Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, instrumental prog-rockers OHGOD have just released a stellar début album, The Great Silence. Following from the success of this release, the quartet are about to make their way to Europe to play dunk!festival (Zottegem, Belgium) and Pelagic fest (Berlin, Germany), as well as supporting metalcore giants Jinjer on a German tour.
I’m planning on making a very similar trip myself, so I reached out to the band for an interview.
Bassist Mark Woolfrey was super stoked to hear that his music had reached my ears as far away as New Zealand, and chatted with me about the recent album, upcoming tour, and plans for the future.
Image: Laura McCullagh
Will Not Fade: I really enjoy your sound. It is a hybrid of progressive metal and post-rock yet isn’t depressing. Who are some of your key influences?
Mark Woolfrey (bass): Wow New Zealand so rad! Thanks man glad you enjoy our music, it is always cool to know our music is traveling around. Influences are always a tough one to answer. As a band, we have a very eclectic range of music. It’s also hard to answer because a lot of the time we pull fragments from all over the show, not even just bands, sometimes a single song if that makes sense. If I had to pick one band. Pick or die type vibes, If These Trees Could talk was certainly a huge influence when we started writing together.
Sorry if this question makes you groan, but did you always set out to stay as an instrumental act when you started the band?
No worries! When OHGOD was born we started just writing and at the time we didn’t really even consider having a vocalist, not an intentional choice or anything, we were just focusing on the music. Then as things started coming together we kind of all came to the same point of “do we even want vocals?” It sort of gave us a whole lot of freedom as a band without a vocalist so we stuck with it..
Tell me about the South African Metal Music Awards.
The South African Metal Music Awards is a rad initiative here in South Africa that really tries to recognize specifically metal bands for their achievements. It’s also a great concept to bring together a growing but niche scene in SA. At the end of the day it’s just great to acknowledge bands for what they put in . We have found despite not being “metal” we have managed to find ourselves accepted in the metal scene which is pretty awesome. In short it is a really cool group from across the industry who run & organise the awards, each year they grow and improve things. We are pretty stocked to have taken a few awards home through the last few.
You have an amazing European tour coming up. South Africa and Germany are a long way from each other. How did this tour come about?
There is rather a lot of ocean and land between them haha. Well a long story short our manager Calvin does a great job at networking and talking to the right people. We have worked with him for long now, we kind of let him just do his own thing and he runs with it. He did what he does and got us on the lineup for Dunk! in Belgium and Pelagic in Berlin. Then we were super happy to partner with Turning Tricks Entertainment as our international agents who did what they do best. They came back to us with a number of dates through Germany supporting Jinjer on their Cloud Factories EU Tour 2018 with the rad dudes from The Dali Thundering Concept. So it was a great combo job of a great team and agents. Both move mountains for us.
Which acts are you most excited to see at dunk! and Pelagic festivals?
How long have you got?? haha. Can we just say both festivals and all the acts. Pretty much all the bands at both are on our playlists. We are all frothing over the headliners though.
Any guesses as to who the secret headliner for Pelagic fest is? My money is on The Ocean.
Hmmm yeah that’s a tough one we have also been trying to figure that one out. Not sure where we would put our South African Rands on that one.
It looks like you’ve been earning lots of slots for festivals. Do you approach festival sets differently to a standard gig?
We have been focusing a lot more on festivals recently as a band. It is the kind of shows we want to focus on more. We have also been given so many great opportunities in both SA and overseas, we are constantly looking to take our shows to the next level or stage. I think we do spend a lot more time in selecting a set. We have been focusing on building our set with a lot more additions outside of just our instruments though. Quite excited for that!
I’m super jealous that you’ve got to play with Karnivool multiple times over the years. I’ve only ever seen them once. My friends in Tides of Man have toured with them in the past as well. Tell me about opening for them!
We have actually only ever played with Karnivool once. Again mad props to Turning Tricks for bringing them over to SA. What can one even say after watching Karnivool haha. What a band, they know how to put one hell of a show they break you brain and they’re just sonic architects. We are all huge fans of them, so without sounding cliché jamming with was like a dream. Tides Of Man you say? Now that is another band we can’t get enough of.
You crowdfunded your recent album via Thundafund. How did you find that process, asking your fans to front up money for an album before you made it?
Yeah that was mind-blowing! We received such a big response and help with our Thundafund. It was actually quiet intimidating to be honest, it really puts you out there. You start questioning it like would we hit it would we not. It really felt like a gamble. It was kind of humbling to see so many people who believed in us though, some people went all out and donated crazy amounts. Thundafund really allowed us to focus on putting out the best album out that we could. We have some of the best fans from all over.
