One of the more exciting aspects of being a fan of any type of music is finding a band that intrigues you and following their artistic growth as time goes on. Not every band does this, by the way, which is fine. The ones that do are the special ones, and each time they deliver a new chapter, it’s exciting tearing it open to see what’s contained inside.
It was a fast turnaround for Spirit Adrift from their debut “Chained to Oblivion” (released August of 2016 and our No. 3 album of last year) and their sophomore effort “Cursed by Conception,” but in those 14 months, a tremendous amount of growth took place. First, the band once helmed solely by vocalist/guitarist Nate Garrett morphed into a proper four piece that now includes guitarist Jeff Owens, bassist Chase Mason, and drummer Marcus Bryant. Also, as Garrett will tell you below, he wasn’t satisfied with treading water and wanted to push the band further. You can hear that on this eight-track, 47-minute collection that pushed their doom base to include thrash and classic metal, proving Spirit Adrift have a ton of tricks up their sleeves, and we may only be seeing the beginning. It’s a record that, while I was instantly engaged first time I heard it, I had to visit over and over to investigate all the ripples and waves contained within. After full absorption, it’s a record that bleeds heavy metal glory, a throwback to the genre’s more formative days but also one steeped in the present. This is a band you need to hear, no matter what style of metal is your favorite.
Garrett was kind enough to answer our questions about the record and the band, and he’s very generous with his takes on the artistic growth of the group, how he digs for darkness now that he’s survived great tribulations in his life, and what they have in store for what’s looking like a major 2018. Thanks again to Garrett for his time and for the band for continually upping the ante. (Oct. 6)
MEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “Curse of Conception” as one of our top 5 favorite metal records of the year. It’s a real growth spurt from “Chained to Oblivion,” which isn’t that old of an album. Do you feel the band has progressed quickly on this album?
NATE GARRETT: I think the main reason for the change in sound was my unwillingness to be bored. There were a lot of self-imposed goals, some that even bordered on restrictions, and that affected the way I approached writing the album. But yeah, the bottom line is I felt like it would be boring to everyone, especially to me, if I put out an album that sounded like the last one.
MMM: You’re also operating as a full band now and not just on your own. How did that make a difference with writing the record and recording (I assume it was a group effort, but correct me if I’m wrong), and how has the band grown in the live setting?
NG: “Curse of Conception” was written and demoed pretty much the same way as the previous releases, but this time I did have some input and guidance from the other guys during the writing process. I tried to keep in mind that we would be playing the songs live, and I attempted to rein in some of the ambitiousness. “Tried” being the operative word. The end result was just as complex and layered as the previous stuff, so we had to tweak and rework some parts so that they would be just as compelling in a live setting. That’s exciting to me though. Now the album and the live performance are two unique experiences. The recording process was more fun this time around, I think because there were more people there with an investment in the finished product. It was a lot of work though, and there were still moments that had me questioning my sanity. Anything worth doing is going to be hard work. As far as the band in a live setting goes, we’ve definitely hit a stride that brought with it a ton of confidence and energy. The last couple of shows we played just felt right. We felt the power for sure. We’re dying to get on tour.
MMM: “Curse of Conception,” the idea of life being a burden thrust upon us, isn’t the cheeriest of topics. How did you come to this line of thinking for the record? For music that doesn’t sound down or depressing, this is a concept that kind of hides beneath all of that.
NG: The better my life gets, the more I question my ability to conjure the kind of primal, emotionally brutal lyrics that Spirit Adrift thrives and depends upon. There was a time in my life when I wanted to die every day. It’s easy to write lyrics for a doom metal band when you’re in that state of mind. Now that I’m in a much better place, I sometimes worry that the lyrics will be contrived or not quite as potent as they once were. The solution, I realized, is to make a concerted effort to dig deep into the worst parts of my past, and the most troubling thoughts and feelings in my mind. “Curse of Conception” is the most personal album I’ve ever made. It’s all veiled in metaphor, but the real stories behind each song are things that I won’t talk about at all in my personal life. That honesty and genuine pain is crucial if you’re trying to make art that resonates with people on a profound level.
MMM: Vocally, you also sound almost like a different person here. There is more variety to your tones and approaches, almost as if you’re operating somewhere between Ozzy and James Hetfield. Is this just a natural progression, or is this something you’d been working on?
NG: The human voice fascinates me. We all only have so much control over it. Then things happen as we age, all sorts of physical changes that have a direct impact on how the voice sounds. When I did the early Spirit Adrift stuff, nobody knew it was me, and I was trying to sound like someone else. That was a conscious decision. I approached it as if I was becoming a character for a movie or play or something. On “Curse of Conception.” I just wanted to be me. I wanted it to be totally pure. It makes sense that I would sound like some sort of Ozzy/Papa Het hybrid, because Black Sabbath and Metallica were the bands that made me fall in love with heavy metal. It’s quite a compliment to be mentioned alongside those guys, so thank you.
MMM: You made the jump to 20 Buck Spin for this album. How it’s been working with them?
NG: 20 Buck Spin is one of my favorite labels of all time, and it has been ever since I became aware of it, around the time of the first Samothrace album or Kylesa’s “Static Tensions.” There was a moment sometime last year when I said to my wife, “it would be great if Spirit Adrift was on 20 Buck Spin,” and looking back, I think I worked toward manifesting that into reality from that point forward. I feel like Dave (Adelson) and I have a lot in common. His work ethic and obsessive drive are extraordinary. I get this sense that we’re both trying to take over the world, and it consumes us 24/7. He’s a bad ass on the business side of things, and a great friend. Plus, he’s a huge MMA fan, and I don’t have nearly enough friends that I can talk to about that stuff. Respect and love all around.
MMM: The reaction to this record has been very positive, as the album is popping up on a lot of other year-end lists in other spots. Is that something that signals verification to you? Do you not pay attention to that? Something in the middle?
NG: As much as I strive to make music that is pure and unaffected by anyone’s opinion of it, I’m still human. So yeah, it feels good for the hard work to be validated and appreciated. I find that the more successful Spirit Adrift becomes, the less I give a shit about outside opinions, specifically negative opinions. What means the most to me is when someone comes up to me at a show and says something like, “This album helped me deal with my father’s death,” or, “Your music saved my life.” Those moments embody the entire reason why I’m doing this. Music saved my life too, and if I can pay that forward and keep the flow going, that’s the greatest feeling there is. So, if this album resonates with you and makes you feel something, thank you. I’m doing this because of you.
MMML Looks like 2018 is going to be a big year. You have the Decibel beer fest and Migration Fest, which will be huge. Are you pumped about those shows? What else do you have planned?
NG: I’m definitely ready as hell to play live next year. I’m chomping at the bit to get in some people’s faces and show them that we’re a force to be reckoned with. That sounds brash or whatever, but it’s true. I can’t wait. We have a lot of major plans for next year. It’s all being finalized, and I can’t get into specifics, but suffice to say we’ll be playing quite a few shows in 2018. Oh, we just announced a headlining show at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on January 26, so there’s that. Let me also just say Spirit Adrift isn’t some solo project with random side musicians. It’s a real-deal fucking BAND comprised of four unique, intense individuals. That makes for some magic in the live setting. Come see for yourself.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift
To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/20bs-vinyl
For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/