Wednesday, April 17, 2013

... Like a subterranean propulsion : an Interview with BORRACHO !!!

Formed in 2007 as a side-project to their other current bands, BORRACHO (which means "drunk man" in spanish) is a striking Heavy Stoner-Fuzz Rock band which comes from Washington D.C. and recently released a new 7'' entitled "Mob Gathering"... If covers artwork can sometimes be a good indicator of an album general mood, this one presently does it explicitly ! A bit different from their amazing debut album "Splitting Sky", this "Mob Gathering" is a stomping and boiling affair comprised of two relentless songs filled with heavy riffs, fat grooves and raunchy vocals !
Old fans will crave for this and it is a great manifest to gain new ones who will quickly need to put their ears on the majestic "Splitting Sky" which reveal the real and whole extent of BORRACHO's talent with more variety and refinement; on this material the textures are also greasy but a large place is also given to southern, psychedelic overtones and extended jams which give a very consistent thickness to their music and definitely prevent from dreadful considerations like "this is nothing I've never heard before"... 
I felt it would be interesting to know more about this kick-ass band, particularly the way the line-up had been composed (a real challenge for each of those guys, as you'll see), those three 7'' released since the album, the next recordings, etc... Mario (drums) answered kindly my questions, definitely a damn interesting guy !
Hi Mario… thanx for answering the following questions for T.o.P. !!! This new 7’’ “mob gathering” consists in two unreleased songs from a recording of your early days in an old mansion… ok,  the new mix has kinda brilliantly resurrected them but what’s so particular in the saga behind those sessions which happened in 2009 ?
We really thought that at the time we were recording our debut. We had a bunch of songs we loved, were well rehearsed, primed, and ready. The situation was cool in principle. Hole up in a unique location, work a relaxed schedule, and hopefully capture some magic in a bottle. Some Led Zeppelin IV, Blood Sugar Sex Magik kinda shit.
Reality was the engineer didn’t really have all the equipment needed, the experience needed, or the professionalism to pull it all together. We couldn’t track at the same time. That was a major issue. We couldn’t capture the live performances, and we weren’t very happy with that. Before we finished all the tracking of vocals and mixing, our engineer literally joined the circus! He left before we finished. By the time he came back, we pretty much wrote off the sessions. Some more work was attempted on mixes of a couple songs that we used as demos, but really we lost so much time and never got things sounding the way we envisioned or expected them to. So we moved on.

It was a good move, because we met Frank Marchand during that time, and ultimately ended up recording an amazing debut that has resonated and helped us make a name for ourselves. I’m not sure that would have happened if we released those other recordings as our debut.

The first years of BORRACHO have not been that easy for you guys with that unreleased debut, your other main bands being  more or less still active, having also swaped-up your instruments too I guess each one needed some time  to find its place ultimately ?

It’s funny because we initially were in these other bands, and we just wanted a way to scratch a couple of other creative itches. Borracho was born out of our friendships, our love of stoner rock, and a desire to express ourselves on these other instruments we had all dabbled in before, but not ever played in a band setting, at least for the most part. I don’t really consider those years “hard” – it was formative shit that bands have to go through. We were finding our footing. We are fortunate to have the experiences and connections of what we did in our earlier bands to take and build upon. Like our relationship with No Balls Records, for instance, who have really helped from the beginning with the first Adam West split 7” and going on to release the Splitting Sky LP and now the new “Mob Gathering” 7”.

On a personal point, BORRACHO allowed to reveal yourself as drummer (where you were basically guitarist in your other bands), did you already seriously practice drumming previously  ?  how did this maturation / revelation happen ? Was it an old challenge that you wanted to achieve ?

I’ve played guitar since I was 11. It’s always been a passion for me. But as a kid in school, there’s no way to be involved in the school music programs as a guitarist, so I actually began learning drums and percussion through school concert band. As I got older, I was the kid who would have band rehearsals at my house, so there was always a drum set there. So after school I’d come home and play drums for about an hour before I played guitar for another three or four hours. Basically, before adults got home from work. That helped a lot. Then, as my circle expanded more, I became friends with other multi-instrumentalists, and we would get high, eat mushrooms, whatever, and spend these epic sessions just jamming, trading off instruments, recording, and that was huge for me in finding my bearings as a drummer.