Obviously you should be super stoked on The Great Silence. How did his recording process differ from Forest Feuds?
Well the major difference was we recorded Forest Feuds as a live multi track where as The Great Silence we did the more traditional approach of recording. We certainly learned a lot from Forest Feuds and with The Great Silence we just felt it was time to crank it up things to the next level. We wanted to put out an album that we could be like yes we are happy with that. We also had the means to put out a better album with funds and being able to work with the people we wanted for different aspects of the album. Our own guitarist David really spearheaded the recording process and Dylan Ellis from Canada took care of the mastering. Both stellar dudes who know their stuff.
What made you decide to include cello on the track “Avalanche”?
Ah man there is something so awesome about a cello. It is just a majestic instrument. We would jam “Avalanche” and just be like we need to feature something in here. This track just needs something . A little musical salt and pepper. Then it was decided, it need some cello spice and that was it haha.
The track “Axiom Falls” featured in both your 2015 EP and the album you put out last year. Why did that song in particular get revisited?
It was just a song we really enjoined as a band, we kind of felt like we never really got to give it justice as a track on the EP. We ended up changing some bits here and there but it was still such a relevant track to all of us. Plus it kind of tied in perfectly with the album concept.
Which band member spends the most effort on his hair?
I don’t think anyone spends much time on their hair to be honest. We are just wash and go kind of dudes haha. Most of the dudes rock caps these days.
I see you posted about Star Wars on May the 4th. Which Star Wars film is your fave and why?
In all honesty, none of us are like crazy die-hard Star Wars fans (Unless you ask to see our managers leg – he’s another story). Episode I – The Phantom Menace is up there though for me!
How long did you take you to make the Bob’s Burgers “OHGOD!” montage?
OHGOD…OHGOD…OHGOD… just when you think you have heard your band name enough. Such a rad series that one. Surprisingly not as long as one would think we have a fair amount of help on that one to be honest.
You’ve just dropped a killer album and have an incredible international tour lined up. What can we expect next from OHGOD?
Well we want to focus on playing more festivals and start crossing more oceans as a band. Then when we get back from the EU we are going to start looking at writing some new music. We have some ideas of our next moves but we are going to sharing those quite yet.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I look forward to meeting you at dunk!fest in Belgium!
Awesome we look forward to meeting you there!!
Image: Laura McCullagh
OHGOD European tour dates
11 May – DUNK! FEST – Zottegem (BE)
15 May – MUSIK & FRIEDEN, Supporting Jinjer – Berlin (DE)
16 May – ROCKPALAST, Supporting Jinjer – Bochum (DE)
17 May – JUNGLE CLUB, Supporting Jinjer – Cologne (DE)
18 May – NACHTLEBEN, Supporting Jinjer – Frankfurt (DE)
The name dunk! may as well be synonymous with post-rock. dunk!records are one of the leading labels within the scene, and their long-running festival in Belgium has a fantastic reputation. Starting another festival in America was an interesting experiment. Would they be able to replicate the Belgium experience in this setting?
They were in good hands. David Zeidler, Arctic Drones writer and general post-rock authority, took it upon himself to run things. He’s a driving force behind the Open Language and Hemispheres compilations, so already had lots of contacts with bands around the world.
Burlington, Vermont, was chosen as the site to birth the American festival – mostly because that is where David lives. The rationale was that it is within tolerable travel distance for major East Coast cities like New York and Boston, and could also attract Canadians. As a non-American, I can’t comment on the most suitable location for the festival. However, I do know that America is an incredibly big country, so the reality is that no matter where you chose to situate the event, it will be a long way to travel for many people.
They chose to run it on Columbus weekend, which would give people the Monday off to travel home. While a good idea in theory, this didn’t help the festival because many Burlington hotels were booked out for the long weekend, making the festival more costly to attend for anyone from out-of-town.
Not that I, a New Zealander and dunk! virgin, understood any of those matters when I decided to go. As far as I was concerned, a band had offered to take me on tour around America, and there was no way I was going to pass up such an opportunity.
That band is Ranges. The tour has been brilliant to date, and dunk!fest was supposed to be the climax of the trip. Ranges have recently released their new album, The Ascensionist, so it made sense to tour America on the way to dunk! to promote it. CJ and Wilson from the band also run A Thousand Arms, a screen printing company that make merch and functions as a distro for bands and record labels. One such label is dunk!records, meaning that A Thousand Arms were responsible for the merch booth at the festival.
