Led by vocalist T-Roy Medlin for 18 years and counting, North Carolina’s Sourvein are among the most abrasive sludge outfits walking the Earth today. Constant touring and a line of EP and split releases has led to a growing influence on a new generation of upstarts in the capital-S South and beyond, but their new opus, Black Fangs, is their first full-length in nine years since 2002’s Will To Mangle.
Sourvein has had a rotating cast of characters around Medlin over the course of its existence (Dave Sherman from Earthride filled in on bass during a couple recent tours), but seems to have settled for the moment on guitarist “King” James Haun, bassist Ahmasi O’Daniel and drummer Jeffrie “Kong” Moen. Medlin, who’s already hit the road with this lineup to support Black Fangs, recently took a call for the following interview:
Would you be interested at this point in having a set lineup for Sourvein, or do you like having people come and go?
It brings something different to it each time, these two guys have been in it since Halloween, or last summer for James, and I like what’s going on with them and I hope that it works out for everything for them to stick around, those two guys. The lineup thing, it’s obvious.
This is my baby and my band from the early ‘90s, and it just really boils down to who can tour and who can stick with it. Things change and life throws people different curveballs and shit—myself as well—and then also different members have different obligations and stuff like that. A lot of lineup changes have just been from that.
I said it back then, we’re no different than Queens Of The Stone Age, Crowbar, Megadeth, Nachtmystium or whatever. My focused thing, and whoever can tour and commit to it. In the past, there’s been fill-in guys, and it’s seemed like, “Oh yeah, that guy’s in the band, now he’s not,” but they were actually filling in. They weren’t ever supposed to be in the band.
But like I said, I dig what I’ve got going on now. We’re looking for a permanent bass player, but until that guy comes and proves himself, I’ve got some people to do it.
Were the songs on Black Fangs all written since last summer?
I’ve been working on the album for over two years. I had some setbacks and stuff. My mother passed away and that really threw a curveball on me and I wasn’t able to get in the studio like was planned, and once again, if I had time to go in the studio and someone didn’t, it was stuff like that.
Me and James wrote a lot of stuff together, and then James brought some songs in. James actually brought in “Night Eyes,” the music for that. So yeah, it’s been written since ’09. Been working on it since then.
I know you did the trilogy of EPs and a bunch of splits, but was there something different about this material that made you want to go the full-length route with it, as opposed to splitting it up over different releases?
Nah. The reason I did the splits and the EP thing was I thought the EPs would be a cool idea and it was like the way I was able to record between—I was touring like a madman at the time, so it was a way to still be recording but still be touring and that and everything. In the in-between time of the full-length to this full-length, the band hadn’t stopped doing anything.
We’ve been recording and touring nonstop the whole time, nine years or whatever. Just waiting on the right label, really, to put out the full-length. We ain’t just gonna put out a full-length just to do it, and it not get distributed or promoted. Plus, I like to give it time for a full-length to live it out and everything’s really personal, the lyrics and everything, and I like to let it become its own thing before just throwing a full-length out there. I was waiting on the right label, really, to do the proper full-length. Candlelight came along and here we are.
How has it been working with Candlelight?
It’s good, yeah. We’re stoked to be with them.
You said King James brought in some of the music for the songs. What’s your writing process like at this point?
I write riffs. I come up with parts and breakdowns and stuff like that and I contribute that. And I kind of choreograph a lot of the songs with the players. They bring something in and we shape it together. But I’m constantly bringing riffs in.
The main riff on “Fangs,” the main riff on “Gemini,” that’s stuff that I do. Just worked together. He brings stuff in, I bring stuff in. But to shape it so I can sing to it as well. Arranging it.
What keeps you going after 18 years in the band?
I’ve been doing this since high school. I’m a lifer at this. Even without that word, it’s painted. This is all I know. I’ve been doing this since payphones and book your own life. House parties and shit. It just all kind of evolved on me. I was cruising along, just being in a band, and next thing you know, we’re here, we’re there, I’m moving to L.A.
Next thing you know, it’s been eight years and it’s one of those things. You brought it this far, let’s keep going. Now, I turned around like two years ago, “Damn, fuckin’ 15 years. Can’t quit now.” I’m gonna ride it till the wheels fall off, basically. Do it as long as I can do it.
I don’t want to be a dude that’s 50, 60 years old. I don’t want to be playing some basements when I’m 50 years old, 60 years old, but if that’s where I’m at at the time, I probably will (laughs).
I just love playing music, man, and I love creating new stuff and playing live and recording. I love it all. It’s what I’ve been doing. It’s what I know, and I feel that after the years, I’m just finally getting to have the wisdom and stuff that comes with being in it for years.
My next album, it’ll be the one that I can really put some wisdom into, some focus into, use all the albums that I’ve done, the experience, and come in and be more on point. After having the experience of all the albums I’ve done, and this album, Black Fangs. I learned a lot from it, and I think I can build from that.
How do you mean?
From recording this? I just learned more about even my vocals. I’m more on point. I kind of go about it a different way. I don’t drink as much as I used to, at all really. When I play live, I drink a little bit, but I don’t really look at partying anymore and stuff like that. And like we were talking about, my riffs and stuff like that, and even helping arrange stuff, just being more on point. I’ve learned through that process a way to do it.
What’s next for recording? It’s never really long until the next Sourvein release is out.
This time, people are like, “Well, it took nine years,” but we don’t look at it like that. It took nine years to find the right label. It took nine years to do a record that would count. Once again, to throw a full-length out there on so-and-so buddy’s label, just to have it sit. I want everyone to get it, and we had to find the right label to do that.
I’ve already got a few songs working for the new record, and James has a few as well, so there’s already four in the mix that’re gonna be ready for demoing after this tour.
I’m hoping to have the new record recorded by March of 2012. I’m working on it right now. I was working on it this morning. Both records were in the mix. I was working on one thing, Black Fangs, and some of the songs I was doing were becoming something different. I wanted to save those for this other record that had a theme to it and stuff, just sounding more like that stuff.
There was some stuff that was on the backburner from working on Black Fangs songs, so I was able to get a head start this time, and like I said, I’m more focused now and really inspired. I was working on it today, so there’ll be a new record following this record. I’m looking forward to that as well, but right now I’m just promoting Black Fangs and trying to get on the road.
Black Fangs is available now on Candlelight Records. Find Sourvein on Facebook for more info.
JJ Koczan is also gonna ride this thing until the wheels fall off. firstname.lastname@example.org.