Atlanta’s Whores. are a formidable force for heavy music with equally intense lyrics. Since their beginnings in 2010 they’ve released two brilliant EPs and, now, an LP that is knock-down-drag-out Gold. They have something to say and you’re going to hear it. We talked to vocalist/guitarist Christian Lembach about the new album, Gold., and the new year.
“Power” is the first word I thought of when I listened to Gold. How do you always seem to sustain that intensity?
Thanks! Well it’s sort of difficult, but it wouldn’t work any other way. I try to stay grateful. I could be wielding a scalpel or swinging a shovel. I guess it also comes down to a lot of pent-up frustration. Which is also incidentally why I get caught smiling during our shows. It really feels like spitting out the poison sometimes. I love it.
This record sounds even fuzzier and heavier, especially the vocals, than Clean. Did lyrics or anything in specific lead you toward a more sludgy feel? Or was it just natural progress?
Being so close to it, I have a hard time seeing things that clearly. It definitely wasn’t intentional. We wrote a bunch of songs that didn’t make the cut. I feel like this record is faster and less sludgy. Shows what I know! [laughs] We definitely did a lot of layering with feedback and noise parts, but that’s also kind of my thing. My main, overriding concern or directive or whatever was that it didn’t come off as soft or phoning it in in any way.
Were you purposely waiting to record a full LP or did touring make shorter EPs more logical over the past few years?
The first EP was only five songs because that’s all we had at the time. The second one was supposed to be longer, but it was hard getting it together for various reasons. Now that we’re firing super hard as far as practice schedule and 100% dedication from everyone in the band, it’s much easier to make moves quickly. I’m already working on the next one.
Your words and instrumentals always mirror one another perfectly. Which comes first?
Thanks again! We always write the music first. I keep a little notebook in my bag to write down phrases or lines that pop up out of nowhere, and then refer back to that when it’s time to write words. The arrangements usually get tweaked a little from there. I seem to work better lyrically when we give songs ridiculous titles. I like to work within parameters.
The songs “Playing Poor,” “Participation Trophy,” “Mental Illness as Mating Ritual” and “I See You Are Also Wearing a Black T-Shirt” seem to connect in the lyrics about people putting on facades and living a life just to appear well-off. You guys seem straightforward and genuine – is society’s plasticity sort of a pet peeve of yours?
Well, all of those songs are about different things, but I can see the continuity as far as perspective or worldview or whatever. I end to see things in a sort of Marxist, us-vs-them way. I mean that’s the impetus for our band name, though that gets lost on most people. “Playing Poor” is sort of about the music and entertainment business, but in a larger sense it’s also about the frustration with the cult of personality that seems to be dominating culture lately. It’s like people are afraid that they’re not going to leave a mark or be thought of in an elevated way, so they put on these facades. It’s sort of the worst thing for our happiness and longevity as a species, yet it’s everywhere. Our priorities are so far out of whack that’s it’s hard to imagine coming back. “Participation Trophy” is sort of about my sobriety. It’s also sort of about growing up. I don’t usually talk about it publicly, but anyone who knows me personally knows that I don’t drink or anything. When I got sober, I felt this weird pushback from people who knew the irresponsible and self-absorbed version of me. It was crazy. I love that song. It’s a giant middle finger to people who used to see me in a certain light. Like, I see how laser focus and determination could feel threatening to people who used to feel better about their own crummy life by comparing themselves to me. It’s been over a decade now, but it’s still very easy to tap into those feelings. “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual” is about my struggles to maintain a healthy relationship. I can clearly see how nuts I am. I’m working on it though. It’s a daily struggle to smash my ego and put others before me. I feel so conflicted most of the time. Feeling like damaged goods sucks, and I know a lot of people can relate to that. “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” started as a feeling I got when I realized that so many of the people wearing a certain kind of counterculture uniform were doing just that, and they were sort of secretly these right-wing, joiner assholes. I sort of expanded that idea into suburbia and the absurdity that comes from messed up priorities. I feel like something very, very bad is coming for America, and no one wants to address things. Let’s just keep buying stuff and watching reality TV and posting selfies, and it will all go away. It was really shocking to find out that all these people into a certain kind of music who are like covered in tattoos or whatever are actually racist, sexist, homophobic rednecks. Cognitive dissonance, for sure.
“Charlie Chaplin Routine” is pretty dark, as is “Ghost Trash.” Would you consider them to be more personal songs or just stories?
Definitely personal. Both of those songs are about the frustration of being completely fed up with the world at large, and not seeing a way out. The funny thing is that talking, or I guess in this case singing, about this stuff actually makes it better. I don’t need it solved. I just need to get it out, you know?
You reworked “Bloody Like the Day You Were Born” for this album. Why did you decide to include it on the LP?
Well, I know, I know a lot of people who are sort of vaguely familiar with the band probably haven’t heard that song, and it’s one of my favorite parts of our set.
Your live shows have a reputation for being amazing, and that word doesn’t even do justice. Did you record them live in the studio or go the more “traditional” route?
Ha! thanks, man. We push super hard, that’s for sure. We tracked all of the drums with Casey (bass) and I in the same room as Donnie (drums), playing along. We thought it was important to get the right, reckless sort of vibe so Donnie could play his heart out, which he definitely did. Casey and I then went back and recorded our parts with a little more precision.
You’ve toured over the past few years with a long list of bands so far, one of which was the incomparable Melvins. Has there been a favorite show so far?
Well, we only played a festival with Melvins, we haven’t been on the road with them yet. As far as a favorite, that has got to be Red Fang. We love those guys. Such an incredible band, and they couldn’t be more gracious. Super fun to hang out with, too.
Speaking of being on the road so often, where did you find time to record Gold.?
We haven’t done any heavy touring yet this year. Just a few fly-in shows. We made a conscious effort to buckle down and write and record. That being said, we’ll be on the road for the rest of 2016. [laughs] I love being on tour though. Every night is Saturday night. It rules.
You’ve got dates lined up through the end of the year in the US. What does next year look like?
We are planning a European tour with a band that we all love. I can’t wait to announce. After that, we’re looking at a headline tour in the US in the spring, and hopefully more package tours and festival stuff in the summer.