Emma Ruth Rundle
We arrived at the venue early on Saturday morning, slightly bleary-eyed, but excited for the weekend. Rages had played a show in Brooklyn the night before, and CJ had stayed up all night driving us to Burlington. I don’t know how he functions.
Higher Ground was a great choice of venue. They had two big rooms, each offering a stage so that acts could play continuously throughout the day. If a band was playing on one stage, stagetechs were setting up for the next set on the other stage next door. Initially there was a no pass-outs rule, but that was removed to allow people to get food. The venue was brilliant, other than the lack of food options on site. It sounded good, looked great, and ran smoothly.
Saturday 7 October
Chinese act Zhaoze started of the weekend on the main stage, albeit slightly late due to sound issues. Central to their sound is a guqin – a traditional Chinese instrument that looks like a slide guitar crossed with a harp. The guqin is played with a bow or plucked, much like a violin. It was also plugged into various effects pedals. Their set didn’t blow me away, but the cool lighting foreshadowed the amazing light shows due over the course of the weekend.
Local band Sad Turtle baptised the second stage with their jazzy, indie-styled instrumental rock. It was instrumental rock music, but not like most post-rock we are accustomed to hearing. It’s refreshing to hear upbeat music that steers clear of restrictive genre clichés.
So far on tour, Ranges have been using their own lighting rig. It includes blinders, strobes, red spotlights and Edison bulbs that flicker and glow along to the music. The light show syncs up to the music, making a Ranges set an impressive audio/visual combo.
Which begged the question: do they use their own lights, or take advantage of the light show offered at a big festival? In the end they opted to use the blinders, but drop the rest of their lighting setup in favour of the stage lights. It’s a shame, because their own setup is impressive. The show looked fine in the end, but lacked a component that usually wows people.
However, they played great. Easily the best I’ve seen them play. I got a bit emotional watching them, seeing my friends reach a career milestone that they’ve worked so hard towards. If they were nervous it didn’t show, because they owned that stage. I still don’t understand how CJ can function without sleep.
If they needed any verifying that they’d done well, they completely sold out their first pressing of vinyl following that set, mere weeks after the album release date.
Of The Vine
Of The Vine
Of The Vine showed that you don’t need an impressive light show to look impressive. All the members wore black or grey, and the band was starkly backlit by white lights. The stage was alive, with all the musos whipping about with intensity. One of the guitarists broke a string, so the band had to pause between songs so he could re-string. Usually a moment of boredom, the band told jokes to pass the time, and the crowd laughed along. It was a nice moment that represented the culture of the festival.
This Patch Of Sky
This Patch Of Sky
This is the third time I’d seen This Patch Of Sky this week, having shared the stage with Ranges for two dates on their tour. Sadly they’d had sound issues and inadequate set up for the mix both times. But thankfully, this time they shone. Maybe, despite their recent album title, they suit bigger spaces better than small clubs?
Boasting easily the best light show of the weekend, the band played their tranquil tunes bathed in lush hues. They have a lot of members, so took up the space on stage well. And they sounded great. I prefer energetic songs over dreamy music, so my favourites were the ones that featured heavier drum beats, and melodies on the cello, rather than mournful swells.
Similar to Of The Vine, Appalaches rocked the stark black outfits. Five members on a small stage looked crammed, but that didn’t prevent them from moving about erratically. The guitarist on stage right had long hair that looked fantastic as he head banged. Take note bands: long hair and frenzied movements make your stage presence so much cooler!
Tides of Man
Tides Of Man
Tides Of Man have shared the stage with Ranges for four nights on tour, and we have grown tight with the lads in the band. They are the best dudes, and their music is phenomenal. I joined the Ranges guys on the balcony overlooking the stage as we watched our friends show how it’s done.
Tides Of Man have a few songs that feature sweeping melodies that I find irresistible. They fill me with bubbling, intense joy. That, and the fact that the band members are so talented makes me rate them very highly.
Tides of Man
As a drummer, I’m drawn to the rhythm section. Josh is a monster on drums. His little flourishes and fills are the best. And Alan doesn’t just play bass, he plays lead bass. There is a difference. His parts stand out.
If you can’t tell already from my fawning, the set was superb. The band played four unreleased songs, making me very excited for the upcoming album. It was bittersweet though, because as amazing as it was, it was the last time I will see them play for a very long time.
