Horns of the Headless more than just another metal band

Derek Harvey, Blake Womack, Mike Walls and Sara Washington, from left, make up Horns of the Headless.

Derek Harvey, Blake Womack, Mike Walls and Sara Washington, from left, make up Horns of the Headless.

Knoxville heavy rock outfit Horns of the Headless has been in the works for four years but only recently solidified its roster. After revamping its lineup, the reinvigorated act looks to record its first official release on Dec. 22.

When founding members, guitarist Blake Womack and vocalist Mike Walls, parted ways with the band's rhythm section after its first gig, Horns of the Headless was nearly a failure to launch. A discouraged Womack was convinced to keep the act alive by the resilient Walls, and replacements were found in drummer Derek Harvey (also of Pick Up the Snake and Skeyebone) and bassist Duane Turnbill. Upon Turnbill's departure in September, the act was once again left with a vacancy that it quickly filled with an enthusiastic Sara Washington (of the currently shelved Lost Holiday), who had long been a follower of the band. This latest addition has revived the band's passion and caused an objective re-examination of its early material.

"We got sick of the cookie-cutter rock and roll that was on the radio in those days, and we decided to make our own music," says Womack of the band's formative years. "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. The band name came about to keep a sense of humor. Horns of the Headless started out as a funny name, and it just stuck. We like to keep a sense of humor in this crazy business."

"We've grown as a band," says Walls on the band's development. "We're writing new songs together, so the new stuff is a result of a full band input, as opposed to the older songs, which were the brainchildren of a couple of members. The result is that there's less pressure on Blake to write everything. ... With the addition of Sara, we became reacquainted with the songs as Sara was learning them. It made us take a fresh look at songs that we had been playing for a bit."

Although heavy, the band is adamant that its style is not metal, citing Walls' clear and melodic vocals. Influenced by bands such as Motorhead, Horns of the Headless is self-described as a hybrid of thrash and punk. As such, the act is subject to the recurring problem of a lack of diverse local venues catering to heavier rock styles. With the loss of hubs like The Corner Lounge and more recently The Ciderhouse, raucous, high-energy shows are down to but a few outlets. HotH hopes fans and venues alike will see the distinction in its style and recognize its broader accessibility versus the guttural growling and screaming of traditional metal acts with which it is often grouped.

"Our music is a little heavier than a lot of bands who play at most downtown venues," Womack admits. "As a result, it's not going to be as accessible as music that's not as loud, (but) the melodic nature of our music reaches people who normally wouldn't get into the heavier stuff. ... Our tightness and speed set us apart. Just because we play heavy rock, we get lumped in with a lot of metal bands. We're faster than we are heavy."

"The music and the live show are very energetic," adds Washington. "We aren't a heavy metal band by any means — not that there's anything wrong with that. We have elements of speed, punk, thrash, whatever, but we're not confined to any of those genres. We play hard rock with a punk feel. As a fan, I loved to go see HotH because the show would take away my everyday concerns and put me in a happy place. Now that I'm a member, it's important to me to do our best for our paying audiences. We feel a responsibility to produce a fun atmosphere where our audience can let loose and enjoy themselves.

"Tim Lee 3 and The Theorizt recently had a show at The Well and called it 'The Blender,' since there was hip-hop and rock on the same bill. The result was very successful — each band has its own audience, and this was a chance to introduce each audience to a local band they might not have otherwise sought out."

Assuming the Mayan prophesied apocalypse scheduled for Dec. 21 turns out to be a dud, Horns of the Headless will take new material into Soundtrack Black Studio on Dec. 22. The recording effort, overseen by Joel Stooksbury, will result in a free digital release the band expects to be ready by February 2013.

"We're going to do it old school," explains Womack. "We'll go into the studio, warm up and then push record and play. We want to capture the energy that is generated when we all play together as opposed to recording each instrument at a time. It was good enough for the Beatles, so we're going to try it. ... The goal of the next recording session isn't necessarily to release the songs on a physical product. This will be to put some songs on the Internet so people can get to know us. We're not sure about releasing the songs in a physical format yet. We'd just like a few more songs to put out online that will be downloadable for free. We want to be able to offer something to get our name out there."

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Horns of the Headless

With: Luminoth and Signs of Life

When: 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14

Where: The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike

Cost: $5

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