But, I never played drums in a band scenario before Borracho. Never gigged out. Never was really involved in songwriting as a drummer. That was definitely part of the challenge with Borracho, for all of us. Steve played bass in Adam West, but was always the primary songwriter, so he had a lot of guitar skills already. Tim played guitar, and had to make that adjustment to playing bass. But the other big challenge was for Noah, who was a drummer. We actually didn’t know he was going to play guitar in the band until the first practice. We knew he had this powerful voice, and wanted him to step out from behind the kit, and just own being a singer. It actually played out well to round out our sound with that second guitar, but it added to the level of growth and learning we all had to do. The great thing was that we had really low ambitions when we started out. It was about having fun first and foremost. The fact that we’ve really improved individually and collectively and are able to perform on a level with our peers makes us all proud. But it’s still about having fun, even if it’s our main gig these days.

How did come the idea of recording a Spanish version of ‘concentric circles’…  ?  Is that the only foreign language you can imagine sing on, or can we expect for example a French singing romantic ballad in the new album?!!!

Ha! I wouldn’t expect any other surprises like you suggest! The idea came up in the studio when we were recording Splitting Sky. It started with Frank asking us why we named the band Borracho. As we recounted that story we revealed that Noah speaks fluent Spanish, and his wife is Argentine, so they speak Spanish at home and with family quite a bit. Frank asked if we ever thought about doing a tune in Spanish, and the idea kind of set off a light bulb in our heads. Noah went home that night and worked out a translation, and the next day he came in and cut it. We were able to work out a co-release of the 7” with Ghost Highway Recordings, who are based in Madrid, through our good friend and former Adam West bandmate Jake Starr, who runs Fandango Records. It all just kind of fell into place. We have a pretty solid following in Latin America so we hope the track has helped gain a little more attention there. We’d love to head to South America to tour somewhere down the line.

In November 2011, you also released a new 12’’ vinyl including “plunge/return”, a major piece of your first album… Was it an evidence to choose “grab the reins” (live), the other longest song of the album for the B-side?  where was it recorded ?

We were always a bit disappointed that Plunge/Return didn’t fit onto the Splitting Sky LP. When the opportunity to release it on a 10” came up with Strange Magic Records, we considered a few options for the B side. We had a couple of live tracks we recorded in December 2011 at The Velvet Lounge in DC during our Splitting Sky release show. Frank Marchand recorded the set, and in June 2012 he worked on mixing “Grab the Reins” and “All In Play” from that show for some future release, along with the remixes of “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride.”  “Grab the Reins” just had the right vibe, was a great performance, and obviously a good length. As far as a single goes, having two 11 minute songs makes for a good long listen – nearly an EP! We also love singles that have live recordings on the B side, so it worked out well.

“The mob gathering” contains 2 old songs that are shorter and faster compared to the album period which has also some doomy and epic moments,  so what can we expect from the new stuff ?

The new stuff is pretty epic! I’d say it’s more a continuation of where we were headed with Splitting Sky than a harkening back to the shorter/faster material you hear on the Mob Gathering 7”. But we’re really exploring our psychedelic side a bit more. I think the new material will be well received as both familiar sounding, and a step forward, musically.

Did your recent shows last month allow you to test some new songs on stage ?

We have been playing some new material live for the past 10 months or so. Noah has been overseas for work, and we’ve been playing as a trio since July 2012. At first the shows without Noah were instrumental, and we’ve been playing instrumental versions of new songs for quite some time now at shows. Steve has begun to sing some of the Splitting Sky material live, as well as some new songs. Right now Noah’s return to the States is pretty indefinite, and in the meantime, we’ve all agreed that we will perform and record as a trio, at least until he returns. We spent quite a bit of time and effort to arrange for long distance collaboration, but in the end we feel like we can best represent our recordings and ourselves with Steve on vocals, at least for the foreseeable future. So far the response at the shows has been really positive, and we hope everybody likes the direction with Steve at the helm.

You guys released three EPs since the album,  which is cool to wait until the new one but I guess that now this sophomore album  won’t take too long to come out, at least this will be in 2013 ?!

