“It was weird being still for such a long time and just looking back at your life, but it’s how it goes.”
In this quasi-pandemic hold we are currently in, where we have less limitations than we did a year ago but COVID variants are still around, people are still returning to the swing of things. Getting back to work and into routines, and finding their new normality.
Something like that can be said for a lot of bands, including Nashville neo-psychedelic rock act All Them Witches. After playing a sold out hometown show at the Ryman Auditorium on Halloween, the quartet of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Charles Michael Parks Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, keyboardist Allen Van Cleave, and drummer Robby Staebler have embarked on their first tour in a wicked long time this month.
With their Boston stop on the tour coming up on Dec. 8 at the Paradise with garage-rock trio L.A. Witch, I spoke with Parks about the band’s latest record, recording at one of the most legendary studios on earth, getting home in the nick of time before last year’s lockdown, and much more.
Nothing As The Ideal, which came out last September, was made at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. The likes of Pink Floyd and the Beatles have recorded there, in fact you guys used the same studio they did in Studio 2. What was the experience like making the album there? Did it feel surreal at all?
Honestly, it was the most comfortable recording experience I think I ever had. I really don’t like to be in the studio and I know a lot of artists are the opposite but I’d much rather be on stage performing. Working in a studio has always been very hard for me but there’s something about the process we had where we took the reins and it felt like we owned the space and the memories for whatever time we were there. It was very easy, I really loved walking there every day and walking to Abbey Road. It felt like you were allowed to be there so that’s how my experience was.
With it being recorded in March right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, how close were you guys being closed off from a flight home before the lockdown?
We were within days of being trapped in the United Kingdom. It was maybe a little over a week or so and we were just hearing it on the news, they were just starting to name it and this part of Nashville that we all used to live in got hit by a tornado around the same time. It was a bunch of crazy news that we felt like we were apart from due to being so far away but after our flight came back to the states everything got shut down within a week.
That must have been a crazy situation.
It was so crazy, when I think back on it now I feel like it’s not my life. It was like I watched it in a movie or something.
A few weeks before the album’s release, you guys released a music video for “The Children Of Coyote Woman” with skateboarder Evan Smith. There’s a lot of footage shot in the woods with various ruined structures; where was the video made and how did the vision for it come about?
The video was made in the first cool-looking field we could find and it happened to have a burned out house on it. It’s not far from where our drummer Robby Staebler and I both lived in Nashville. Evan was involved because he’s just a buddy, he works with Robby doing some music stuff outside of our band. We had a certain amount of time to shoot a video and we had these badass old school movie cameras along with a bunch of old recording gear. Robby is just kind of a wizard at anything that has to do with film, he always has a vision for what he wants and since he does all the art for the band anyways he usually shoots all of our music videos.
It was kind of a scramble for time, so we came up with a concept quickly with that spot. I think it was the first spot we looked at. We kind of improvise and think up concepts like that.
Around an exact year ago, you guys also did a couple livestream shows. What are your thoughts on live streaming? Do you plan on incorporating it into the band’s live shows where people can log on and watch the band perform from a certain venue while on tour?
We streamed it from SIR in Nashville, which is a rehearsal space and a studio rental spot. I honestly don’t really have any opinions about it, I haven’t participated in any sort of livestream other than that time. I’ve never watched one and I haven’t really thought about it that much. When it comes to streaming shows while on tour through a feed or something, we haven’t really talked about that. Having a huge presence on the internet through livestreaming or whatever else hasn’t really been a huge strong point for us. Maybe we should look into doing them while on tour, but I personally don’t want to push any buttons.
After this run of shows that go until the end of the year, will there be a new All Them Witches album in the works? What are your plans for 2022?
As far as I can tell, we have a lot of dates booked up for next year. It’s obviously not back to being how we used to do it on the road but it’s kind of good because we just came out of nearly two years of not beating ourselves up every day. I feel a bit more soft for this tour but all I can see for us now is just calendars, playing festivals, and traveling.
It was weird being still for such a long time and just looking back at your life, but it’s how it goes. As far as a new album, we’re constantly revising and revisiting demos and one-off stuff we did in studios while taking those bits and turning them into new material or squashing it as some sort of experimental thing. Officially it’s currently no but we always have new music that’s being worked on.
All Them Witches @ The Paradise, Boston. 12.8 @7pm. livenation.com
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.