Sulfur, so good
Brimstone Howl wants to be your American band
By BILL FORMAN
Colorado Springs Independent
Having already recorded with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and White Stripes producer Jim Diamond, Nebraska's Brimstone Howl is making a name among analog purists and rock 'n roll revivalists.
And even though their Diamond-produced album, We Came in Peace, isn't due out until next month, lead guitarist Nick Waggoner is already thinking about the next one.
"I would happily go back and do another record with Jim, but the other place I like is the Distillery in Costa Mesa [Calif.]," says Waggoner. "I think some of [Distillery producer Mike McHugh's] records sound kind of fucked-up, but I like that."
In fact, We Came In Peace has a few elements of its own that reach beyond the boundaries of conventional alt-rock, whatever that is. The swampy "Obliterator" aims for classic Cramps/Gun Club terrain, while "The World Will Never Know" stands out as a funereal, spoken-word-dominated track that Waggoner agrees is the band's creepiest song to date.
"It's kind of a weird record in parts," he says.
Still, most of the album resonates with the garage-rock, British Invasion and early punk influences that, over the course of four albums, have become Brimstone Howl's stock-in-trade. John Ziegler's vocals remain somewhere between early Mick Jagger and a less affected Lux Interior, while Waggoner's guitar work on "Easy to Dream" is reminiscent of post-Velvets Lou Reed.
All of the above, Waggoner confirms, are artists the band listens to, though he's reluctant to take on the labels that are typically associated with them: "It's kind of like the Ramones saying that they weren't a punk band. They said they were an American band. And Radio Birdman — when people were like, "You're the best punk band I've ever seen,' they were offended by that."
In the studio, the quartet likes to record the old-fashioned way, playing live through tube amps onto 2-inch tape, with just one or two run-throughs.
"We don't do a lot of takes," says Waggoner, "unless somebody's doing something that sounds really stupid."
Speaking of which, Brimstone Howl wasn't always the group's name. Its first album was initially released under one of the band's previous monikers, the Zyklon Bees, an allusion to the cyanide gas used in death camps. That drew e-mails from the Anti-Defamation League.
"That's not really the real reason we changed the band name," says Waggoner. "It's just kind of stupid to have a joke band name. It was a joke, and we're not a fucking pop-punk band, so it didn't make any sense to keep it. It was just stupid."
Of course, Britain's Joy Division was offensive for much the same reason, but at least that was a good name.
These days, the band currently known as Brimstone Howl tours relentlessly, but still gets mixed reactions on its own turf.
"Sometimes we'll pack a place, and other times we're just playing to the same 20 people," says Waggoner. "I think there's just too many options for entertainment nowadays. Back in the '60s, there was nothing to fucking do, so people would go out to see some music."