Two piece rockers RJ Nordstrom and Matt Wassum aim “outwards in all directions” on upcoming EP, Megafauna.
RJ and I connected over phone and discussed all the details of their new creation.
Be sure to catch The Welzeins live tomorrow night (Thursday, March 3rd) at Spacebar in Orlando, along with SunGhosts, Zap Dragon and the Attack, and Howling Tongues. Event page HERE.
How much have you guys talked publicly about this new EP?
We’ve been talking about it at shows but we haven’t even released a single yet. We’re probably going to do a release show in April.
Where are you guys at with everything?
We’ve got all the masters back. We’re just making a lot of the art for it right now. We took pictures the other day for front and back covers and different stuff to look at for the album. Music is done.
Do you want to tell us the name and track listing?
It’s going to be called Megafauna. It means giant animal. It’s got four tracks on it. Track one is called “Shutin, Shindig,” the second track is called “Aberration,” the third track is called “Slapback Viking,” and the fourth track is called “It’s Not Easy.”
What’s your release plan for this? Hard copies, vinyls?
We’re looking at CDs as well as tapes.
Is this all independently released?
It’s all independent.
What are your thoughts on trying to work with a label in the future?
It’s one of those things… getting picked up by a cool label would be cool, but right now we’re much more interested in directing things independently just ’cause it lets us do things how we want. We got a whole studio setup at our house, I got a ton of friends that all work together to get all this stuff done, so I don’t know, we’re not necessarily seeking labels rabidly but at the same time we’ll be sending it out to a few places to see if anyone’s interested. Something the Welzeins have always tried to do since we started is let it grow naturally. We try not to have a super heavy presence on social media. We try not to be bothersome or pestering with how we talk to people. We’re really only interested in talking to people who actually like us. We’re pretty proud of the friends and fans that we do have because we know ’em. We’re for the people who actually play and go to shows, so that’s just kinda what we’re going for.
“You can kind of just tell the bands that are fighting for every bit of what they’ve got”
What are you personally most excited or proud of about this release?
Really we just said we wanted to expand outwards in all directions from our previous release. This is going to be the first of anything that we’ve released that has Matt Wassum on it on drums. He definitely comes from a little more of a technical realm. We were more of a straight garage surf act. We kept a lot of those influences but now we’ve gone to hard rock and psychedelic stuff and really just wanted to see what we could put out without alienating anyone that we knew before. Just try to up our game a bit.
Is there a pretty notable stylistic difference in the songs?
I would say so. We’re still just drums, guitar, and vocals. The production has been upped. We worked with our roommate John Waters on this. He produced and recorded it and we sent it out for mastering. We just took a little more time with making this record. So aside from obvious changes it’s a little more polished I guess. Musically I guess we were just trying to go more intense, more of a visceral, mean sort of feel. The fuzz tones on the guitar are thicker and the drums are kinda just coming at you from all directions, basically. Little less of a straight surf beat or something like that. Wassums really kind of made the group since he joined almost a year and a half ago now. We’ve just been kind of gelling with each other’s writing styles and now we get to release some of that.
How did you guys record this, did you track it out or do it live or what?
We tracked it out. We started with drums. I was literally standing in the same room as Matt was with an unplugged electric guitar and we just motioned it out to each other, than I layered guitars, vocals, all that stuff over the top of it.
Is there a lot of overdubbing? Does it sound like what it’s going to sound like live?
It’s weird, it’s a little bit of both almost. We were trying to bring some of the intensity we have live, trying to push that forward. For example, there’s a lot of layers of guitars but it’s not like every single layer of guitar is doing something different. It’s really just reinforcing that sledgehammery thickness I guess that we’re trying to get.
“We just show up and we just try to kill everyone.”
That’s kind of along the lines of a conversation I had with you after you got back from Levitation fest last year, comparing the live shows of Tame Impala and Lightning Bolt, and I remember you telling me just how reinforced you felt about the importance in the type of rawness in a live band’s energy.
