Huntress captured the hearts and minds of Metalheads with their ‘Starbound Beast’ album. On the back of it, the band have been regularly seen alongside top-line touring acts across the US and Europe, and have made a major impact on the festival circuit. They’re currently touring with Amon Amarth (w/ co-support act Savage Messiah), taking in the UK, France, Portugal and Spain to sold out shows. I caught up with guitarist Blake Meahl to chat about all that’s happened to them since their 2013 album release on Napalm Records, gaining some insight into how they’ve progressed as a band.
BM: Right on, thanks for having me.
MJ: You’re here in Colchester tonight. A town steeped in history.
BM: I hear it’s the oldest recorded town in your whole freaking island!
MJ: Absolutely, the Romans have been here. Boudica, Queen of the Iceni tribe took them out.
BM: I heard they got their asses kicked, right? Jill went bat-shit crazy when she heard all about her! [laughs]
MJ: Starbound Beast was received so very well in 2013, you’ve a new line-up as far as band members are concerned. It’s been a busy time for you guys. You’re currently touring with Amon Amarth on their ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ tour and what a tour it’s been thus far! And such a cool story on how it worked out.
BM: Yeah! It’s a fitting tour for us, it’s been awesome. I mean, we’ve toured with a lot of incredible acts. We’ve just been so lucky and blessed to have so many crazy tour opportunities, but Amon Amarth has been on our list of, like, it would be so perfect. We first played with them on the Mayhem tour in the United States, which is like a month-long festival circuit. But before that we were at the Metal Hammer Awards out here because we were at Download for the first time and Amon Amarth was there also, and I run into Olavi and he’s like, “I know who you are!”. I was like, no way, what are you talking about…you’ve never heard us! And he’s like, “Oh yes I have! I have! You’ll see. I really like Huntress.” And sure enough he goes, “You’ll find out by the end of the tour. I did an interview and mentioned you”. And it turns out it was in Guitar World magazine and he’s was asked who are you looking forward to? And sure enough, he says it’s Huntress. And of course we don’t read it until after the Mayhem tour, and then we got to do a handful of one-off shows with them and here we are now! One of the things that I’d like to think we have in common is a really high priority of melody and songwriting. He was saying in that same interview, “People are always asking me like, what’s your secret? You wrote that song? Incredible. It’s not that hard! I just write songs. You know, I’m just writing melodies.” And when you see them and you see the crowd they are singing along to the guitar lines, just ‘whoa-ing’ away. And that’s all it comes down to is the fact that they’re not just trying to jerk themselves off like a little 12 year old kid trying to play as fast as he can. I’m actually going to make some music that people want to hear and remember. And that’s our goal also.
MJ: You’ve been in lots of bands prior to Huntress. Is there any difference in the way you write when you have a female vocalist as opposed to a male vocalist?
BM: Well, that’s an interesting question. In my former bands I was the vocalist, so I would probably just torture myself and put myself out of my range and try to scream my voice out and it would work out, maybe. I was trying to write stuff for myself and I was very inexperienced and I’ve never played at a professional level band like this before. It was always a hobby with my best friends. You already mentioned we’ve had some turnover in band members – our current drummer is my brother. We played together in high school and then we didn’t play together for about eight or ten years and only recently have reconnected with it, so all these bands I’ve been in have been such minor leagues. We never aspired for much, it was just we’re playing metal and we like to keep it weird and progressive and we always figured we would be in a van and just figured we would get some crappy label deal that we would be bound to for the rest of our lives and we didn’t care, that’s what we did. And as this band came together and we realized the potential of it and also our tastes and maturities changed, like a lot of the song writing has progressed not because of it being a female vocalist but because of what I realised I should have realised a long time ago, which is that the song is what’s important, not the riff. As much as I love riffs, and as important as they are, string 50 of them together as fast as you can is not a song. You know?
MJ: We just heard you play a new song, called ‘Flesh’. Yet to be recorded, I’m guessing.
BM: Basic tracks are done, but Jill has not done her vocals yet.
MJ: It sounds killer and it’s already one of my favourites of yours.
BM: Awesome, thank you. Really excited to hear that reaction. That song is one of the ones our producer is really excited about too. We’ve been playing four new ones in our set and that’s just one of them.
MJ: So tell us about the album. Has it got a name yet?
BM: Not that I’m allowed to reveal, but it’s going really well. It’s a strange process this time, because we stopped in the middle of it to come out here. And we stopped in the middle of our writing, our pre-production process to go on our last tour with Arch Enemy and Kreator in the States, so it’s been stop-start. It’s turning out really good though, and I’m very excited about it. As I said on a previous question, it’s focusing further and further on the songwriting and always knowing, Jill’s the vocalist. The vocals are what sticks with people and we can’t all be trying to compete for center stage and I feel like that’s one of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, one of the mistakes I’ve made as a guitar player…I’m just the fucking guitar player! As much as I love these lead guitar riffs and I’m going to have my space, you can’t always be competing, putting in double kick and a fast riff over a vocal. Metal bands sometimes get away with it, because there’s a lot of growling and all that. But when there’s too much melody fighting for center stage, it doesn’t really equate to a catchy song, you know? Or something that really sticks with people, and that’s the main goal here. So we’re just getting smarter and smarter about our songwriting and hope it’s going to open a lot of doors for us and that a lot of people are going to love it, and maybe some of the fans that have been with us for our extreme riffs and stuff, maybe they’ll long for that first album to be repeated here, but I think we’re making a much, much better product now as a result, you know?
MJ: You’re working with some incredibly experienced and talented people on this album. Where did you record the album?
BM: Well, it’s being done in Burbank with a production team, Jim Rota and Paul Fig. Jim has played in a band called Fireball Ministry and is now doing a lot of video production. He did the Sound City movie for Dave Grohl and this whole new Sonic Highways thing and is the producer of that stuff. Paul is a badass engineer. He just did the last two Alice in Chains albums, he did the new Ghost album, he works with Nick Raskulinecz all the time who does a lot of big production stuff. We’re in really good hands. It’s cool because we have this most incredible engineer who is capable of whatever we need and a guy that’s constantly making us sit back and think about the song, and remember that the big picture and what the sum of all parts is what is important, not what each individual instrument is doing.
MJ: You’re making space for all the musicians!
BM: Yeah, it’s so important, it seems like such a stupid, obvious thing but especially in the metal world it’s easily forgotten.
MJ: Well, Blake it’s been a real pleasure sitting with you talking about the tour, the new album, the music and the songwriting. We wish you well on the rest of the tour, and every success for 2015. We are really stoked to hear that we have a new Huntress album this year.
BM: Thanks man. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for supporting us over the years and playing our music. To the guys ‘n gals reading this who haven’t heard of us, go watch the Zenith video and then come back and talk to me. To our fans who come out to our shows, we so appreciate your support. Make sure you tune into to ‘The Classic Rock Show’!
So there you have it…by the sounds of it, we’ve one heck of an album to look forward to from Huntress later on this year.