Band Of The Day: Lazer/Wulf

By on 20 August 2014
Photo: Benny Wonka

Photo: Benny Wonka

Georgia based prog metal trio Lazer/Wulf have been making quite a name for themselves recently, and have recently become the fourth band to sign to Kylesa’s new Retro Futurist Records label.

Now, you’ve probably seen the words “Georgia” and “Kylesa” and think you know exactly what to expect from this, but think again – if there’s one thing Lazer/Wulf are adept at, it’s confounding expectations. Actually, scratch that, as this three piece are evidently adept at a whole lot more than just surprising sludge fans, as the often bafflingly complex musicianship displayed on their debut album proves. But don’t go thinking this is just another one of those faceless tech records either, as Lazer/Wulf are armed to the teeth with enough riffs to keep your head nodding, banging or veering wildly out of control for the record’s 40 minute duration. Imagine ‘Remission’ era Mastodon playing a medley comprised of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Voivod, Don Caballero and Tera Melos songs, and you’ll have some idea of how mental this thing sounds.

WHO ARE THEY: Lazer/Wulf
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Georgia
FOR FANS OF: Mastodon, Don Caballero, Kylesa
LATEST RELEASE: ‘The Beast of Left And Right’ (2014, Retro Futurist)
WEBSITE: Facebook

Could you tell us briefly how you all met and formed Lazer/Wulf?
Bryan: “Sean and I were introduced in Athens, GA, as students at UGA. I went to that university specifically to start a band, because of the diverse and experimental music scene there. I had never been in a band before that – Lazer/Wulf is my first love – and Sean was looking to start a new project in a new city. We grew to a five-piece, with a stand-alone vocalist, and played locally for a few years. But life intervened, members fell away, and the project stopped altogether. Years passed, and in 2010, he and I reformed the band with Brad, our current drummer. But we had changed so much in that time that Lazer/Wulf didn’t resemble the old project in nearly any way. We kept the name, because we thought it was going to be the same band, but we found out shortly that it had evolved into something else entirely. It still is evolving.”

Did you have a specific sound in mind when you formed the band, or did that grow and evolve as you played together?
Bryan: “We still don’t really have a specific sound in mind, and we’re not trying to narrow the search. When we reformed, the first thing we had to do was explore what was possible for a metal band that’s only a trio, rather than our original five dudes and a singer. So we brought in more influences, more musical ideas, more diverse playing, looking for something that worked. But a few songs later, that exploration became our sound. How much sound can a trio make? How much can be said without a singer? What can we get away with? Nothing about our situation was on purpose, but it’s what we have, and we won’t make excuses. Instead, we redefined our limitations as strengths.”

What kind of stuff are you and the rest of the band into? Who would you cite as influences?
Bryan: “We’re all over the place, and agree on very little, so we have to circle a song for a long time before we can land on common ground. It’s not frustrating at all; it’s the most fun part of being a musician, communicating with people that may not speak your language. In terms of actual influence, I look to Radiohead, Soundgarden and The Fucking Champs the most, for chord voicings and non-traditional structures that still move in a satisfying way. Sean’s the same way, but usually way heavier: Atheist, Enslaved, Dysrhythmia, Mercyful Fate, and Rush. Real vintage weird. Brad keeps us grounded, though; he’s more about rock, like Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon. He keeps me and Sean from spinning off into complete nonsense.”

What can you tell us about your new album, ‘The Beast Of Left And Right’? Did you plan on making it a musical palindrome from the start, or was that just a happy coincidence?
Bryan: “It was definitely the plan, because of what it represented. We were at a place in our lives where we needed to make big choices: white or black, yes or no, left or right. Were we going to play music full time or pursue more traditional careers? Because it couldn’t be both anymore. It was all of something or nothing of anything. So we chose music, to go back to when we stopped playing and choose again. That was such a big deal to us, and it influenced our relationship to music. So we embraced it, made it fun. I started looking at alternate-reality versions of each song: the songs we were writing, and the songs they could have been if a different choice were made. I was writing out sheet music and playing it in the mirror, or flipping the sheet upside-down altogether. Of course, none of that is important to the listener, and it shouldn’t be. It was just fun as an artist. We didn’t take for granted that anyone was ever even going to hear it, since it’s our debut album. Our goal was simply to write songs that were as engaging to write as to play or hear, and that’s all that matters.”

