Seattle’s very own dirt rock band, Devils Hunt Me Down, came to me via a recommendation from a resident of the downtown Seattle area, who provides tourists the opportunity to see and witness the vacuities of the grunge explosion. Seattle musician Jake Carden describes the band perfectly:
If Tom Waits and QOTSA had a baby, and Clutch was the bad influence uncle… Devils Hunt Me Down is the result.
We managed to get these guys to get together to answer some questions…
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
We all live right here in Seattle, the heart of Cascadia. Cascadia is a region we are madly in love with, and couldn’t be more honored to be a part of Seattle’s incredible music scene. This city has been a breeding ground for art and music for over 50 years and we love that it’s just as alive-and-well as it ever has been!
How long have you been playing as a band?
We started originally in early 2010, as a three-piece band in our drummer’s basement. Chris (six-string) and Callum (drums) and I got together only to make music we liked, which we only played for ourselves and it was only instrumental. We were all sick of the business side of the music scene and decided to focus simply on making music we really loved. We had no plans to make shirts and CDs or a band facebook page or even do concerts! It was originally just for us. Eventually, some friends heard it and took notice. We were asked to play some house parties and so agreed, “just for friends.”
Pretty soon, people asked us to play shows. At that point, we decided: “Okay, we’ll do shows only. Still no shirts or CDs or stickers. None of that. If you want to hear our tunes, come hang out at a show.” But from there, more and more people asked for recorded music and merch and said we should just do the damn thing already. So, after a few lineup tryouts of different bassists and vocalists, we decided I would sing and write the lyrics to the music I had already composed for the band. Then we found Ian to compliment the whole thing nicely with some stanky bass, and off we went. So, a very long answer shortened: we started in 2010, but have only really been going at it hard since 2013.
Even shorter: seven years.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
We love telling this story, actually! Originally, we were going to call ourselves The Night in homage to my favorite album by one of my favorite bands, Morphine. The styles we were playing around with also made it feel like that name really fit. We checked online and found that no bands had that name, much to our surprise! The week before we decided we would announce our name and that we were going full on with the band, we discovered that in that time, a band had started in Austin called “The Night”. So, we gave that up and returned to the drawing board.
A bit after that, Chris and I were driving back from a concert in Portland when he suggested that we smoke a bowl. Excitedly, I said yes and asked where his pipe was. “In the glove box,” he said. “Dude!! What are you doing? You never put your weed in the glove box. You have to get in there if you get pulled over!” I told him. And then he gave us our name… “Man,” he says, “I’ve been smoking weed so long now. If the cops really want me, may the devils hunt me down.”
“THAT’S IT! THAT IS THE BAND NAME!” I said. And it stuck ever since. I am glad The Night was taken in hindsight, as it ended up forcing us to create a completely original name that only we had thought of. As well as one that we all like a lot more. Everyone has their devils. What’s hunting you?
What are your influences?
This question could generate a pretty immense list and fairly long discussion. In terms of style, I joke often that “if you take my ten favorite bands and mash them up, you’ll get Devils Hunt Me Down.” For me, that includes bands like Protein, Morphine, ASG, Baroness, Clutch, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Sword. Our guitarist Chris would tell you how Van Halen and Bon Jovi made him want to rock. He and I were both huge fans of the ska band Five Iron Frenzy. Ian, our bassist, has a deep love for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rancid (bassists love good bassists) and many others. Our drummer Callum brings the heavy with a love for all metal, from Gorgoroth to Gojira. And despite what we typically love, our tastes and influences range all over. We have grooves inspired by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Joan Armatrading, or BT, as much as the influences you can clearly hear.
Describe the Seattle sound as it is today? What was the area like during those times?
What was the area like during those times? The best part of Seattle: it is always a hub and hotspot for bands and artists. Sometimes, we’ll hear people from out of town say things like, “So is the Seattle scene alive again?” The Seattle scene never died. “Grunge” was just a name some people came up with for the music Seattlites were making at a time. But it never stopped. Heavy rock is now and always has been popular in this city, whether anyone else notices or not.
Now that that little rant is done: The Seattle sound strikes us as typically dirty and grimy and dark and moody, no matter what kind of band people are in, or so it seems. We play with all styles and genres, but we all still find ourselves in a similar vein or sound somehow, despite playing with metal, electronica, indie, folk, prog, experimental, psychedelic: there’s just this haunting undertone to everything that a LOT of the bands in this area seem to be capturing. It gets you in the gut and makes you feel a way that only heartfelt music can. The Seattle sound is genuine and made from the depths of your heart and soul. Express that with blues or heavy rock or punk or folk, but however it is done, I feel what is done in this region is magical.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
We’ve been called “Feel Good Metal” or “Psychedelic Stoner Blues Rock” or “Cascadian Dirt Rock.” We just try to make kick-ass rock and roll that feels good to play and listen to. Rock and roll is fun, so we wonder why so often the bands we see look angry or upset to be up on the stage. This shit is a blast, why aren’t we all smiling? We have some rules in the band for what we do. “All things must groove” is one. If you can get people dancing and moving, you’re having a good time like right away. “No wanking” is another rule. Solos are great, a little flash of technicality compliments songs well, and a good ol’ fashioned guitar spin can be a pure expression of rock and roll joy: just don’t be a wanker about it.
