Friday, March 10, 2017

ULTRA INTERVIEW:
THE WELL!!

Lisa Alley (bass & vocals), Ian Graham (guitar & vocals) and Jason Sullivan (drums) of  heavy psych heavyweights The Well were kind enough to put quality time into answering some questions for me this week, and here's how it went down:


Ultra: First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate the Bandcamp site and interface.  I find listeners who like the same bands as me, follow them, and get e-mails when they buy new stuff.  Then I find bands like The Well, who simply blew me away with your inspired songwriting, distinctive harmonizations and truly unique sound.  The three of you are so tasteful in what you play, to an extent that my words can’t possibly convey.  

Ultra: The cover art is striking.  I see in my CD jacket that the artist is Adam Hunter Caldwell.  How did you come to find him, and what meaning does the album art have for you?

Lisa: The art is sourced similarly to how you discovered our band, actually, through social media. Our label, Riding Easy Records, found both Adam Hunter Caldwell’s painting and the art for Samsara (by Abbey Watkins) via instagram. The art gives an element of mystery with the title, Pagan Science, juxtaposed with such an image. There’s an obvious religious connotation with the halo, but a mask, a plastic film, distorting it, leaving room for ambiguity. 

Ultra: Where was the sound clip “Forecast” about Pagan Science/Pagan Technology taken from? 

Ian: That was Dr. Timothy Leary speaking in a lecture that I happened upon online. It was regarding unpopular and persecuted ideas and/or sciences that was akin to what happened during the crusades, when knowledge was pushed back by pious moralism - which to a certain degree this is still happening. Illegal ideas. 

Ultra: Do any of you practice paganism?

Ian: I respect ritual in various forms. I have practiced paganism and/or witchcraft, in my younger years, which definitely left a lasting impact on my personality. I now consider myself an agnostics agnostic, because I barely believe the bullshit that goes on in my head, let alone other peoples, so it’s hard to subscribe to any particular sect. Though, I do value meditation. 

Ultra: You clearly put more thought into your lyrics than almost everybody.  Who writes most of the lyrics, and were you considered a good writer in school?  

Ian: I do. Was I a good writer in school? I used to write a lot of poetry when I was a kid and I’d give it to girls and they seemed to like it. But I dropped out of school in 9th grade. Didn’t stop reading though! 

Ultra: I have to know:  What were some of the first rock bands you ever listened to, and how have your tastes evolved to the current day?

Ian: My dad was a metal drummer, so I don’t remember not listening to metal in the 80s. My first favorite band was Twisted Sister, and Black Sabbath… Motley Crue… normal boiler plate metal stuff. Then I got into punk rock and decided everything else sucked. Except Sabbath… Sabbath was the only constant. 

Jason: My first rock bands were sourced from my dad too - Pink Floyd, Sabbath. My tastes have fluctuated over the years, but I find myself returning to the staples through my youth… right now I’m listening to a lot of Type O Negative. 

 Lisa: Yeah, my firsts were similar… Pink Floyd especially. While I’ll always stay there, I’ve also found myself in recent years going beyond what I knew as a kid, mainly geographically. I’ve been into a lot of international blues and psych… Ali Farka Toure, Erkin Koray, Tinariwen… 

Ultra: What was the first rock concert you ever saw, and what was the best one you’ve ever been to?

Jason: First was Korn and Stained. Ha! 

Ian: I’m going to show how old I am here. My first was Great White, Tesla, and Badlands at the state fair in Ducoin, IL. Granted, I was nine years old. 

Lisa: Mine kinda dates me as well. My first rock show was the Strokes at the old, still grimy, Austin Music Hall.

Jason: Best I ever saw was Gogol Bordello on my birthday; they let me backstage and I got to hang out with Eugene.

Ian: Seeing Nirvana on the day Frank Zappa died was probably the best show I’ve ever seen. They were doing acoustic Frank Zappa covers and they played for around 2 1/2 hours. Shonen Knife and the Breeders opened for them. It was insane. 

Lisa: I think my favorite show was seeing Om a few years ago at Rubber Gloves in Denton. They turned down the lights to where the small room was pitch black and the packed in crowd was silent, reverent, for their whole set. It was a very communal, almost spiritual experience. 

Ultra: Lisa, how old were you when you first played bass?

 Lisa: Ha! Well, I was 22 years old. It was just before we started The Well. Ian had been kicked out of his previous band for being, “reclusive and despondent.” I got him whiskey drunk to try to lift his spirits. After many hours of consolation, he had the grand idea that we just start our own band. It started that night with me on bass and him on guitar. I’d played guitar before, but that was the first time with the bass and it was a seamless transition. 

Ultra: Playing in a rock band is far more common for males than females.  I am curious as to whether playing rock made you more popular with your girlfriends or distanced you from them and caused you to have more male friends.   

Lisa: I think if you commit yourself to anything, it’s inevitable that some friendships will suffer. So yeah, when we began The Well and realized quickly that this wasn’t just going to be some weekend hobby, I was slightly distanced from my female friendships that had since held a large placeholder in my social life. I’d definitely say that I’ve made closer friendships with a lot of guys as a result of the band, particularly through tour, since you’re essentially thrown together with likeminded people who have similarly forsaken the straight life for their art. I’ve also met a lot of badass women through the band - other musicians, artists, promoters, and fans. They might not be as frequent, but when I do come across women in the industry, there is almost always an instant connection, a camaraderie. 

Ultra: If the only thing you could listen to this week was a playlist of five albums, what albums would you pick?

Ian: Acid King, Busse Woods; Burning Spear, Garvey’s Ghost; Celtic Frost, To Mega Therion; Butthole Surfers, Independent Worm Saloon; and any random Grateful Dead bootleg from the late 70s 

Lisa: Erkin Koray, Elektronik Turkuler; Tinariwen, Emmaar; Om, Adviatic Songs; Neil Young, After the Gold Rush; Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin 

 Jason: B.R.M.C, Howl; Pink Floyd, Saucer Full of Secrets;  White Stripes, White Blood Cells; Wu Tang Clan, Enter the Wu Tang; Flaming Lips, In a Priest Driven Ambulance

Ultra: Are you able to make The Well your full time job, or do the three of you have side jobs as well?

Ian: Side jobs, fuck. I work at one of the worlds largest video rental stores, I luv Video. I’m basically a librarian. 

Lisa: Yeah, I work as a barista and pick up at Waterloo Records here and there. 

 Jason: I’m a cook at a local Austin restaurant. We’re ready for The Well to be full time though!

Ultra:Do any of you have children, and if so, do they enjoy listening to you play?

Dogs? 

Ultra:Will you be touring in Massachusetts or Rhode Island any time this year?

 Not specifically, but we’re playing Maryland Doom Fest and around New England in June. 

Ultra: I consider it an honor to have gotten to interview one of my new favorite bands, and I appreciate you taking the time for this.  I am guessing it will take a couple of years, but can’t wait to hear your next album when the day comes.  I am going to do my best to spread the word about The Well in the meantime.  I wish you the best of luck and lots of success in 2017.    

The Well gave me my a great interview, and their sincerity shows just as much in their responses as it does in their music.  If you have not done so, check out The Well here.  If you have appreciated any of my recommendations over the years, understand that this band is in the stratosphere of my recommendations to you, and I am confident if you give Samsara and Pagan Science a listen, you will want to own them just like I did.  Thanks for reading, catch you next weekend with something new.  
-ULTRA

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