Knoxville-based metal quartet Wampus Cat serves up family-style doom, but the band's foreboding, mystical fixations belie the sense of humor and friendship that keep the group tightly knit despite its long-distance correspondence.
Founded by husband-and-wife duo Andrew (drums, vocals) and Courtney Bryant (bass) and Jordan Sangid (guitar, vocals) — the fiance of Andrew's sister — the project began as a family pastime and an outlet for the group's affinity for local folklore, horror films, cryptozoology and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In recording its debut release in correspondence with Bill Bridges, current resident of Virginia and longtime friend of Sangid, the band soon adopted Bridges (guitar, samples) as a fourth member. The doom-metal sounds of Wampus Cat are a surprising output for the group, whose members' resumes include previous affiliations with ska and Southern rock/blues acts.
"Playing ska and playing doom metal are completely different, but both are so anti-mainstream, which is what appealed most to me," Sangid explains. "But the reason that I became involved with Andrew and Courtney was that I was dating my fiancée and Andrew's sister Jenny. So it started as a family band — just something to do, just like the Manson Family Band. Bill played saxophone with me in The Hits, and before that he has always been one my best friends, so it seemed appropriate to have him in the band, keeping with the family band theme we started. The only elements that I'd say carried from The Hits to Wampus Cat are the linear song progressions where parts don't repeat and we stay away from the whole verse-chorus-verse-chorus mold. This sets us apart from a lot of doom and stoner metal bands. We are all about riffs and being evil, and that is the most important thing we are trying to get across."
The long-distance songwriting exchange with Bridges has not been detrimental to the sample-heavy act, which is currently compiling its sophomore release. A la Postal Service, Wampus Cat trades riffs back and forth, digitally layering its tracks for Bridges to ultimately mix and produce. As such, the band anticipates a quick turnaround for its next full-length album, but the distance has delayed the act's live offerings as Wampus Cat can only perform when Bridges is in town.
"The addition of Bill has given the band a thicker, heavier sound and another input for song creation," says Andrew Bryant. "We don't perform without Bill now that he is living Northern Virginia, and we have to make the most out of the rehearsal and performance time that we have. It has been refreshing to take more time between live shows, and it really gives us a chance to work on making the performances more unique. I think that some bands that play too much locally can sometimes wear out their welcome. We want to make sure that our crowds continue to come out each and every time we play and for the numbers to increase as the word spreads about what goes on when we take the stage."
"Lately we have been trading riffs over email," Sangid adds. "Some immediate benefits of this style have been automatic cataloging of heavy riffs in my inbox. The main disadvantage has been the delay of responses, which slows down the collaboration."
Despite the perceived difficulty of communicating ideas across state lines, Wampus Cat shows no signs of slowing or stopping. Ironically, the macabre, evil-themed band ensures the members' continued friendship and familial bonds.
"As a band we simply want to continue hanging with each other and enjoying one another's company," asserts Sangid. "The band started out as a way to pass time and get some much needed rock 'n' roll into our lives. I've seen in other bands how it seems the band sometimes gets in the way of friendships and other relationships, so it has been our goal since day one to just use the band as a tool to tighten our relationships with each other, and that is the way we are going to keep it. I'd like to think that our lack of seriousness and humor pervades our sound, and that is what some people that come to our shows and listen to our music will understand."
Thursday night (Dec. 27), Wampus Cat joins Ebony Eyes, Yak Strangler and Sprocket Gobbler for an eclectic show at The Well. The free performance kicks off at 9 p.m.
Apropos-calypso: Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet ring in the Mayan Apocalypse at Preservation Pub Friday night. Rentfro's band plays a free gig in the Speakeasy (upstairs) at 7 p.m., with Tuatha Dea to perform in the Smokeeasy (downstairs) at 10 p.m. for $5.
With: Ebony Eyes, Yak Strangler and Sprocket Gobbler
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27
Where: The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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