Having a Ball with All Them Witches

When you read an interview with a band or artist, and laughter occurs in the conversation, what you commonly see in print is something like this: “Blah blah blah…. [laughs]”

Well, if I utilized this grammatical approach in the transcription of my chat with Parks from All Them Witches, every third word would literally be [laughs]. So, in the interest of clarity, readers may freely assume my interview with Parks (born Charles Michael Parks, Jr.) was honestly the funniest, most refreshing interview I’ve done in a long, long time.

All Them Witches are touring in support of their latest LP, ATW, which they recorded in seclusion, twenty miles outside of Nashville where the group is based. One listen to ATW, and listeners will be impressed by the band’s mixture of heavy Sabbath riffs, dashes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion garage rock, and the notable tension of The Cramps gothabilly. Their latest video for the ATW track “Diamond”—which was written and directed by Parks—has a very cinematic feel to it, like a cross between Twin Peaks and True Detective, and this alone should give you an idea of where All Them Witches are coming from.

Parks, thank you for your time today, man. I really love the band.

Hey, good, man… I really love you.

You might regret saying that later, after this is done.

Yeah, I don’t know yet…. You know how people always say, ‘you have to earn my respect?’


I never thought that was a good plan. I always take away levels of respect—you start with a full level of respect for strangers, like treating them as equals and as people, and then you start chipping away at that as they start showing their family ass. So, right now, I love you, but maybe at the end of this you’re going to be a real dick to me.

Will you tell me at the end of the interview where I stand?

Yeah. You’re at 100 percent right now.

Cool…. Well, I’m going to aim to stay at 100, but you know, I was a ‘B’ student in college, so…

Shit, I didn’t even go to college.

Yeah, but you’re in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Yeah…. I was going to go to school for theater, but I went to play in a band instead.

Well, for fans like me, we thank you for making that life decision.

Yeah, that worked out pretty good… except I’m dressed like a homeless person, and I smell like shit, here in the back of the van.

Yeah, a touring life can be rough, man…. You know, I learned about All Them Witches when you released ATW last year. For those of us that are just getting into the group now, can you tell us how you guys got together?

We all met in 2012 just in random places. Ben (McLeod, guitars) met Robby (Staebler, drums) in a bar—Robby had just moved to Nashville from Portland… he had been bouncing around the States for a little bit, met Ben at a bar, asked him if we wanted to play… and then he started working at a retail store that I was working at, and I just met him that way. Robby is kind of the driving force…. He wanted to start a band, so he went out and found people to start a band with. He was like, ‘You know where musicians are? They live in Nashville.’ So, he just drove from Portland to Nashville, started looking, and found us.

Is there any significance behind the name All Them Witches?

Yeah, yeah…. It’s from that movie Rosemary’s Baby.

Is it?

Yeah, the Roman Polanski movie….

Yeah, I’ve seen it, I must have missed the reference.

Yeah, the book that she’s reading is called All of Them Witches, so we just dropped the ‘of.’ There’s actually a band from Buffalo, New York, called All of Them Witches.

Ah… do you think they had the same idea?

No, they’re like a two-piece math rock band…. They’re really nice guys, because we’ve been in contact with them ever since we started, like ‘Hey, is this cool?’ and they were like ‘Yeah, we don’t care.’

You guys decided to produce ATW on your own—underscoring how its self-titled nature is no accident. My understanding is that you recorded the album in a secluded cabin 20 miles outside of Nashville.

Yeah, pretty much.

What was that like?

It was nice, man. It was not the first time we’ve recorded in a cabin or done the seclusion thing. But this was definitely the nicest one we’ve been to. You know, it was basically a big-ass house just in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how many acres—somebody told me that it was 6,000 acres and I thought that was pretty ridiculous, but I don’t know why they would lie to me. It had a bunch of ponds and trails, and we just brought a bunch of food and we didn’t leave for five days—we were actually one day under our budget, so we left a day early… if that gives an idea of how easy and laid back it was.

Wow, so the whole record was recorded in 5 days?

Yeah, that’s kind of our thing, too…. We’ve not done a record that took over a week to record.

Oh, wow… you’re record label must love you.

Uh, they’re definitely surprised…. I can’t imagine spending two years to make a record. That’s how bands break up and why people hate each other. That’s why a lot of musicians are crazy egoists. We kind of do it the opposite way: we get a bunch of ideas, put ’em all out there, and then we change them over time… and the songs, by the end of the year that the record has come out, have basically changed one-eighty, you know…. Like, we figure out how it’s going to work live and every night it’s different playing for us. So, the songs change and really grow with us as people.

That’s really cool….

It’s instead of, like, getting ‘a perfect song,’ you know? I hate that. We can’t write a perfect song, and get it exactly right, and then play it that same way for the rest of our lives.

It would probably become boring after awhile, I’d imagine—especially on tour.

It’s like [The Eagles’] “Take it Easy.” You know, it’s shit like that, that’s been hammered into your head forever, that those guys hated to play for, like, 20 years, or whatever.

Yeah, Glenn Frey actually said that he hated playing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” every night, but he did it anyway, because he knew the fans wanted it.

Yeah, well, you know…. they’re in the Eagles… and there’s a thousand hit Eagles songs.

True, they did have their place in history…. But, getting back to All Them Witches, which is more important than the Eagles—in my book, anyway…

Man, that’s good. I mean, it’s important in my book, too, because this is how I eat. But, yeah—we are more important than the Eagles. You can put that in your interview.

Oh, that’s definitely going in. Anytime I can throw shade at Don Henley—why not?

We were just talking about how Joe Walsh wouldn’t get served at a restaurant, because he was wearing blue jeans, so he and his buddy went and got black spray paint and spray-painted his clothes, and went back in. And they served him, but they ended up having black paint everywhere, all over this fancy restaurant.

I feel like Joe Walsh is the coolest of all the Eagles.

He is the coolest one. All of his solo shit, it’s just so tongue-in-cheek… like, ‘Yep, I’m rich—this is how it goes. This is what I do! I’m gonna crash a yacht, I don’t care… I’m gonna rip up a hotel room. Whatever!”

Exactly—‘I’m gonna write a song called “I.L.B.Ts.” Deal with it!’

“‘Deal with it, ‘cause I like ‘em. I’m Joe Walsh—fuck you!’”

This is seriously the best interview ever, and I’ve done a few in my time…. Anyway, in listening to ATW, I sensed a really raw production sound. Are any of the tracks from the album first takes?

Um…. most of them are second takes. I think we do about 5 takes per song. On “Fishbelly” (“Fishbelly 86 Onions,” the first track on ATW) the vocals are first take, and we kept that. But as far as the instrumentation, we do that in the first or second take, almost every time.

“Fishbelly” sounds like a rave-up that you guys were jamming on and then just crafted it into the backbone of a song.

Yeah, yeah… we just started playing that repetitive lick, and I just came up with some lyrics real fast.

Well, Parks, this has been awesome, man—and hilarious. Thanks so much for your time today.

Thank you. Maybe when we’re up in New York we can get together and smoke a joint or something…. Can you do that in New York?

Oh, yeah. That can be arranged. By the way, how did I do on the respect chart?

You did alright, man. I’m giving you a grade of ‘96.’


Be sure to catch All Them Witches as they rock the Bowery Ballroom on March 21 and on March 22 at First Unitarian in Philadelphia!!