The Eye Of Time
The Eye Of Time is a solo project. I didn’t catch much of his set because I’d been helping Tides Of Man and Ranges pack their gear away. He had visuals projected onto a screen behind him, with music coming from a laptop and cello.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Emma Ruth Rundle
Perhaps an odd fit for a post-rock festival, Emma Ruth Rundle brought variety to the day. I applaud whoever opted to add her to the lineup, because it’s nice to have a break from the same style of music after a full day of it, and because female artists need more representation at events like this.
Rundle, backed by her fiance’s band Jaye Jayle, looked the part. The room was thick with illuminated stage fog, making the atmosphere palpable. And they were all dressed sharply, with a cohesive image.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Chatting to one of the guys in the band after the set, I asked how he would classify the music. He said he doesn’t like pigeonholing their sound with specific genre – he just plays music. Fair enough. The music was eerie, touching on gothic. And it was spellbinding. Everyone I talked to raved about how great it was.
This is when the night started to get wild for me. Joey from Ranges beckoned me to the bar and handed me two beers. Turns out he’d just bought 10, and someone else had bought a round of whiskeys. “We’re double fisting!” someone shouted, and a group of us including Ranges, Tides of Man, myself and David Zeidler made our way upstairs to the balcony overlooking Astronoid’s set.
I’d already been helping myself to the beers in the green room for a few hours, so those extras I got given was enough to send me over the edge.
Astronoid played a blistering set. Again, a guitarist on stage right was a highlight, turning into a flurry of long hair. Cousin It crossed with the Tasmanian Devil.
Mark, the Ranges drummer, was having the time of his life. He was air-drumming along to the Astronoid set like a madman. His enthusiasm was infectious, and we were all cheering and yelling. After a few songs I decided to make my way downstairs to see the band up close.
Emma Ruth Rundle
I didn’t make it that far though. I spotted Joey backstage and went to see him. Next thing I know, I’m chatting with Emma Ruth Rundle while she has a smoke. Turns out she used to live in Wellington ten years ago, which is where I’m from. I got caught up in talking to her band and missed the rest of Astronoid’s set.
Ok, I’ll admit that I’m super hazy on Pelican’s set. Too many beers are bad for you, boys and girls. I remember enjoying it, and thinking that the photos I took were really good. Sorry that I’ve let you down on the journalistic front. I also asked a girl to dance, and she politely turned me down, saying that it isn’t really dancing music. She had a valid point.
After the set I made the most of any beers left in the green room, the last of which was confiscated from me by security.
The same crew who had been on the balcony during Astronoid gathered behind the venue. It was the last night Ranges and Tides of Man would be together, so we were all doing drunken goodbyes. Two men from Quebec joined us. No-one knew where they had come from, but it was in a backstage area, so we assumed that they were in a band. Eventually we found out that they just wanted to party. We all took a group photo together to commemorate our time together on the road.
All the beers in the green room had been exhausted so someone made the call that we head to a bar. CJ, who had been awake for roughly 30 hours straight at this point, wanted none of it. He just wanted to sleep, and understandably so. He climbed into the van to catch some zzzz’s and texted Joey: “Don’t let Joseph in the van or I will punch him”. Opps, maybe I was being a menace.
The rest of us piled into the Tides of Man van for the drive into town. One of the Quebecers asked us to sing one of our songs, so we all joined in to “sing” a rousing rendition of Tide of Man’s “Young and Courageous”, shouting the tune to the guitar line at the tops of our voices.
I can’t believe I was allowed into the bar, being as intoxicated as I was. I don’t remember doing much though. Jared found an X-Men arcade machine that he played for a while, before smashing a glass. Someone rang David Zeidler to tell him the hotel had messed up bookings, so Ranges conceded their room and we headed to David’s to sleep in his lounge.
Sunday 8 October
As you could expect, I felt worse for wear the following day. A bagel or four from a nearby café helped my body replace what it needed though.
Started the day off with a bang. Easily one of my favourite sets of the day. They made a speech before starting about writing music with a message, despite the lack of vocals. I agree with their anti-gun sentiment, but don’t know if it was an effective way to share their thoughts. Asking the government to regulate gun laws and then saying “Fuck the Government” with your next breath is an interesting move.
Politics aside, it was a killer set. They deserved a later slot in the day. Seriously good stuff.
I was beginning to notice a trend. Most bands on the second had minimal lighting, but crazy energy. Case in point, Unconditional Arms threw themselves around the stage, backlit by a stark green light. The guitarist was headbanging so hard that his glasses went flying. The slow songs bored me a bit, but I loved it when they were rocking out. And I loved the clean guitar tone.
