Interview with Loss guitarist/lyricist Tim Lewis and bassist/pianist John Anderson | By Hutch
With an opening track and closing track each spanning 11 minutes, waiting for completion is standard for Loss. The elongated and complex structures require focus. After several demos and splits, the Nashville band debuted with Despond six years ago.
Loss wrote an abundance of material in the six years since their first LP. Guitarist and co-lyricist Tim Lewis sat astounded. “I had so many pieces of music over the past three to four years, I was literally saying to [drummer] Jay [LeMaire] one night at his house, ‘What am I going to do with all this music?’” he recalls. Loss sifted and sculpted until Horizonless was created. Profound Lore excreted this exhausting—yet rewarding!—slab of funeral doom on May 19.
Lewis reflects, “My state of mind was chaos and heavily inspired by everything that was happening to myself and everyone around me. I could not stop writing.”
Gathering these ideas and cultivating them into the dark tunes of Horizonless would appear intimidating, and the record did indeed required patience. Bassist and pianist John Anderson adds, “We were conscious of a few approaches to putting this album together. First, we did not want to make Despond all over again. You can actually hear our style develop across the course of that album. We wanted to further expand our range on this one and create an entirely new collection of songs that reflect our many influences and writing styles. Second, we wanted to be even more collaborative in the writing process, resulting in some of these songs being written with the band sitting in a circle, with riffs and melodies drawn from thin air in the moment.”
Reporting that some songs took up to six months to write, Lewis continues, “Lyrically, [vocalist and guitarist] Mike [Meacham] and myself almost always have lyrics written prior to any music. For the music, it’s rehearsing with the rest of the band. The process is usually adhering compositions and tearing them apart. Rewriting. Reevaluating. The time spent is usually very lengthy. We’re done when we unanimously agree it as so.”
Anderson condenses his process into a simple metaphor. “I like to think of our writing process as a rock tumbler,” he says. “We each throw in a couple of rough stones. Then, grind them against each other until the surfaces are all smooth and interlocking. The hidden character of each piece is revealed.”
For Horizonless, Loss worked with supreme producer Billy Anderson. Aside from his tenure and genius, Lewis testifies that he has another critical weapon in his arsenal: “Obnoxious, obscene amounts of caffeine! The man loves his coffee and energy drinks.” Infused with stimulants, the riff wrangler acted as a solid soundboard for Loss. Lewis continues, “Billy really works well with floating in the current of your music. There are those moments that you feel in the pit of your stomach with a progression or movement. Billy visually feels them along with you. His suggestions for a change in a song usually embody those said gut feelings once applied.”
Anderson illustrates his vision of their producer in a more visceral, animated sense. “If Beetlejuice were to reanimate and possess Wes Craven’s corpse, then somehow become a studio wizard with a tremendous resume and limitless puns, you’d have Billy,” he says. “He’s a whirlwind filled with ideas, a musical guru, and a diplomat when needed. That was a great help.”
“Anyone who has heard any past workings by Billy will know that he has a particular style,” Lewis adds, referring to classics by Sleep, High On Fire, Neurosis, Melvins, Sick Of It All, and Acid King. “Dynamically, there are a number of tricks and ideas and performances that Billy threw our way. People will be able to recognize the differences if they are familiar with Loss’ music in the past.”
Funeral doom’s inherent extended duration, its stretched execution of ideas obviously appeals to Loss. Anderson offers his thoughts on its allure, saying, “There are a number of advantages to allowing yourself to take more time in songs. In addition to the fact that slow riffs simply take up more real estate, a particularly good, repeating passage in a song can set up a mood that builds upon itself and pulls the listener into their own head. [This] makes a major dynamic change all the more powerful when it arrives. We like to play those angles.”
Horizonless is marked by intermediate respites, shorter engagements between the long songs. This is a gift to the listener, as the long tracks often bludgeon, enveloping the audience in a treacherous blanket of sorrow and misery. These rests feel intentional. “Most everyone appreciates a break from being suffocated in something,” Lewis says. “That was definitely the case, in my opinion, with Despond. Those songs were about facing awful truths of self and lending options for solution. A change in texture and air of a record is always good to have. It adds a variance as a whole, which is why we agreed to do the interludes again for the new record.”
Horizonless showcases a brilliant, looming cover. A figure reaches above to pull down a canopy of stars, luminously rendered by Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustration. “It all came together in just a mere few weeks,” Lewis explains. “Outlines for the cover art, along with sketches, landscape examples, and brief but detailed ideas [and] actions were shared with Adam. In a few days, he had a sketch on a piece of wood, which quickly made us aware of how quickly he adhered to the concept. We presented a few ideas, especially making sure attention be given to the dying stars and shameful formation of the figure tearing down the tapestry of our reality. Adam really dug in and the final result [on the same large piece of wood] is simply mind blowing. We are so proud of the representation of this piece.”
On the 10-minute “Naught,” breathtaking arrangements are strewn along the time to confront the listener. It ends with the whispered mantra, “I am trying to forget / I am trying to forget.” The nihilistic and regret-drenched disdain is evident. The droning drop-tuned chords linger, even fester, in the ear. In the following chords of the interlude, a haunting organ and ritualistic drums stagnate the air as “The End Steps Forth” creeps with despair.
Reading the lyrics to the track “Banishment,” Loss endorse self-reliance when combatting addiction. “Drugs” is an arbitrary term; the more compelling application in contemporary society is the concept of addiction to vanity or technology or competition. Wrestling a more abstract notion of addiction, Lewis elaborates on the track’s implications, noting, “I never used the word ‘addicts’ as a reference to any drug use. It is directed specifically towards the human malfunction of our social mannerisms: behavior, individuality, and character. Addicts of maximum detail of the most minimal and mindless information that we can share with one another, minute by minute. We have abandoned [and] banished our natural humanity. We have gone so long now living in this self-absorbed, self-addicted, wandering-blind state of mind. The vision of the song leads that a way to regain a world back to such a valuable state is unfortunately by dying. A reset.”
Photo by Andrew Hock