Interview with Pallbearer: Slow Riffs On The Fast Track

Ah, doom metal. First brought on by Black Sabbath, and continued by bands like Candlemass and Saint Vitus. This subgenre is one that pays tribute to the slow, heavy riff, down-tuned guitars, and a hint of despair. Pallbearer erupted with their 2010 demo which would go on to form their critically acclaimed debut, Sorrow And Extinction, in 2012. Consisting of five tracks that total just under 49 minutes, this was a monster of a debut, and it really put the band on the grid. The music was heavy, the lyrics were smart, and the clean vocals were epic.

In May of 2013, I had the opportunity of attending Baroness’ first show back in the States since their August 2012 bus accident. The opening bands that night just so happened to be Brooklyn’s Tombs and Little Rock’s Pallbearer. When Pallbearer took the stage and started playing, I watched everyone around me perk their heads up and slowly nod their heads to the music. Not only was the band lost in the music, but the fans joined them in a set that previewed “Watcher In The Dark,” a cut from their latest release, Foundations Of Burden.

I had the chance to talk to bassist Joseph D. Rowland about the writing of that particular track and the rest of their sophomore release, selling out back-to-back shows in New York City, and what it was like working with famed producer Billy Anderson. We also discussed Animetalphysical’s album art, new gear used on the record, and what albums he has been listening to while on the road. Check out what Joseph had to say below:

Four years ago you guys released your demo. Now you are celebrating your second full-length which has garnered lots of positive attention. Did it feel like there was more pressure on this one as a follow-up to Sorrow And Extinction?

In terms of pressure, we knew that was something we just had to ignore, and not get caught up in the process of what we would end up creating, just like the first time around.

You guys toured extensively since the release of Sorrow And Extinction. Did you feel like you needed a break? Or were you ready to hit the studio?

Touring can definitely be tiring, as can recording. I think our break came more after the album was done, which was a little refreshing, and gave us a lot to look forward to now that we are out on the road again.

When did you begin the writing for this record? I know you guys played songs like “Watcher In The Dark” while on tour. I saw it in Philly with Baroness and Tombs, and was completely blown away!

That song’s origins span back to the Sorrow And Extinction days. We had it partially written then, and decided that it didn’t really fit with the other material from that album. Brett [Campbell, vocalist/guitarist] revisited it later, added lyrics and final arrangements on it, and we have been playing it in some form or another since early 2013. Other songs were in various stages of completion throughout the last two years. We tend to work a bit slowly for the most part.

You also spent a month in Portland working with producer Billy Anderson. What was a typical day like during that time? Was there any free time to hang out or catch local shows?

There really was not much free time! We usually spent about 12-14 hours a day working on the recording, then sleeping, and doing the same thing again the next day. I felt like taking a few long walks per day helped maintain my overall sanity. It was fun, but challenging. We didn’t really get to do much in terms of recreation. We managed to make it out to a couple shows and a few drinking spots, but rarely.

Foundations Of Burden seems to be a much more energetic and dynamic record than Sorrow And Extinction. Did the overall sound come rather naturally, or did you have an idea on where you wanted to take the music?

It became that naturally, and as a bit of a challenge to ourselves, to write pieces that have a broader sense of dynamics and difficulty, because it makes performing them more rewarding all around. I also feel like this set of songs is a pretty accurate picture of how we have developed, what we have been influenced by, and what we might conceive as the “Pallbearer sound,” compared to the relatively narrow scope of Sorrow And Extinction.

Did you use any new gear for the making of the album?

There is too much to even get into (laughs). I enjoyed getting to use my Guild B-301 bass for a lot of the record, and we had a ton of guitars, amps and pedals at our disposal, compared to the relatively Spartan setup that was used on the first record. That was great.

Working with Billy seemed like a fun time from what I read. He has produced and engineered some of metal’s best records. Did he give you any tips that you really took away from the experience?

I don’t know about tips so much, but he definitely helped us really hone in on the dramatic elements in our music to an even greater degree, and recognize ways to work our sense of dynamics into our live show more than ever before.

Some of the other bands that Billy has worked with include notable acts such as Sleep and lesser known bands like Cormorant and 1000 Mods. The latter two who have produced some of my favorite records this year. What have you been listening to lately? Anything new?

I’m loving the new Martyrdöd album Elddop, Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There and I have been listening to a lot of Type O Negative since it’s the perfect time of year for that.

I actually just picked up the Foundations Of Burden vinyl the other day. Animetalphysical’s artwork has been killer for you guys. What are some of your favorite album covers? Is there anything that really stuck with you?

Ah, too many to name! Off the top of my head, the album Sunrise by Sahara, Voyage Of The Acolyte by Steve Hackett, In Den Gärten Pharaos by Popol Vuh, and Moondawn by Klaus Schulze.

You’re on the road for your first full European tour to support Yob and their latest effort, Clearing The Path To Ascend. How has the travel been? Any horror stories?

Well, we’re almost done with tour now! It’s been fantastic, so many great shows and people. No real horror stories luckily! It’s been a fun tour.

You are also playing two dates with Tombs in New York in October, both of which are sold out. Congratulations on that. Is there anything else in the works for you guys that you would like to discuss?

Man, we’ve got a few interesting things on the horizon, but the main focus right coming up will be both legs of our U.S. headlining tour, for sure.

Lastly, you guys have a great Instagram. Any chance of #bajaboyz coming back?

That’s ENTIRELY possible!

Pallbearer will be playing two sold-out shows at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn on Oct. 27 and 28. They will also take the stage at Black Box at Underground Arts in Philadelphia with Tombs & Vattnet Viskar on Oct. 29. Foundations Of Burden is available now. For more information, go to