Angry, cranky, weird, hard-to-pin-down music is what I think of when I imagine Missoula, MT. Maybe because Steve Albini went to highschool there, and I assume that if such a misanthropic, difficult figure formed from those surroundings, then there must be a few more like him... Or maybe it’s because of the culture fostered by the legendary beer soaked Jay's Upstairs, labels like Wantage and Eat Records, and/or the fact that Totalfest regularly houses the heavy and the rocking. Or maybe it’s simply the romantic notion that many non-Missoulians have of Missoula: a reassuringly strange town with strange people playing strange music. Whatever the case, when I hear Shramana’s music, I instantly know they’re a band from the Northwest, and when I hear they’re from Montana, well, of course, they have to be from Missoula. Here they are, answering questions we posed to them about their music, their adoptive home, and more:
Names, what you do in the band, what you do not-in-the-band:
Reggie: Reggie Herbert. I play the guitar, do lead vocals and come up with most of the material in it's skeletal form before bringing it to the group to be made into a real song. I am a student at the University of Montana, studying Theatre with emphasis on acting with a minor in Native American studies. I also work part time at the University as a lab monitor. I am an assistant music director and DJ at KBGA college radio and I also dabble in stand up comedy. I try to book/promote 6-8 shows a year and am fairly busy with plays during the school year. I also play a fair amount of DnD cause I’m cool like that.
Levi: Levi Woods. In the band I kick ass on drums, outside the band I kick ass at life.
Duane: I'm Duane Raider. I'm the current bass player on a never ending ipod shuffle list of Shramana bass players. I don't move stuff. Don't know how that happened but I'm not questioning it.
Early on, you guys were doing a hardcore punk sort of thing, with your second release, you moved into heavier territory with some sludge and metal influence, and I see that your next batch of recordings is going to vary a bit too. a.) What can listeners expect from the upcoming release, b.) when can the readers expect said release, and c.) what, if any, restrictions on future experimentation do you think you might institute?
Reggie: It started off being about skill level. We played straight up punk on the heavier/meaner side cause that’s what I liked and about all I and our bassist at the time, Caitlin, had the ability to do. We called it “Shitcore” because we knew that it really wasn’t great but we really didn’t care. It was fun and I wanted to write my own music and make it onrey. Those were the songs you hear on TOTAL SHITCORE EP. On our full length, Dreaming as Punishment, yeah, there are some heavier/sludgier songs on there, but really, it was just us experimenting with different sounds. I mean, “Petty Theft” is a straight-up hardcore track, but “Pure” is a fucking pop hit straight out of ’94. I wish I could write more of those, but I can’t. “Shitwearer” is my attempt at a deathmetal song. It’s good I didn’t keep trying to do that.
So, our next release, “Toska” will be a full length with between 5-8 tracks released hopefully this year (we’re broke). We’ll record it with House of Watts studios again cause they rule, but we’ll master it this time and we’re hoping to shop it around at some NW labels. It will be a metal album, for sure, but there are still punk/hardcore elements in there and we’re beginning to dabble with post-metal, although I know that I’m not at a high enough skill level to be able to write straight-up post anything. All that being said, everyone who reads this will just see genre terms and assume we’re snobby music assholes. Well, see, those terms help define the world we live in. It’s easier for me to tell you something is purple than “blueish-red.” So, when I say we’re dabbling in post-metal, what I mean is that I’ve been listening to a lot of Isis and stuff lately and it’s been showing up in the writing process.
Levi: The bit of our history we were trying to figure who we were with limited resources. Reggie was starting out on guitar and we had no expectations on how we wanted to establish ourselves. After getting to know our playing styles and experience, we had the opportunity to articulate how we wanted to make music. It turned out we wanted to make heavier music. Our next release will be more melodic, more heavy, more technical, more everything. More everything except guitar solos. Dammit. We’ll release it when we have universal healthcare. Also, we won’t limit experimentation cause art should have no limitations. Art and self-expression.
Duane: A) The next Shramana release is going to incorporate a lot of post-metal favor and a recording of someone being stabbed to death in the studio like on the Ohio Players release. B) Soon I hope. I mean they can expect it whenever they want you know what I'm saying? C) I'm pushing for some sludgey stoner metal stylings.
Do you have any/many non-musical influences that have helped to shape the band?
