In a sludgy, doom filled world, the normal, average person will never understand how us “freaks” can love such heavy, heart filled music that will always stand the test of time. Undersmile is one of the bands that have less of a sludge, doom attitude and more of a punk rock, “we don’t give a shit about anything, lets just play music” kind of attitude. It works and it’s glorious. They were nice enough to let me interview them so make sure you support the new split with Caretaker that’s dropping next month, I think, and pick up “A See of Dead Snakes” whenever you can.*Photo above taken by John Center*
In the last year or so, you guys have hit spots that most bands can't. Only releasing an EP last year and with the new split coming out with Caretaker next month, how do you guys feel about the overall gratitude and overall acceptance towards the bands thus far?
Undersmile: We are genuinely surprised that anyone likes us! When we started out, we had many conversations about accepting that no one would like us, that we would have to do the band for our own enjoyment, which we were happy to do. Every step of the way we've been so pleased with peoples' reactions and the reviews that the EP has received. We've had loads of support from the internet community, from blogs, podcasts, online compilations and webzines - such as Blood or Love - and the fact that a band in our position has been heard worldwide is genuinely humbling.
What attracted each one of you to the genre of sludge? Also, what bands did you guys enjoy blasting while growing up in the streets of Witney/Oxfordshire, UK?
Tom: I didn't really make a conscious decision to join a sludge band, I just happened to join Undersmile (who were my favourite local band at the time) as they were going through a transitional phase into slower, heavier music. The nearest thing to sludge that I was listening to beforehand was Alice in Chains and "Bleach" although I was a big fan of stoner music as well.
Olly: I'm a big fan of the 90s sound, and Nirvana's "Bleach" is one of my favorite albums. Ever since seeing the Melvins I wanted to be in a slow and heavy band.
Taz: I got into sludge via Melvins, who continue to be one of my favorite bands. The relentlessly slow-burning, heavy riffs in Melvins songs such as "Charmicarmicat (Bastards)" have always hugely appealed to me and have definitely influenced my songwriting.
Hel:I've always loved the darker, sludgier side of grunge and metal. As a girl, I was influenced greatly by bands such as Nirvana, Pantera, Sepultura and Alice In Chains. Despite not being Influenced by any particular sludge bands growing up, it feels natural to tap into the slow dissonant and drawling laments of writing music in this genre.
In the past we've had conversations about certain members having fears about flying if you guys ever toured in America. How quickly would that change if Undersmile actually landed a solid tour in the States?
Undersmile: If somebody offers us a fully-funded tour with Harvey Milk or Pissed Jeans, we'll be tranqued-up and on that plane in a flash :) The main obstacle in the way of us coming Stateside though is really the money (or lack thereof....!) :(
"A Sea Of Dead Snakes", the EP you guys released last year sold pretty well and was hear all around the world from what I've heard. We're you guys pleased with the reaction from people after they heard the record? Also, do you feel as if the split will do the same since people are dying for new material?
Undersmile: We're really happy with the response! We never thought we'd sell the first 100 we had printed, and now we have just had a second run made up. We've been utterly surprised by the reviews "A Sea Of Dead Snakes" received in magazines such as Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, Rock Sound and Big Cheese- we'd never even imagined we'd get any local reviews let alone ones in national magazines. We hope that the split EP will elicit the same response as "Dead Snakes", but we're aware that there's a certain (unjustified) stigma surrounding splits. We're happy with our contribution to the EP and Caretaker are an inspirational and awesome band - we're honored to be on the release. We think the songs ("Big Wow" and "Anchor") kind of bridge the gap between our first EP and the upcoming album.
After the split's released, what's next for Undersmile? Touring Europe? Back in the studio to record the full-length?
Undersmile: We're spending the rest of the year finishing our first album, "Narwhal", which we're all really excited about. The songs on "Narwhal" are shaping up to be far heavier and more unsettling than anything on either of the EP's. Hopefully we'll spend much of next year trying to promote the album by touring Europe with some wicked bands (fingers crossed and members undulating).
The scene in your local area seems to be pumping off of you guys and a couple other bands. How is the scene in Oxford and what would you like it to be in a couple years time?
