All Them Witches are a rock band forged in the bubbling foment of America’s folk traditions. Combining country-western swagger with swamp-steeped blues, they blaze a burning path through the murk and mystery at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll.
The alchemical brew that spills out from the cauldron of sound relies on three primary ingredients: Michael Parks Jr.’s stirring, deep vocal presence and troublesome bass chords, Ben McLeod’s spellbinding guitar melodies, and drummer Robby Staebler bellow like beat that keeps the fires lit below. Sipping the broth from the brim of their gourd can be a transportive experience, one that continues to redefine the American folk landscape on release after release.
Their sixth and most recent album, Nothing as the Ideal, continues in this tradition, pouring hot splashes of psychedelic elixir over a bounty of looping samples, winding, diamond-backed chords, and archetype invoking poetry, plucked like ripe fruit straight from our collective unconscious.
It’s pretty impactful stuff, but you should expect no less from this wily bangle of spell-casters, hailing straight out of the songwriting capital of North America, Nashville, TN. At least, they used to be. When I caught up with Ben McLeod via phone, he had just completed a move to Florida.
“It was kind of a good time to do it,” Ben admitted, “because we didn’t have any touring, and I actually had the time to make a major move, so it was going to be now or never.”
Obviously, making a significant move down the East Coast in the midst of a pandemic is a major life change occurring under less than ideal circumstances. Then again, we’ve all been dealing with less than ideal situations since COVID-19 ground the lives of millions to a screeching halt this past spring. The title for his new album, Nothing as Ideal, certainly strikes a chord during such a time, so I asked Ben about it. Did his band name their album before the chips hit the fan in March?
“Yeah, we actually did. We wrote and recorded the album before all this stuff was shut down and everything was canceled. We actually got back from the U.K. to the States one week before everything started going down.”
Nothing as Ideal was recorded at the famous Abby Road Studios in London, where Parks apparently thought up the title.
“The full title was Nothing as Ideal for Self-Help,” a title which Ben confirms has nothing to do with the pandemic, so if you were looking forward to this record to put some mental distance between you and the state of the world, rest assured that its tripped-out sound and cover art are still fully qualified to aid you in this vital purpose.
When asked about how he and the rest of the band planned to promote the record without being able to play out and tour, Ben said that the band is planning to do what they can until they can get back out there in front of a full crowd night after night.
“People just need to be patient. They’re trying to reinvent the wheel right now for being in a band and touring and all that stuff. The reality is that this has only been going on for five months.”
On the pressure to release more music during the pandemic to keep fans engaged and increase streaming revenue, Ben was less than convinced, saying “that bands and artists should have no pressure to put out anything.”
“Streaming is great! But streaming is a promotion for your live show. It is a promotional tool to get people to go to your show and buy your t-shirt. Even household-name artists are not making a living off of Spotify.”
The most important thing for Ben at this point is to be patient enough to wait until he can hit the road again and give his fans a great show. Touring is not something he and the band are willing to half-ass.
“The only reason we can still do this is because of touring. I do not want to sacrifice our live show. Our live show is everything.”
As for what fans can expect once touring resumes, Ben warned, “those first couple of sets are going to be wild! We are going to be like unleashed dogs!”