How does your writing process normally work out? Will you meet up with song ideas pretty much fully formed beforehand, or do you tend to jam stuff out a bit more?
Bryan: “Usually I’ll write a finished song, then the other guys will tear it apart and put it back together much stronger. That’s phase one. Then we play it live, and gauge if we’re on the right track: note the energy, pacing, how difficult it is to pull off in the live context. It’s like a focus group for rabid dogs, and we measure out the froth. Then we tear it apart again, cut the fat, and flesh out the strengths. But without playing it live, there’s no way to tell if it’s done, or if it even works. You can’t know a song until you see how it affects the listener. It’s not enough to work on the artist level, because it’s not just for the artist. It belongs to everyone, so they should be a part of the process.”

So, you’re the fourth band to be signed to Kylesa’s new Retro Futurist Records label – how have you found working with them so far?
Bryan: “They’re musicians themselves, and have been for so long, so they have a unique capacity to understand where we’re coming from as a young band. And because of that, they’re incredibly supportive. There’s nothing guaranteed in this business, even if you’re following all the rules, so being a weirdo band with all your eggs in this basket – it’s terrifying. But they’ve been beside us every step of the way, reconfirming their faith in what we’re trying to do. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but I’ll never stop thanking them for the rest of my life. I mean, we’re doing an interview for Terrorizer right now. It’s a dream come true.”

You’ve just finished up your first European tour too, how did it go? Do you think you’ll be heading over again anytime soon?
Bryan: “None of us have ever been to Europe, so it was mind-blowing to go in that context: a different city every day, with zero down time. You can only know a city through its people, and being performers afforded us the opportunity to meet dozens of interesting people every day. And through them, we were introduced to the history, architecture and (most importantly, in my case) food of each city. Over six straight weeks, we had the chance to fall in love with nearly the entire continent. It was absolutely unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it as it was happening, and can’t believe it still. We hope very much to return early next year!”

What’s been your best moment as a band? And on the flipside, what’s been the worst thing to happen to you in music?
Bryan: “As much as I loved traveling Europe, six weeks is a long time; I was pretty homesick toward the end. But when we came home last week, we got to play a homecoming show that was also our album release party. All of our friends and family were there, being so positive and supportive, and there was so much love in the room. Then it all burst into chaos when we played. It was so cathartic and honest and I’ll remember it forever.

“The worst moment for me was just before we recorded this album, actually. Both my car and house were robbed, and all my gear was stolen. We had studio time booked just one month later, and I didn’t even have a guitar. We had just managed to reform the band, and I thought it was dead at the gate. But I ended up recording the whole album with borrowed gear from incredibly generous musicians, and it ended up being a lot of fun, experimenting with different sounds and combinations of effects. It was like burning everything down and seeing what grows.

Sean: “Best moment would have to be opening for Between the Buried and Me at Masquerade a couple months ago. When Bryan and I starting playing together 8 years ago, that band was one of the ones that was breaking all the rules. I definitely looked up to them. It was pretty awesome to get such an amazing crowd response from their fans at a packed show all these years later. Of course, having all of our rowdy local support (friends and family) there made me feel like we finally deserved to share the stage with them.

“Worst time in music was of course the time off. I basically stopped playing for a while, which was not so good for me.”

What does the future have in store for Lazer/Wulf?
Bryan: “At this point, I’ve learned never to predict anything! We’re rallying for a few North American tours this fall, and hoping to return to Europe early next year! We’ll be very vocal about our plans once things take shape! Thank you!”

‘The Beast Of Left And Right’ is out now on Retro Futurist Records

You can find Lazer/Wulf on Facebook

About Kez Whelan

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