Photo by Laura Pleasants
Interview with vocalist Hampton Dodd | By Morgan Y. Evans
South Carolina’s Darkentries are one of the few bands who are really doing something a bit different. Remember the first time you heard Psyopus and thought “What the fuck?!” or “Wow”? Darkentries are not super spazzy like Chris Arp’s hyper elaborate (and missed) mathcore band, but they certainly don’t sound much like anyone else. The “post-sludge” group has released The Make Believe via Kylesa’s new imprint Retro Futurist, a thought provoking feedback funeral of doom, gloom, and insight. Labelmates Sierra and Jagged Entries are solid bands, but Darkentries are the most original band on a roster that spans the gamut of what you’d expect from Kylesa’s own experimental tastes.
Do people tend to rage and freak out at your shows or kind of wallow in the feeling? I think “Honey Eater” would just clobber people like running into a wall.
It really depends on the show, honestly. We’ve played shows that had almost constant motion from the audience while on the other hand we’ve played shows where people have strictly watched with their arms crossed. I think, as a new band, people are still sorting out how to react to what they’re hearing. We aren’t really designed for moshing/whatever and without solid recordings backing us in the past, the only real opportunity for people to get a concise idea of what we are presenting has been at live shows. However, we’re more than excited for the record to come out so people can hear everything as we’ve always meant for it to be heard. From there, people can decide whether we’re the kind of band they want to “rage and freak out” to, or the kind that they can watch solemnly. Both are encouraged and accepted.
How do you feel The Make Believe tops your previous demos? How has the band grown closer together over the years? Can you talk about the varied vocal styles on the album? I love the low, ominous spoken miserable vocals.
The main thing that separates The Make Believe from our past demos is the recording process. We were able to go to a studio (Legitimate Business, Greensboro, NC) and work with someone (Kris Hilbert) who understood our intent and was able to turn it into a reality. Hopefully one day we can give two of our previous singles, “How The End Always Is” and “Myself To You” the same treatment that we did The Make Believe. It would be great to hear those songs reach their full potential. Regardless – It was a really rewarding experience after recording in bedrooms and practice spaces for the year or so that we’ve been an active band. In that time, we’ve had a few line-up changes and adjusted our direction completely. The first show we ever played back in August of 2012 was supposed to also be our last show. But, as you know, we kept it going and eventually decided we wanted to take it seriously so here we are. In regards to the spoken vocals, I guess I drew a lot of influence from The Sisters of Mercy and various other post-punk/no-wave groups and tried to reproduce a similar tone.
“I’m Tired Of Being Awake” is really impressive. It kind of sounds like it cycles through every stage of insomnia from cold, lonely anxiety to the spastic feel of the insane drum break around :50 seconds in to the 1:30 mark super heavy section. Do you guys map out your songs exactingly or “feel” it out?
“I’m Tired Of Being Awake” was written in two sessions with just our guitarist Jonathan and our drummer Josh. It was one of the first songs we wrote when we started to take Darkentries more seriously. I know Jonathan was listening to His Hero Is Gone, Eyehategod, and Dystopia a great deal at the time so that may have played a role in making it one of our faster songs. For about six months, Darkentries was a four-piece band practicing rarely and playing the occasional punk show since they were the only ones that had any interest in seeing us. Regardless ñ I remember playing the song for the first time and it feeling different. I think that was the first song that had the sound we had been looking for and started the path to where we are now. Once our second guitarist moved back to Columbia and rejoined the band, we reassessed the song and actually decided to rerecord it last minute in the studio with Kris – just because we had extra time to do so. It was great to finally give that song the recording we felt it deserved.
How did Darkentries get to know Kylesa and what has the experience been like with Retro Futurist? I love every band on the label so far.
We finished The Make Believe and had been sitting on it for a few months looking for someone appropriate to release it with when our friend Troy from Burnt Books pointed us toward Phil from Kylesa. We emailed him the record and shortly after, he asked to put it out on Retro Futurist. It was wild how smooth that process was after several months of being frustrated. Working with Retro Futurist has been great thus far. We’re all fans of Kylesa’s music so to be able to work with them and be a part of their label with other great bands is an awesome experience.
Do you consider yourselves a specific genre at all? It sounds like there are no rules but there is a mix of almost every relevant form of more underground metal that I can think of. Your record made me actually miss that band The End. Their early stuff for Relapse was pretty cool.
The genre question is something that comes up often and we still don’t have a definite answer. I think what led to the “no rules” sound is the mentality we took into writing this record. There was no single band we all decided to collectively sound like and write a [insert band name]-worship record. We just all wrote what we liked and it came together to be The Make Believe. I’ve always appreciated those bands that you can hear and know immediately who it is even though you may have never heard the song specifically. They’ve designed a sound so distinct that even a fleeting listen can distinguish them from everything else. I think that’s something that has been a goal for all of us- to create and own a sound that’s completely ours. Hopefully we get to that point.
Was it hard to pick the track order for this release? Each song makes a statement, but the melancholy intro of “TV Fuzz” sets a somber tone from the start.
The beginning of a record can make or break what someone thinks of it as a whole. If someone sits down and starts from the first song and doesn’t immediately like what he/she hears, there’s a chance they’ll quickly move on to something that better suits their interest. In starting the record with “TV Fuzz”, we wanted to set a tone that goes beyond just another heavy record. It was written from the start to be the first song and took about a year to finalize and perfect it in the way it’s heard on The Make Believe. While it is gradual, it’s one of my favorite parts of the record and I couldn’t be happier with it’s turn out.
It seems like the “scene” has some great, forward thinking bands lately trying to really experiment with stretching boundaries in a more “poetic” or artistic way, from Author & Punisher’s “Tame As A Lion” to Ides of Gemini both mastering tempo control and dynamics to major affect or just people paying more attention to artwork and lyrics that matter. How does Darkentries try to stand out from the pack?
Around the time we started writing “How The End Always Is”, we adopted a more emotionally driven tone to our songs than I think we had before. A few of us were living in the same house and we were all bummed about something or another and things just sort of shifted. The lyrics became more personal, all of our artwork (and live shows) involved purple & pink flowers, the riffs and drum parts became unintentionally more dynamic through a display of emotion, etc. I think we got bored with bands trying to be evil and just wanted something honest and “sensitive”, for lack of a better word. I don’t know if that makes us stand out but it certainly makes more sense to us.