Published Aug 10, 2018YOB's Our Raw Heart and Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper are connected by being heavy music with heavy subject matter. The former touches on guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt's life-threatening battle with intestinal disease acute diverticulitis, while the latter was made under the shadow of former drummer Adrian Guerra's sudden passing. However, when Scheidt and Bell Witch bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond sat down with Exclaim! TV's Aggressive Tendencies another link came out: the creativity engendered from tragedy.
"The uncertainty coming out on the other side of it had brought a vitality with it that we're still enjoying quite a bit," reveals Scheidt of the fallout from his sickness, which initially had him wondering if he would ever sing again or play guitar again, much less tour. "And we've grown from it."
That growth is evidenced in Our Raw Heart's title track, which featured a bit of a freeform ending improvised shaped by feeling. Atop that foundation, the band got creative with unique recording methods.
"It was our engineer's idea, Billy Barnett, because he has an old Deluxe Reverb and a late '60s Tele with a Bigsby, and we tuned it to D so it would be at least close to the same key and figured out where it would sit in A," Scheidt explains. "So I would hit that chord in time, and he was in another iso booth, so we could see each other, and he was holding the Deluxe Reverb and it has the reverb tank's in there, which are springs, and whenever you move those things around you can hear the springs. And so he had that mic'ed up and then a mic on the ground, so I would hit on the up beat and then he would shake the amp in between, so we could hear the reverb springs, and then he would drop it on the ground on the down beat, and we did this for five minutes."
The Bell Witch parallel to this was a noise track that lays atop the 83-minute album, coming in and out to accentuate and expand on parts.
As the Bell Wtich's Desmond explains, "We just set up five amps, I think, just cranked them up, put a bunch of pedals that I'd never used before out and engineer Billy Anderson hit record and played back everything that we had laid down track-wise so far. I just tried to make the weirdest noises that I possibly could and make it kind of play along with the song."
A similarly creative connection more tied into their bout with mortality came after the duo, now rounded out by Guerra's replacement Jesse Shreibman, decided to continue on — putting their uncertainty behind them after concluding their fallen brother would want them to.
"The idea just kind of popped up. It was like, we should put him in here somehow because this was so much his band, and now that he's gone it wouldn't seem like it would have been right to have not put something of Adrian in there," explains Desmond.
The duo went out for lunch during the mixing process, with Anderson promising to work on the album's midsection while they were there.
"When we came back from getting lunch, he had gotten a lot done, and he was like, 'Check this out, I've got this cool thing. I took some of Adrian's vocals and I put them in that spot we were talking about.' I wouldn't say there are particularly lyrics to it; that's a lot of cutting and pasting and kind of manipulating of some leftover tracks that weren't on, that were muted out on the fourth track on Four Phantoms. But a lot of that was just us just sitting there, discussing like let's move that over, let's put a high scream there, just manipulating it so it fit. I love the way that it came out. Even listening to it now, it kind of gives me chills how well it fit in there."
The pair of like-minded musicians also talk about being the odd ones out on doom metal bills, what the genre label means to them and more. Watch the full interview in the players below.