Set and Setting
Set and Setting
I didn’t like Set and Setting’s sound. Something about it was too discordant for me. I decided that my time was better spent trying to nap off my hangover, so I headed upstairs to crash on a couch in the green room. I slept through my alarm and completely missed KYOTY, which is a shame.
Pray For Sound
Pray For Sound
I woke up feeling groggy after about an hour. I zombie walked to the balcony to see who was playing. It was Pray For Sound. I have a copy of their latest album, and to be honest I never got into it much. But now I’m converted. Their set was great. The drums were especially good, and I think the drummer even broke his kick pedal half way through the set.
Pray For Sound
Reminding me of The Eye Of Time, thisquietarmy is solo show featuring projections up on the wall. He improvised as he played, building dark layers and textures of drony sound.
The End Of The Ocean
The End Of The Ocean
David Zeidler had told me that The End Of The Ocean were the party band at dunk!, so I was excited to catch this set. They started off on a good note, promising to play Nickleback and Creed covers for us during their sound check. Sadly, it was a lie. I still appreciate the humour though.
The thing that I enjoyed most about The End Of The Ocean is that they mixed things up. Whenever I’d expect them to launch into a crescendo they’d pause, or shift direction. I like how they avoided the conventional clichés of the genre.
The End Of The Ocean
The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider
They were fun too. Half way through the set they threw a dozen inflated beach balls into the crowd. And the two girls put on a show by whipping their hair around. Tara on keys got so into it that she fell over and sent her keyboard off the stage. Thankfully I was there to catch it, and helped her set it back up. Not all heroes wear capes.
The coolest part was a sample that played during an interlude. It was a quote from Walking Dead about how brains function.
Bonus points to The End Of The Ocean for having the most incredible hospitality rider. Read what they requested and enjoy how brilliant it is!
Portland crew Coastlands were fun. Consistent with most second stage bands this weekend, they had good energy. The drums especially were great – dude has chops!
Junius played in a gloomy haze, lit only by a few dim Edison lights attached to their amps. It made taking photos a nightmare, but it was super effective at creating atmosphere. Hindsight is 20/20, but after seeing how cool that sparse lighting was, it is clear that Ranges should have used their own lighting rig the previous day.
Dimly lit in front of their backdrop, the band delivered a pummeling set. I was surprised that the vocals were not as sludgy as I’d expected, but sounded great.
Arms and Sleepers
I missed most of this set. I was busy chatting to guys from Coastlands backstage, and lost track of time. It’s a shame, because it looked like a cool set up. They had an electronica vibe, courtesy of many racks of keys and synths stacked upon each other.
Although Russian Circles are a big drawcard, I wasn’t that excited about seeing them .This is mostly because I’ve already seen them play in my hometown of Wellington a few times already.
They played well. You don’t get to this level by being sloppy. But the stage fog was so thick I couldn’t even see them. I love watching technically adept drummers play live, but I couldn’t see him. The music was fine, but to me it didn’t feel like much of a show. I preferred seeing them play a small club in Wellington.
It would be nice to see more variety in the lineup – it felt like I saw the same band four times over the weekend. Post-rock has become clichéd, and bands need to work on having a point of difference in order to standout. There are also some bands that sound fine on record, but need to put in more effort onstage if they don’t want to bore their audience.
That said, there was still a good mix offered – local, international, solo projects, bands with vocals, heavy, dreamy… It must be hard as a promoter to decide upon which acts to book to draw a crowd with wide appeal, and they did well.
It has been a while since I’ve been to a big scale concert, so seeing things like the impressive light shows you only find at larger gigs was great. Refining still needs to happen, including changes like perhaps changing the date and offering food options for attendees. But for a first attempt, the festival was amazing. Hopefully there will be another next year!
Words and photos by Joseph James
Poster by Error! Design
The End of The Ocean hospitality rider courtesy of Bryan Yost
Man Mountain, Vision Explored, You Rest, You Joy Life, Hollow Paradise
We drove out of Illinois up to Michigan the night of the Chicago show. We watched another of Joey’s horror films on the way – one called “Strangers”, staring Liv Tyler. The hotel that night left a lot to be desired – the guys swore that it had bed bugs, and the complementary breakfast was stale. I slept in my usual domain – atop the loft in the van – so it didn’t bother me.
Next up was a trip to Guitar Centre. Mark managed to crack his 16″ crash cymbal at some point over the past few days so was keen to replace it, choosing a slightly bigger (and hopefully more durable) 18″ crash to replace it.