Reggie: Art is life is art is life is art is life. I guess I find truth and reality in struggle and beauty in tragedy. We don’t do no happy songs.
Levi: That depends on whether you consider dubstep music.
Duane: Comedy is a big influence on me in everything I do. Reggie and I are both amateur standups.
|"heh...With that plastic on your face, you don't even look like yourself, Duane."|
I know that at least two of you are not original Missoulians...has your time there been what you were looking for/hoping for when you moved to town?
Reggie: None of us are from Missoula originally. Yes, it has been. I very much love Missoula. I know that a lot of Billings folk think that we’re uppity or douchey here (I’m from Billings originally myself, I’m familiar with the sentiment) because of our pride in what we have here. Well, interestingly enough, in Missoula, everyone moves to Seattle or Portland and then comes back and is all snobby to us here and tells us about “how it is in the big city” and it feels the same. Missoula is a liberal oasis in Montana, maybe it’s because it’s a college town or maybe it’s a college town because it’s liberal. I don’t know, but I like it. I like the arts community here because we AREN’T a big city but the art practicioners are still so vibrant. When a mid-tier band comes to town, it’s a big fucking deal and we feel lucky and we go to their shows. For instance, we got to play with Inter Arma from Virginia and that was a huge deal for us. It was one of the best shows I’d been to and felt honored to get to play it. But in Seattle, that would be peanuts. You wouldn’t appreciate it because you could go see, I don’t know, all of your favorite bands all the time, and the remaining members of your favorite bands that aren’t all still together and trying to make money off of you (cough*FLAG*cough). So, yeah. We like Missoula.
Levi: I didn’t know what I was looking for. It has been everything I could have hoped for so far.
Duane: Oh yeah. I moved to MT from Portland, OR. when I was 19. I lived in the Flathead valley at first for a couple of years. It's good for feeling hard because you don't have to be too different to be incredibly oppressed there. And of course loud aggressive music and punk rock is born out of oppression. When I moved to Missoula it was to live in the liberal oasis of MT. The only downside is I've lost some edge by not being oppressed and mocked all the time. Also getting older. I'm the oldest guy in the band right now by like 5 years I think?
Reggie: A little less than three.
Best kept secret in MT (that you are now blowing the lid off of)?
Reggie: We’re not California. SHIT. They already figured that one out.
Levi: Umm. . .we have running water. We have internet in our backyard.
Duane: Head East from Missoula on 93 for until you come to mile marker 152 I think it is? Right on the side of the road is the best swimming hole around, Nimrod. Not a total secret, but good to know!
Traditionally, there’s readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmitic... Give us the three R’s, according to Shramana:
Reggie: Riffs, rumination and repetition
Levi: Rocking, rolling (drugs), and rippin’ ass.
Duane: Reefer, Roadhouse (with Patrick Swayze), and running naked through a field of wildflowers.
An album you own that people might be surprised to find out that you own:
Reggie: The Prodigy, “Invaders Must Die.”
Duane: Jessica Lea Mayfield's "Tell Me"
Do any of you own a truck?
Reggie: Levi acquired his back like a month ago. First vehicle that we can haul stuff with since we’ve owned since we’ve been a band (Thanks, Gaither!). Duane has a car he doesn’t drive.
Levi: Hell yes I do.
Duane: Levi does.
Would you care to help me move?
Reggie: Give me weed and give Levi gas money. Duane will supervise. Probably by asking for my weed.
Levi: Umm. . .possibly? Depends on what items.
Duane: I don't move stuff, remember?
My mom says she wants me out of the house...
Reggie: Sounds like you’re already planning on moving.
Levi: That sucks, bro.
Duane: I spent about nine months homeless in my teen years. It's good for you, builds character.
Finally, please give the readers your best words of advice:
Reggie: Everyone else has the same needs and fears as you. You can choose to be happy and do to whatever the fuck you want. No joke.
Levi: Life is like toilet paper. You’re either taking shit from some asshole, or you’re on a roll.
Duane: "When life gives you aids, make Lemonaids!" - Sarah Silverman
Did I also mention that Missoula bands tend toward having good senses of humor? Well they do. Keep checking back, there's lots more funny and reassuringly strange artists that need to be interviewed.
See you at Dreyfest!