Brent Hinds Talks West End Motel's "Only Time Can Tell", Mastodon, Art, and More
Mon, 29 Oct 2012 06:04:16
"I'm not good at sitting around," laughs Brent Hinds of West End Motel, Mastodon, and a myriad of other awesome musical projects.
However, he's extremely good at making music and playing guitar.
On West End Motel's latest, Only Time Can Tell, Hinds paints a sonic pastiche that's as wild and weird as it is warm and wonderful. His fretwork tows the line between otherworldly blues and ethereal rock, making for a captivating listen. Singer Tom Cheshire and Hinds carry undeniable harmonies together. An acid pop classic, Only Time Can Tell stands out as one of the year's most intriguing and infectious records and another testament to Hinds's brilliance.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, West End Motel and Mastodon's Brent Hinds talks Only Time Can Tell, art, who he's listening to, and more…
Only Time Can Tell feels truly boundless.
Yeah, Tom and I usually get together, clap our hands, drink beer, and have a bunch of laughs. I play guitar. We'll typically have some stuff written in our sketchbooks or whatever. It'll be something we're dying to tell each other. The next thing you know, we've got a song.
Did the record come together fairly quickly? Was it sessions where you just got together and jammed for fun?
That's basically how it was written. We'd have some laughs and a few drinks. I conceived a lot of this musically and chorus-wise. Then, I'd get together and collaborate with Tom on the lyrics. It's pretty much done at that point. It's a pretty simple process.
There's a lot going on in there musically.
It's hard to quit working on the album. I kept adding bells and whistles here and there. There's a lot of pedal steel in there that you can't really hear because it's a textural thing. A lot of keyboards turn up in parts that make for dramatic moments that I thought needed to be there. There's a lot of instrumentation. All in all, there are seven people in the band. On top of that, I put some more guitars here and there. I doubled some guitars and vocals too.
Was it important to paint pictures for the listener with these songs?
Yeah! It is like that, especially songs like "The Witch Is Dead". You can picture it snowing as a kid. You walk outside, and there's a witch hanging from tree [Laughs]. You're living in the times of Salem, and a man catches you pissing on the street. The next thing you know, you're bopping along to "bing bong". It does paint mental imagery for sure. With "Burn it Down", you maybe think of getting in a car accident in the Caribbean or something.
There's a fun vibe, but it's dark.
[Laughs] There are a lot of contradictions going on with the lyrics, but they're funny. It's like, "Nothing can compare to the ones you love", and you're talking about doing drugs and crashing cars. You're talking about calling your girlfriend when you're lonely. There's a lot of meaning to all of it.
It's a sound nobody's doing. Every song sounds like it's coming from a different place.
I have an old soul. I love that old Doo-wop stuff. I love music from the fifties and the twenties. I want to pay homage to that, but I don't know how. There's an old school vibe here. The music used to be like that, but it's not so much like it anymore.
Have you already begun writing new material?
Our new stuff is awesome. We have a song called "Maybe the Streets", and it's about what can happen when you're on the streets. Anything can happen when you're on the streets. There's a lot to talk about with that and the people in your neighborhood. There are a lot more horns. It's very soulful, but it's hook-y at the same time. There's a lot of heartbreak but fun-sounding music. The lyrics can be sad though. They're like chapters of your life.
Is this project fluid for you? Do you feel like it's something you can always create for? It's not like you have to go into "West End Motel" mode…
I don't have to go into West End Motel mode at all. The only mode I have to really put myself in is the Mastodon mode. I tend to write a lot of that stuff when I'm on tour with them because I'm in that headspace. This music for West End Motel is always pouring out of me.
In some ways, is it more personal for you?
Yeah, I guess it could be. Some of it directly talks about situations that has happened in my life, but so does some of the Mastodon material. That's extremely important and personal too.
Where did "Bite" come from?
That was coming from trying to get back together with a lady I was with at the time. I also had a band then called The Blood Vessels. We'd written a lot of romantic type of classic rock songs that had that Tom Petty, Thin Lizzy vibe. There are other songs in the classic rock format with lyrics about love gone. I didn't know how I was going to sequence the whole thing. That's a tricky thing.
What other art forms inspire you?
I sculpt Polynesian art. I do lots of carving. I'm always drawing and doodling. Last night, my girlfriend and I got home from the West End Motel show, and we drew all kinds of pieces. We're going to put out a book called Drawings on a Plane. She's going to South America with me. We have to take a lot of flights. There will be a lot of drawing. I'm also illustrating a kids book for Tom. My girlfriend and I have a pretty cohesive relationship with art. We're always collaboratively drawing and drawing separately. It's the way we like to spend our downtime, sketching, drawing, and stroking each other's egos about how much we like what each other is doing [Laughs].
Do sculpting and drawing come from a different creative place for you?
Well, before I could afford a guitar, I could afford a crayon when I was a little kid. Art was always there inside of my being. I didn't have the finances though. As a really young child, I was still doing art too. I started drawing lots of stuff when I was three-years-old, and I never stopped. I'd be sitting in front of the TV when MTV came on eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinking cherry Kool-Aid or something. I had to have the guitar right then and there, but I was only six so it was out of the question financially for my parents at the time. I got to the guitar as fast as I could. I think I made it there around nine-years-old. It took three more years of me bugging the piss out of them. Some guy at my father's office just gave me one so I'd shut up [Laughs].
On stage, is there a lot of jamming?
It's almost like a comedy hour. It's very funny. Tom's insanely energetic, poetic, and hilarious. He's an awesome frontman. I stand there with a huge hollow body Gretsch. I let Tom be the front guy. It depends on how much we've had to drink, but we get some comic banter going back and forth. It's unhinged. If I'm feeling like Jimi Hendrix at the moment, I look at my drummer and keep guitar soloing, and the band keeps playing. There are a lot of extended parts.
Were you in a particularly creative period making this album?
I recorded Only Time Can Tell while I was recording The Hunter. I was doing two albums at once. I'd leave Doppler Studios, and I'd drive over to the Living Room Studios. I'd get up at ten and be at Doppler by eleven and work until four or five. Then I'd work from six until midnight at the other studio. Basically, right after my first album came out Brent Hinds Projects, I started recording.
What are you listening to right now?
I've been listening to a lot of The Ventures, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, and old blues music like B.B. King. I just bought a Lucille guitar, and I'm in love with it trying to play like B.B. King. I'm going through a blues phase. I'm going back to Howlin' Wolf. Then there's Jimmy Bryant, Jimmy West, and guitar music. I like to listen to people tear the guitar up.
West End Motel tourdates
Nov 28 - Vienna, VA @ Jammin' Java
Nov 29 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge Nov 30 - West Chester, PA @ The Note
Dec 01 - Winooski, VT @ The Monkey House
Dec 02 - Allston, MA @ Great Scott
Dec 04 - Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool
Dec 05 - Cleveland, OH @ The Grog Shop
Dec 06 - Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop
Dec 07 - Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
Dec 08 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
Dec 09 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Dec 11 - Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
Dec 13 - Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
Dec 14 - Birmingham, AL @ The Nick
Dec 15 - Atlanta, GA @ 529
Have you heard West End Motel?