I remember chatting to Joey when I first met him a month ago. He mentioned that the band was going near Detroit, his eyes lighting up, He pulled up an article on his phone and showed me some statistics about crime in the area. “We’re going to get stabbed!” he proclaimed excitedly.
Ypsilanti seemed relatively non-descript. Not a big city, but not too small. Not as rough as Joey’s stats would suggest, and certainly not as rough as the area we’d been in, in Chicago the night before. Loading in and setting up was easy. I don’t have a lot to say, except that the songs playing over the PA were way too loud, and the food at the bar was exceptional.
I wasn’t feeling it that night. Man Mountain were great – good music, good beards, friendly dudes – but I wasn’t in the mood for loud music and just hung out in the back.
Tour Day 5: Wednesday 4 October
Voltage Lounge, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
w/ Tides of Man, This Patch of Sky, VEXES, The Sound of Rescue
Pennsylvania takes a long time to traverse. We spent virtually all day on a free way. Let me tell you, it’s not cheap either! It cost almost $100 to take the toll roads to Philadelphia all day.
Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love – the greek translation. Joey set about making the most of the setting by chatting to the guys in Tides of Man – the headliners – who happened to be one of Joey’s favourite bands. The ToM guys were super friendly and it was great to see a “big” band acting so down-to-earth. Maybe this brotherly love thing has clout?
Voltage Lounge – the venue – had a cool feel. Decent sized, with a mezzanine balcony and ample backstage area. Every square inch was covered in graffiti or band stickers – something that I like in venues because it adds character to the place. Oddly enough, the sound guy was friendly and supportive, breaking the stereotype.
First act, The Sound Of Rescue, played post-rock. It was ok. They didn’t push the envelope in any way, but it wasn’t terrible.
VEXES were great. Energetic and heavy, in the vein of Deftones and Thrice. I was getting annoyed at the red lights on stage – something that makes photography a lot harder – so started playing with my camera settings and began shooting in black and white. So thanks to VEXES for helping me evolve my photography skills.
This Patch of Sky came with big expectations. Having recently signed to Equal Vision Records, and released an album to rave reviews, they’d developed a reputation. unfortunately they didn’t meet the hype. Something sounded out-of-tune for the first two songs. Granted, they had a fill-in drummer, and it was their first night of tour. Kit the frontman is interesting to watch. He throws himself around the stage with abandon. Sadly, the rest of the band didn’t match his energy. It didn’t help that half of them play seated. I’ll be seeing them a few more times over the course of the tour so hopefully they fare better in other cities.
Tides Of Man slayed. It was instantly clear why they are headliner material. They played four unreleased songs, as well as content from their album Young and Courageous. The combination of memorable melodies and sheer talent means that there is no way you could dislike this band. That is an objective statement.
Following the gig we tried to navigate Philadelphia’s tight one-streets and went to buy cheese steaks from Pat’s, as you must do when in Philly. There was no parking for a van with trailer, so CJ drove around the block a few times while we picked up the food.
That night I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in the van on the drive to New Jersey, and remained sound asleep in that spot until around 7am. I remember removing my glasses, and in a groggy moment of decision-making, placed them down beside me to be “safe”. To my horror, come morning I discovered I’d slept on top of them and broken the arm.
Tour Day 6: Thursday 5 October
Dingbatz, Clifton, New Jersey
w/ Tides of Man, Gatherers, VEXES, Fence ≇
The hotel we were in was a mere 20 minute drive from Dingbatz, so we made the most of the relaxed morning. Mark and I spent some time in the “fitness centre” – that is, a gym – followed up by a soak in the pool and hot tub. Lunch was at Red Rooster – connected to the hotel – and then we headed to the venue.
Dingbatz was not great. The space to store gear was limited, and the sound guy came across as a total dick. He did play some good music over the PA between sets, including Jakob – which made me feel homesick – but there is no excusing how he treated people.
Tides of Man finished their soundcheck and invited me on an adventure. A quick google search of “things to do in Clifton” revealed a tunnel system a few miles away nicknamed “The Gates of Hell”.
I was super stoked to be in a setting other than a tour van or music venue. I handed out flashlights (I call them torches, and I have an incurable addiction) and we climbed down into the abyss.
The guys loved it. We walked through large drains, trying to avoid stepping in any water and inspecting the graffiti on the walls. I’ve done a bit of draining and caving in the past so it was nothing new to me, but still really fun to explore. We chatted on the way. Turns out Tides of Man toured with Australian band Karnivool a few years ago and we bonded over a mutual love of the band.
