After returning from a triumphant European tour in 2011, Massachusetts doom trio Black Pyramid set about making the follow-up to their excellent 2009 self-titled MeteorCity debut. The album that ensued, II, was recorded by drummer Clay Neely, and would wind up the final statement of that incarnation of the band. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Beresky quit under puzzling circumstances and went on a months-long campaign of trying to discredit his former bandmates, Neely and bassist Gein, that seemed to abate only after he got bored and moved onto something else.
In terms of moving on, though, Neely and Gein won out. The two recruited Milligram guitarist Darryl Shepard (also of Blackwolfgoat) to fill the vocalist/six-stringer position and almost immediately set about writing new material. With the range of experience Shepard brings to the band, their next release could take them anywhere stylistically, but in talking to Neely, I wanted to get a sense first of understanding where II sits in his mind and what the record means to him in light of what took place after it was finished. The resulting Q&A you’ll find below.
When did you know you’d keep the band going after Andy left?
I guess it was really just a matter of a couple weeks. We just chose to sit on it, because we were basically waiting to see how long the shitstorm would last, to be honest. When it appeared like it was just not gonna end, we started talking to Dan [Beland, MeteorCity owner], and we were like, “Look. We don’t want to fan the flames here or anything to make matters worse, but we just thought because of the circumstances surrounding everything, we’re gonna keep the band going.” We just didn’t want to add more gas to the fire.
How did Darryl enter the picture?
He actually sent a private message on Facebook or something saying hey, asking what was going on, offering condolences and seeing if we ever wanted to jam. He never implied he wanted to be in the band at all—he just wanted to see if maybe we wanted to get together at some point and work on some stuff.
That’s when I just countered it and said, “Would you be open to playing with us?” And he was really open to it and said, “Yeah, it’s worth a shot. Let’s give it a go.” We had a practice, and all the systems were go. It was really nice. Really relaxed and laid back, and it felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off our shoulders. The light at the end of the tunnel and all that other good stuff.
Have you heard from Andy at all? Do you have any sense of what happened there?
Yeah, I talked to him a couple times. When everything first happened, he sent out a letter to both me and Gein, saying he was tired of the industry and this, that and the other, and that he was going to go with his fiancée and live with his mom out in Belchertown, which is kind of far from here, and just retire from music.
And we were just kind of like, “Okay…” All the gear was at the practice space, so I went and got all that stuff and kept it up at my studio, and basically I didn’t hear from him too much between the last couple months, except for just trying to orchestrate a time for him to get the gear.
He doesn’t have a car, and to make a long, boring story short, yeah, I’ve talked to him a couple times. He seems okay, but you know, he even said it himself. I said, “I kind of miss talking to the guy I used to be in the van with,” and he said, “Well, he doesn’t exist anymore. I’m a different person now, so there’s no reason to think you could ever speak to that person again.” Just really weird, cryptic stuff like that, and I was like, “Okay, good luck with that” (laughs).
Sure, I’ve talked to him a couple times, but it’s just basically email trying to tie up loose ends in terms of getting his gear and wanting to donate or give it away. Now he’s selling it. I don’t know what’s going on.
How is the writing going with Darryl?
Really smooth. Like I said, there’s way less tension in the air, and so there’s a lot more ideas that are being thrown around, and things just seem a little bit lighter. The sound is relatively the same. Darryl’s got his own style, so he’s not going to be the mirror image or anything.
We’re really psyched with the way the vocals are going and the way Darryl’s interpreted the older songs on guitar. They sound great. Basically it took three practices and we probably could’ve gone out and played a 20 or 30-minute set.
He learned the stuff really, really quick, and that really was helpful because it gave us all a lot of extra time to start working on new stuff, which is where we are now. I was really grateful we were able to get the old set knocked out in such a timely fashion.
Writing with him is great because I’m such a huge fan of Blackwolfgoat and I’m trying to get him to incorporate aspects of that into the new stuff as well. We’ve only had three practices and he’s come out to the studio just to jam and work out some ideas, and it’s been super-positive and great. I’m really glad it all kind of worked out.
Black Pyramid is no stranger to the 7”. Will do guys do singles to set the ground for the next EP or album?
That’s what we’re trying to get knocked out. Right now all we need to do basically is track the bass and the vocals for the 7” that we’re gonna be doing in March. It’s a split 7”. So that’s cool to have.
We’re chomping at the bit to get that out. Can’t wait. But also, we’re aiming to have—hopefully, if it all works out—at least an EP by summer or by the end of the year. We’re writing pretty quick. Things are coming out pretty fast and furious, and it’s nice.
It’s pretty cool that there’s no weird writer’s block or “What do we do now?” sort of stuff. Everything’s just kind of continuing. In fact, I think we’re doing a little better lately as far as the writing than the last couple months with the old lineup. Things are a lot more fun now, that’s for sure.
The tension’s just gone, and it’s just more open. You know how Darryl is (laughs). It’s just so much more fun, and that has a lot to do with it. No one is feeling uptight about having to defend their ideas or anything. It’s just like, “You like this? Cool. Right on.”
Same kind of principle that we’ve always used, we just don’t have to be as defensive about it (laughs). It’s nice.
How did Desertfest come about?
I just got an email asking if we’d like to play. It was around the time that we still were unsure about acknowledging our continued existence because we didn’t want to see things going the way they were, but it was around that time we said yeah. We went ahead.
That was probably early October or late September when we got the email from him. We were just like, “Absolutely. No problem.” That’s basically how it worked. That easy (laughs).
Will you do more European touring around that, or is it just there and back?
We work with Vibra Agency over in Germany, but the thing is, right now, we talked to them and we were like, “We’re going to play Desertfest, any possibility for future dates?” because last year, they were like, “We’ll take care of you in Europe,” so when we got the Desertfest, I talked to [Vibra], and was like, “Do we need to go through you with this?” and he was like, “Let me check it out. That sounds good. Okay.”
But as far as additional dates right now, they have a surplus of bands over there around April, so they’re like, “Maybe at another point, but right now there’s way too much going on.” I remember when we were over there last year, Zoroaster was over there, Graveyard.
We were basically playing the same clubs three nights before or after they were there. There’s no shortage of stoner doom over there in April, that’s for sure. Everyone’s trying to piggyback dates on top of Roadburn or Desertfest or whathaveyou. This year, we might get to squeeze in an extra date in Holland with Roadsaw. We don’t know yet. It’s still kind of up in the air.
Any chance of touring in the US?
Yeah, we’re kicking around a possible tour right now with Backwoods Payback and Order Of The Owl in late March. It’d just be a little five-day run from Atlanta up to New York. We’re trying to see how the numbers would work on that.
If we don’t lose money, then we’re totally down with doing it. That’s currently on our radar. That and it would help in getting ready for Europe and whatnot. Oh, and King Giant, too. They’d be on the lineup. So it would be us, Backwoods, Order Of The Owl and King Giant. It would only be five dates in March.
Black Pyramid’s II is available now on MeteorCity. For more info, check out meteorcity.com.
JJ Koczan’s bruises are still healing from listening to this record. Send your wishes for a speedy recovery to email@example.com.