We try always to be good people who make good music. I don’t know that any of that is very unique, really. If anything, it could be that our particular blend of so many different styles we love, all written on acoustic guitars first, then incorporated into a rock band gives it a weird sound and groove that folks might think makes us sound different. Again though, even that feels generally like what a lot artists do.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
As the lyricist, I’d say at least 50% of what I write comes directly from my experiences with psychedelics and psychonautics, and the teachings that I have learned through those practices. The band’s growth and my experiences with psychonautics have kind of gone hand-in-hand. Our first album, A Subperceptive Dose, is almost entirely about journeys and the title itself references microdosing. On our most recent EP, In Medias Res II, every single one of the songs pertained to a specific psychedelic experience and the teachings I gleaned therein. On the other hand, our next EP, In Medias Res I, is all about general realizations of truth that I have had about myself.
The last EP will be about what I will do about all the things you heard from EP I and II. It really depends on the song. I sing about mind-alterations, emotional truths, realizations about myself, interactions and altercations with people in my life, desires for my future, death and rebirth. The themes are varied, but for me, it all feels connected and it’s often very cynical. I also kind of feel like all I just said was “We write about what bands write about: life, love, and mind-altering experiences.”
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
We would be RJ MacReady from John Carpenter’s The Thing, as portrayed by Kurt Russell, one of the greatest actors of all time. MacReady is rough around the edges, but raw and real. As a pilot and a lover of computer chess, you know he has a wicked nerd streak, just like the four of us. No frills, no gimmicks, no bullshit: RJ MacReady does it old school and in his own way up in the north. And also, he is the only one who never gets taken over by “The Thing”. Even though everyone says the ending leaves that up in the air, it is totally Childs who is definitely The Thing at the end of that movie. Also, spoiler alert.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
We try to make our live shows as high-energy, dance-filled, and fun as possible. We barely stop moving the entire time. There is a term one of our friends here in Seattle coined: “Dancebang”. People have said that our band will leave you wondering whether to dance or headbang, so just do both! And people do: our crowds are as rowdy as we are. It’s all smiles and sing-alongs, clapping and grooving together. It’s a serious team effort and group experience. We love it. Just a rough estimate off the top of my head, I’d say we have played well over 100 shows since our inception.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
For me, probably the wildest thing I think I have done is accidentally (not very wild, I know) smash my nose with my guitar and keep singing and playing with blood dripping down my face, like the cover of that Andrew W.K. record. At our first show ever, our drummer broke his last drumstick with only about a minute and a half left in the song. Almost without missing a beat, he pulled one of the legs off of a floor tom, kicks the drum aside, and finishes the set with the metal drum leg. After seeing him do that, I thought, “Man, we really do have a fucking awesome drummer.” You can’t just stop the show. Not for blood or broken sticks.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Our six-stringer and bassist very proudly play Marco Bass Guitars, a custom guitar-maker out of Oregon. Chris also loves his Telecaster. I play an electric 12-string made by Burns of London, called The Double Six. This is actually our drummer’s guitar, given to him by his Scottish Grandfather, Dicky Dickson. But once we heard its tone and how it sounds with our band, we had to use it. I have not played with any other guitar since we started. Our drummer plays what he calls a Frankenkit, containing his favorite pieces from companies like PDP, Pork Pie, and Ayotte. Most importantly, it is a custom-painted purple drum kit with a Death Star/Tie Fighter bass drum head. That’s what really makes it sound good.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
For us, 2017 is all about the three-part release of the aforementioned In Medias Res, our 60+ minute album broken into three EPs, which we are recording with Jack Endino. It has been surreal working with one of our recording idols and someone who has done so much for the Seattle music scene. He is also an amazing human and an absolute wizard in the studio. We love the idea of an EP as a piece of art on its own. Often times, bands release “EPs” that are essentially just a single with some B-sides or tracks not good enough for the album.
Pelican inspired us first with their release of Ataraxia/Taraxis. It has four songs that make an incredibly solid and stand-alone piece of art. We wanted to do the same with each EP, but realized quickly: these three different EPs are telling one large tale. So, by the end of 2017, In Medias Res parts I-III will have been released. Listen in whatever order you like, as a single piece or broken apart, or piece it back together in different ways that make sense to you as the listener. There are songs that connect across the releases and themes you will hear as consistent throughout. This is most definitely our main focus for this year and we are beyond ecstatic about it.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
If we had to pick any band to open for EVER? Queen. No contest. But for current bands, we would be honored and delighted to support Baroness. Those guys just keep getting better with every release they do and stay true to their artform and genuinity the entire time. John Dyer Baizley’s album covers are ridiculously beautiful. It’s not even fair that he can paint like that AND make music that good. Their most recent release of “Purple” is a mind-blowing piece of modern rock and roll art. In terms of how they present their artform and how true to themselves they remain, they are definitely one of the most influential bands for us.
As openers, we would ask our Seattle brothers Ten Miles Wide to support us. They have been amazing friends and fellow musical artists dedicated to making awesome and genuine rock. We are always stoked when we get to play with them and they put on a great show every time. This scene in Seattle is all love these days, and we love those guys a lot.
If you’re in the Seattle area on June 3rd, then get down to High Dive, 513 N 36th St, to witness a night of heavy rock.