Back at Dingbatz, after a few beers with the VEXES dudes (Iron Maiden Trooper beers \m/), we watched local act Fence put on a grunge tinted set. They didn’t seem to take it super seriously, but I liked the music.
VEXES did their thing again. I like their style. Gatherers followed, but I didn’t like their intense screaming.
A handful of Mark’s friends had made the trip from New York to Jersey specially to see him. They hadn’t told him their plans, so he freaked out when he saw them. It was cool to see him so excited about catching up with old friends he hadn’t seen in a very long time. And super cool that they’d made the effort to drive all this way, even though we were scheduled to play Brooklyn the next night.
Setting up for Ranges set was interesting to say the least. The sound guy was being a grouch, telling us off because some of the early bands had run over time, putting us late. Mark fell backwards off the stage. He’d thought that it was a wall behind him, but it was just a fabric backdrop. So as I carried a cymbal stand onto the stage I saw him in an odd section between the stage and backstage, on his back with all his limbs in the air, like a stranded beetle stuck upside down. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt.
Mark actually played harder that night – probably a combination of a few beers and trying to show off for his friends who had shown up. The rest of the band caught on and it was nice to see them band together and play well, despite the negative vibes coming from the sound guy.
Following the set we hurriedly took the gear off stage, aware that we were running late. Joey, CJ and I got stranded backstage. We weren’t allowed to open the back door while Tides of Man were playing, and it would have felt rude to run across the stage during their set. All being said, I can think of worse places to be trapped. Tides of Man are incredible. It was nice, having some alone time backstage and listening to great music.
After the show finished and we’d packed our gear into the vans we migrated across the road to another bar. Mark was on fine form, shouting and laughing with old friends. The rest of us hung out with the Tides of Man crew, who shared funny stories about past tours.
That night before bed I reflected on how much fun I was having. I’ve grown really close to the Ranges crew over the past week. We have so many laughs together. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to join them on the road.
They’ve given me a nickname: Baggins. And introduce me to their friends as “our New Zealander”. All day they tell me how happy they are to have brought me along. I feel exactly the same.
Tour Day 7: Friday 6 October
Gold Sounds, Brooklyn, New York
w/ So Hideous, This Patch Of Sky and Tides Of Man.
I had been looking forward to this date all tour. Mark has such a larger-than-life personality, and I wanted to see him in his native environment. Plus, he comes from a hardcore/punk background, and kept promising to introduce me to his old band mates and friends who had been involved in the early NYHC scene.
Mark didn’t start the day so chipper though. He’d drunkenly left a bag at the bar and was worried that he wouldn’t get it back. He’s been making an effort to get healthier, so his bag contained medicines and foods like seaweed, dried fruit and nuts, and apple cider vinegar. We rocked up to the bar at midday to see if the bag was still there. Thankfully it was, and I nearly wet myself when I saw the note attached to it. It read: “Someone left their Hippie Survival Bag here Thurs Night”. Brilliant!
The drive to New York had Mark back to his usual self. He excitedly pointed out anything that came to him – where he’d met his wife, a venue he used to attend, where he’d got some tattoos, his favourite pizza spot.
It was surprisingly easy to find a car park for the van a trailer. We took the L line on the subway over to Manhattan and lunched at Katz’s deli at Mark’s insistence: pastrami on rye with mustard. There was a long queue and it was expensive, but damn it was an experience trying to consume such a large sandwich.
It was surreal seeing who had showed up to the gig. Some friends from Bozeman just happened to be in New York on the day. So as well as Wilson and myself (art/merch guy and token New Zealander/roadie), they also had their sound guy and tattoo artist. And there were all the New York locals who showed up to see Mark as well.
They’ve been improving every night, and again, Ranges killed it. Mark went extra hard in front of his punk friends, and CJ and Jared got more physical moving around the stage. Even Joey – not one to rock out much while he plays – nodded his head more than usual. And their light show synced up to the music usually impresses, but tonight it really set them apart from the other bands.
The venue was great. The perfect size to fit everyone. Easy parking, too. Ranges opened for the night, and the place looked packed out. To be fair, it was close to full, but the size of the room enveloped everyone and made it seem more intimate.
Although one major downside was that the only restrooms in the joint were side of stage. So in between sets – when we needed to shift amps and instruments – everyone was queuing right where we wanted to put the equipment.
So Hideous played next. I couldn’t handle the roaring, but I’ll give them credit where it’s due and say that it was awesome seeing a guy shredding on violin.