Yeah, yeah. It’s something I’ve said before… I guess I take playing music very seriously, in the sense that I don’t think anyone owes us any set. Occasionally it seems like people expect just because they’re the ones that are up there, playing music in a band or whatever, that people owe them something. I never ever ever sense that. Whenever we approach a show or a song, I just feel that you’ve got to give it every single ounce of what you got, or else there’s no point in you being there. At the end of the day, when you’re playing music, especially the type of stuff that we’re doing which is meant to move people, you don’t want to half ass shit! It’s just something that we take very very seriously. Part of the reason Lightning Bolt is so phenomenal is that they just kind of have a similar philosophy. I’m not trying to draw comparisons but I guess you can kind of just tell the bands that are fighting for every bit of what they’ve got versus the ones that think they are cemented into some type of place where people will always like them or something like that. Am I making any sense?
Definitely. I think what you’re saying is pretty apparent in a Welzeins show. I think that’s what a lot of your fans love about you guys. I do feel like there’s always bands that you don’t realize from their albums what they’re capable of doing live. Was that intensity a challenging thing to translate in the studio?
It’s crazy ’cause sometimes it can be good or bad, and sometimes it’s just completely different, which I guess we’ll call interesting, depending on the results. It’s a different challenge. I guess we’re trying to bring more than just the exact sound of the live show, and actually bring the energy. But it’s harder to quantify and harder to capture.
Is a lot of that in the vocal takes?
A lot of it is in vocals, in a way though a lot of it too is coming from getting that perfect take. Just trying over and over and over again. Sometimes you got to just stop and come at it again tomorrow, ya know. There’s like a tipping point though, of being something that’s interesting and you can hear the soul behind what they’re playing, versus ‘wow, this person sounds like they’re falling asleep.’ It’s just rote memorization at that point. It’s finding that middle ground where that energy comes from. It’s something you kind of just know where it is when you see it.
What’s the writing process like for you two?
This record by itself, I typically bring the songs to Matt most of the way written, and then from there he writes all of his own drum parts, sometimes with suggestions from me, but really I mean, just listen to him, that guy’s an expert at what he’s doing. Then we just kind of jam it out until it gets all buffed and shiny and polished, or close enough at least, and we just go from there. Usually lyrics will come afterwards. I’ll have a single melody or a certain set of lies that might come in as a chorus, even just like a set of words that sound interesting together, and from there we’ll figure out the finer details on what the lyrics are. It’s weird, I do have points where I have an idea for a song, write everything out for it, all the parts, all the lyrics, everything, but the actual meaning of the song comes later somehow. I hope I’m not the only one that happens to, I doubt it, but it’s definitely something that’s happened a few times, especially with this record.
How do you feel your music has evolved since the last release?
Outward in all directions is the phrase that we keep using. Just kind of elevating it out of straight garage music and into the future [laughs].
Have you been playing them live yet?
There’s a lot of them we have been playing live. There’s one that we haven’t done since last year’s Little Econ Fest, we did it once. That song is not easy. We have a significant revision of the recorded version that we eventually got down, but that’s the only one we haven’t been playing in our set.
Are you going to do that one Thursday?
Not Thursday, but we’re probably going to do that one for the release show. We’re actually working to have another EP released much much sooner rather than later, hopefully have another released before the end of the year.
Let’s end this on a real easy one: What’s your favorite thing about your band?
Huh… I guess the fact that we’ve been working on honing everything we have into a lethal sort of weapon, and it’s actually starting to work. We show up at the venue, and you look at us, and it’s like who the fuck are these guys? They look like goofballs. And we just show up and we just try to kill everyone, sonically that is. That’s one of my favorite parts of it, tripping people up in that way, that’s always a fun one. And just making people move. At the end of the day, no matter what I ever do as a musician, it’s always going to come back to that. I like that connection and that kinetic energy to be going in the crowd and in us. If it’s not doing anything for you even like as far as just causing your toes to tap, then I don’t know what it’s there for.