Well, you’ll definitely have more new Borracho to groove to over the course of 2013. With our current personnel issues resolved for the time being, we‘ve mapped out a plan to release at least one if not two medium length, 35 min. releases in 2013 but before completing our full length follow-up to Splitting Sky. We have a few creative directions – coming out of all the jamming we did with the new material – that we want to explore in the two EP releases. Then want to see where we end up after working through those ideas before we form the concepts for next full-length release. It may be some time to wait for the next full-length but we'll give you a lot to chew on in the meantime and we are sure the next LP will be something worth the wait.

You already gave quite a number of significant gigs and took part in both latest editions of Stoner Hands of Doom festival… what have been your most memorable moments on stage so far ? Starting from this month, there should be some more highlights, indeed you’ll soon be opening for FU MANCHU, does it represent something special for you guys ?  Do you have other cool live plans for the next months?

Yeah, we’ve been happy with how things have been in the live arena. We love playing live, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s always flattering to be invited and take part in festivals. We are all huge fans of Elder, and were stoked to play with them twice last year, at the Stoner Hands of Doom and the Autumn Screams Doom festivals. Of course playing with Fu Manchu later this month is a bit of a dream, and we’re looking forward to that. Later this year we’re taking part in the “Eye of the Stoned Goat” fest in New York, in Brooklyn, with a tremendous line up, and are playing a few shows with Lo-Pan leading up to that.

On May 18 we are putting on a special show in DC with our friends Cortez and Weed is Weed to launch the new “Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale” with Port City Brewing Company. We’re super stoked about this limited edition brew and the show we are putting on will feature some excellent talent, and we expect good feedback on the beer. Port City doesn’t put out any bad beers, and this one won’t be an exception.

With your previous bands, Assrockers and Adam West, you got a solid experience of touring (including  many times in Europe with A.W.)…  which places - you’ve already been to, are you now uggerly waiting to play in with Borracho ? Did those previous experiences notably help you for contacts and getting the name of Borracho spreaded at the beginning of this new adventure ?

We are working on a short tour to Europe, hopefully to coincide with the upcoming release later this year. Our booking agent/tour manager was the tour manager for the last Adam West Europe tour, so we have a long history. The tour, when it happens, shouldn’t hold too many surprises. We don’t plan to cover quite as much ground, so we’re looking to focus on Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and maybe dip into northern Italy, the Netherlands, maybe a couple other spots. Since our very first release was a split 7” with Adam West released for the last tour in 2008, we definitely got early exposure to that audience, and I think there’s a good amount of crossover there.

What do you think of  CLUTCH’s “earth rocker” ? Does the fact that a band like Orange Goblin finally became professional after all those years, give you hopes and strength for future perspectives concerning Borracho ?

I’ve been cranking Earth Rocker on regular rotation. I love it. While it’s short, it leaves you wanting more, and I listen to it on repeat! Those guys are an inspiration. To see them 20 years on with all the same members, doing things on their own terms after all kinds of crazy record label nonsense, makes me really admire them. Not many bands persevere like that. The same with Orange Goblin. Those guys haven’t relented to trends, and still kill it after all these years. I assume you ask if it gives us hope because we’re a bunch of old guys! We frankly take every day as it comes, and every opportunity as a gift. We work hard, but we’re grateful and don’t feel entitled to anything. If people like what we release, that makes us proud. But we MUST love what we write and release or it’s not worth the effort.

I guess that the fact of working  with 313 Inc artist management brings you quite many facilities/opportunities for the US market, but are they dealing too with Europe and the rest of the world for your promotion ? except answering interviews, do you still invest time by yourselves for your promotion or is everything done by 313 ?

I feel like a team member of 313.  We don’t stress him out too much! We have a bit of a professional team in-house, as Tim and I run our website, social media, promotion, and booking. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a team. We’re happy to have the 313 guys in our corner, and look forward to more opportunities to come, be they in the States, Europe or beyond.

Thanx a lot for your time Mario, add something you feel important I might have forgotten to ask you… cheers

Thanks for the opportunity. Without the support of sites like Temple of Perdition, nobody would know about Borracho. So cheers to you and all the guys who sink their blood sweat and beers into discovering, reviewing, and promoting bands from this scene! You rule!

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