives their writing and the work that went into ‘Slumbersong’, which you can read below.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. You originally started under the name Husk, deciding later to change your name to Sail. For those who are hearing you for the first time through ‘Slumbersong’, how would you compare your two releases under Husk to the new album?
Sail (Tom Coles): Thanks for interviewing us! For those who have just joined us, the releases under Husk are much more lo-fi doom. ‘Seven Pyramids’ was released when we were much younger, and the tracks are much less structured and polished. For ‘Upon His Mountain’, our split with Striga, we introduced more post-rock and atmospheric elements and trimmed the fat a little.
In comparison, we really took the time to focus on writing more focussed songs for ‘Slumbersong’ and put a lot more studio time into it. I think the material is a lot more mature and better-realised generally, and a better mix of everyone’s influence.
TO: You said in a previous interview that at one point the band went out for coffee and decided that no one was leaving until you chose a new name, ultimately settling on Sail. What were some of the rejected names that were thrown around?
Sail: I have a group chat I dare not open… We toyed with a few things like Two Tongues which eventually seemed too serious-metal for us. We wanted something that didn’t tie us down to one thing too much, but for the most part we wanted something straightforward and memorable. Someone at my work suggested Crystallised Piss, which in hindsight seems like a missed opportunity.
TO: Prior to ‘Slumbersong’, your split with Striga came out in April of 2015. When did you start writing the material for ‘Slumbersong’ in comparison to the split tracks? Were there any particular elements that you approached differently to your compositions this time around?
Sail: For a while we weren’t sure what we were going to do for a release; we sketched out some ideas but really we just concentrated on playing shows for a while. We wrote The House which ended up on the record quite early on. Booking the recording last year really gave us a kick to finish the remaining songs; once we were in the zone everything came pretty quickly.
For ‘Slumbersong’ we dabbled in synths and e-bow textures and tried to write songs with completely different arrangements. In general this was a much more collaborative effort.
TO: While we’re on the topic, how does your writing process work? Does each member come up with ideas individually and then you hash things out at practice, or is it more collaborative?
Sail: There are a few ways we’ll start writing a song; Tim tends to come with fully-formed ideas and sections, to which we add our parts and tweak bits. Charlie tends to work with riffs and transitions, so when we work with his new material we tend to join the dots as a unit. These are generalisations and in practise there’s a lot of faff involved, but generally a song will start as either of these two methods.
TO: There are so many different influences present throughout each of these nine songs. To my ears, I hear sludge, rock ‘n roll, spacey prog, and even a melody on Righteous that reminds me a little bit of Taake. With this diverse amount of styles working their way into your music, what sorts of background do your members come from? Are there any musical stylings that are too weird for you to incorporate into a Sail song?
Sail: We’d never look to blend genres or styles with the philosophy of, say, Mr. Bungle; we’d shy away from anything that felt out-of-place or self-consciously weird. The Bungle-style bands are great at what they do but they occupy their own space of melting-pot experimentation which we’re not massively interested in emulating. On the other hand, we do have a huge pool of influences. For us it’s less about genre tropes as it is about the effect a technique or sound has; for example, we were really influenced compositionally by a lot of contemporary pop. This also helped when looking at vocal melodies.
It does help when writing to listen as widely as possible; I’m equally as likely to listen to Merzbow as I am to Ke$ha. Kynan is having a synthwave phase, Tim is mad into Grimes and Charlie’s first and only true love is Whitesnake. Our car stereo plays Lorde and St Vincent alongside Red Fang and Torche.
I’m also a Taake fan, though sadly I don’t think they had much direct influence. I’ll slip them onto the stereo sometime 😉
TO: ‘Slumbersong’ is being released in March by Hibernacula Records. Hibernacula has a fairly diverse roster of bands, what made them the right label for you?
Sail: I met Danny through Victorian Whore Dogs. When we were thinking about labels it was clear that they had a broader spectrum for what they’d take on than most and we were pumped when they said they’d take us on. Thus far the fact that they actively seek out people who are a bit different has helped us a lot; if we did it through a straight sludge or doom label then people might have preconceptions about what we are. Presenting the record in an environment that’s not interested in strict genre divisions is a sensible move for us. Their help to get everything sorted really has been invaluable. They’re also lovely humans!
TO: The artwork for the album is awesome, and has a fairly trippy feel to it. The art was done by Umbrelle, tell us more about the ideas you had and how Umbrelle brought it to life.
Sail: We’ve known Umbrelle for years; she did all the album covers when we were Husk. She’s interested in psychedelic colours and art noveau and her work has always fit what we wanted. For this we sent over a load of ideas; we had the beetle idea for quite a while and wanted to see what she’d do with it. We also wanted something that looked ruined and overgrown.
Umbrelle’s take on sludge album art is pretty different to most which suits us pretty well. It went through quite a few drafts but we’re super-pleased with the final piece.
TO: In December you released a video for The Weight of Gold, which was footage of a performance at The Cobblestones shot by Red Dog Productions. How did you connect up with Red Dog Productions, and are there plans for any more videos like this in the future?
Sail: We met Simon from Red Dog through his work with Snuff Lane in Bristol; they’re huge in the scene for putting on top-shelf doom/ stoner/ sludge events. We loved his work and were super-pumped to work with him; the final piece came out looking fantastic.
We haven’t got hard plans to do another video, but we’ve discussed sorting something out for after the release of the record. You’ll have to watch this space 😉
TO: You have a show coming up with Landskap in February, is anything else lined up for the year so far as far as live performances?
Sail: We have several shows booked, some yet to be announced; we’re playing Hollowfest in Bristol in June and The End of the World fest in Plymouth in July. There are whispers of tours afoot but nothing solid just yet!
We try to play as many places as is possible. Now we’ve got the album together we’re hoping to play further afield.
TO: Your interview with Glacially Music mentions you basically live in the middle of nowhere. Do you have a local scene so to speak, or do you have to travel to other parts of England to play?
Sail: We have some very loyal fans in certain areas; we play in Tiverton and Bridgwater a lot and the scenes there are pretty strong. Scenes in general can be pretty nebulous but there are pockets in and around the west country where there’s a real movement for metal and/ or out-there music. One of the best experiences a musician can have is playing as a guest to a really strong scene; another is playing an incredible hometown show.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Slumbersong’ or Sail?
Sail: Thank you to all the humans who’ve supported us, everyone who’s worked on the record and you guys for the interview. We’ve been planning this for nearly a year and the release is finally upon us. We hope you enjoy twinkly sludge.