Concert preview: All Them Witches bring still-evolving Dying Surfer Meets His Maker to Ace of Cups
Some musicians view an album as the final stop in a song's evolutionary process, polishing tracks to a mirrored shine before laying the final version to tape. Others, like All Them Witches, approach the finished recording as merely one stage in a song's existence - a snapshot in an ongoing life cycle, something akin to baby photos.
"With the albums, people can kind of see the very beginnings of songs, where we're still sort of working them out," said singer/bassist Michael Parks, Jr., who joins guitarist Ben McLeod, drummer Robby Staebler and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave for a concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, Dec. 16. "Then we get the idea out there on the road in live shows, and it changes so much. A lot of songs we play now off the first and second record don't sound anything like the album versions."
As a result, recording sessions tend to last days rather than weeks; the Nashville-based, cosmic Southern rock quartet spent all of five days tracking its latest effort,Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, for example.
Regardless, the music itself exhibits startling patience, and throughout the album, the bandmates shift effortlessly between coarser, guitar-driven outbursts and comparatively airy passages, like river rafters navigating churning rapids before settling back into calmer waters.
According to Parks, this chemistry, further deepened by extensive time on the road, has been a steady presence in the band dating back to its 2011 formation.
"We have such respect for each other as musicians, and nobody ever feels in control, I suppose, in an overbearing sort of way," said Parks, 26, who first picked up a guitar at 8 years old, inspired by his father, a longtime touring bassist and recording engineer. "There's no boss, and no one is trying to be the leader, so anyone can take the lead when it sort of needs to be their turn. I think of it as juggling, and when it's time, you pass the ball to somebody else."
Lyrically, however, Parks does a bulk of the heavy lifting, penning mystic, ominous tunes that occasionally come on like text lifted from the Dead Sea Scrolls, awash in mentions of talismans, rituals, saints and shadowy religious idols.
"It's easy to pull inspiration from [spiritual texts]; people have been doing it for thousands of years," said Parks, who, while not from a strict religious household, did receive early exposure to the church attending Methodist services with his family while growing up in New Mexico. Besides, biblical themes like plagues, pestilence and retribution tend to make for more fertile writing ground, in Park's estimation.
"I don't write very many goofy songs; I have trouble writing light and airy," he said. "The dark stuff just comes more naturally to me, I guess."
Ace of Cups
8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16
2619 N. High St., Old North
ALSO PLAYING: New Madrid