Undersmile: To be honest, we're not that popular in Oxford! We've had some great responses at out-of-town gigs, which have tended to be geared more specifically towards the sludge/doom/stoner genres. Although, the bands we play with in Oxford - such as Komrad, Desert Storm, Agness Pike, Caravan of Whores - have been totally supportive and we love to play with them as much as we can (be sure to check 'em all out!) We are also lucky enough to have some great promoters in Oxford in the shape of Pure Concentrated Evil (an eclectic night run by our favorite noise-mongering producer Jimmy "Evil" Hetherington) and Buried In Smoke (a stoner/sludge night set up by Ryan and Elliot of Desert Storm) who between them have put on such excellent bands as Orange Goblin, Winnebago Deal, Taint, Dopefight, Alunah, Greg(or)ian, Grifter and Bastards Of The Skies, to name a few. There is also Skeletor Promotions which deals with more straight-forward metal nights - they've put on some pretty high profile gigs recently.
Other than being in Undersmile and living the dream of creating records that you guys love, what else do you guys love to do outside of the band?
Hel: At all times I would prefer to be in bed, playing video games, with cups of tea brought to me (and a big bag of Onion Rings). And of course Tommy.
Taz: Ummmm, I thoroughly enjoy baking cakes... and then devouring them. I like to read and watch films. I also spend a lot of time listening to music.
Tom: I write for various websites and publications about local and international bands. When I'm not doing that I like to write and record music and play video games. We've just got some kittens so we like playing with them with our daughter too.
Olly: I'm quite a stay-at-home person - watching films, reading, listening to 80s music.
Future shows for Undersmile? What can we expect since you already did huge gigs with Weedeater and Wiht?
Undersmile: We're looking into getting some big shows in the new year, hopefully supporting some great bands as we have this year. We loved playing with Weedeater and Zoroaster, Wiht, Wizard's Beard, Desert Storm, Bong, Bastards of the Skies, Greg(o)rian, Grifter, Dopefight, Bast and our local friends as mentioned above. In a perfect world we'd all love to play with Harvey Milk, Melvins, Pissed Jeans, Electric Wizard, Swan, Boris, Eyehategod, Church of Misery, Yob etc. We'd love to play with Dopethrone, Mares of Thrace, Cultura Tres, Eagle Twin, Unearthly Trance - the list goes on...
Throughout the years we've seen the metal scene change in huge lumps spread out in several different sections. How do you guys feel about the metal scene in 2011 and if you could change anything what would it be?
Undersmile: At the moment the sludge/doom scene seems to be on the ascendant, which is good for us! On the whole the scene has been very supportive and we've spoken to and met some lovely people. We've been nicely surprised by the support and encouraging words we've received from other musicians and sludge fans all over the world.
Hel and Taz, from what I understand you guys love to cook. Maybe I'm wrong but is it more of a chore to cook or more of an enjoyment when you're creating masterpieces in the kitchen?
Undersmile: That's a bit sexist! Haha. We ALL love to cook (for example, Olly recently made us a delightful Baked Apple Cheesecake and Tommy makes a killer breaded cajun chicken salad) and thoroughly enjoy making merry in the kitchen, later reclining satiated with a postprandial brandy and cigar or two.
Lastly, is there anything you guys wanna share with the fans/people interested in Undersmile? Also, if you want shout out or say thank you to people, please do so.
Undersmile: We are genuinely very appreciative of anyone who shows us support in any way. Big thanks to Soggy Bo, Sludge Swamp, Jose Carlos Santos, Sludge Lord, Blood or Love (of course!), Sleeping Shaman, Doomantia and all the other blogs, sites and zines that have been overwhelmingly supportive. Huge thanks go out to our producer (A Sea Of Dead Snakes and Narwhal) Jimmy "Evil" Hetherington, to our web-label Blindsight Records and its founder Umair Chaudhry (who also produced our split EP), to the delectable Martin Newton at Studio 101, to Taz's dad and photographer, Pier Corona (who also carts us and our many amps around the country) and to the hugely talented artist Toni Le Busque, who provided the outstanding artwork for "A Sea Of Dead Snakes".