This Patch Of Sky drew a decent crowd. They played better than in Philadelphia. Guitarist Kit Day snapped a string and ran backstage to borrow another guitar. Dan from Tides Of Man stood near me and watched on nervously. “He better not break a string – I need that guitar for later!” he confided.
Sadly Dan, and the Tides Of Man crew didn’t have a good time on stage. They had issues with their bass cab, meaning that they needed to borrow Jared’s last-minute. And then another amp blew. This pushed their set up time, meaning that they couldn’t fit in a line check, and the mixing levels weren’t to their satisfaction. I can understand that would have been incredibly frustrating, having your gear fail you, and being unable to hear the band as you play.
But, in all honesty, I don’t think it affected their set other than how they were feeling. I loved every minute of it. It sounded great – maybe not perfect, but still fantastic. I could tell that the guys were beating themselves up after the gig, but they needed have worried.
We stayed around until 2am. Mark was reuniting with friends, and the bar had converted to a nightclub, meaning it was hard to pack out gear because we had to push past everyone in the bar. CJ, the trooper that he is, did an all-nighter, driving the five hours to Burlington, Vermont, for dunk!fest. I don’t know how he does it.
I’ve been running Will Not Fade for just over three years now. I cover a variety of music, but the reality is that I’m mostly known for my post-rock content. I never planned on becoming pigeon-holed like that, but it is what it is, and it has helped me form connections within the international post-rock community.
As some readers may know, I left my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand in June, and have been travelling around the USA since. I met up with Jesse from Glacier in Boston, Matt and Joe from Aviation and the War in Chicago, and now I’m staying with CJ from Ranges in Bozeman, Montana.
I feel that talking about this is on par with discussing interconnections and unity and one love and a bunch of hippy nonsense. Why don’t we all reflect on how we are vessels of creativity? But joking aside – it truly is special that I’ve managed to befriend people from around the world based on a mutual love of music.
CJ reached out to me via Twitter a few years ago asking me to review Ranges latest release. Soon after I offered him the chance to become a contributor to Will Not Fade. I’ve reviewed some of his band’s releases, and offered advice when his company A Thousand Arms released some compilations [Open Language, Hemispheres]. And now I’m staying at his house, attending his album release show, and will be accompanying his band on tour at the end of the month.
The latest Ranges album is The Ascensionist. It’s a progression from the band’s earlier works, with each song referencing a former album.
Here’s the marketing spiel:
Pre-orders for Ranges‘ new album ‘The Ascensionist’ are now available through A Thousand Arms (US) and dunk!records (EU). This release is split into two variants with A Thousand arms carrying the 180g Milky Clear with Bone A Side/B Side variant and dunk!records carrying the 180g Bone with Orange Crush A Side/B Side variant. Both variants come in upgraded reverse board gatefold packaging that includes a hand-numbered eight page screen-printed booklet with custom sewn binding. Cover paper handmade by RANGES using recycled cotton and native plants from the Bridger mountainrange near Bozeman, Montana. Also included in every vinyl order is an individually stained felt slipmat with a two color water-based screen-print. Digital download included.
In true A Thousand Arms style, the guys have gone waaaaay over the top. Most bands record an album, pay someone to mix and master it, and maybe order some tshirts to sell as well.
The Ranges guys:
Record in their own studio
Print their own merch
Screenprint the boxes they use to post said merch in
Printed slipmats to go with the vinyl records.
Hand made the very paper that they use to make a booklet that comes with each record
Teamed up with a local brewery to brew a beer to coincide with the album release
Which you can sip from a limited edition Ranges pint glass
Or if beer isn’t your thing, than maybe you’d prefer a special batch of coffee beans roasted to go with the album
And you could use one of the ceramic mugs that bassist Jared Gabriel threw to drink said coffee from
So if you haven’t concluded for yourself already: these guys are really into attention to detail aspects. They embody a DIY ethos. And their music rules.
I spent yesterday with the Ranges crew at a listening party at Badger Brewing in Bozeman. It was a great time, hanging out with the families and having pizza and beer (The Ascensionist IPA). They sold a lot of merch and albums, and at this rate they may run out of vinyl records before they get to dunk!festival. A nice worry to have.
As I said before, I’ll be tagging along with Ranges on the road during their upcoming tour. I plan on keeping a tour diary, posting photos, and covering the events at dunk!festival in Burlington, Vermont. You can follow our exploits by keeping an eye on the WNF site during October, and you can also subscribe or follow the WNF Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for updates as well.