CVLT Nation Interviews
Eight Bells is the new band from ex-SubArachnoid Space members, Melynda Jackson and Chris Van Huffel. Haley Westeiner joins them on bass and they released their debut album, The Captain’s Daughter, back in February. A spiraling album, filled with diverse influences from a wide variety of different genres. If you have not listened to it yet, you should check it out here: http://www.eightbellsband.com/
Hi Melynda. First of all I want to thank you for finding the time to do this interview, really appreciate it. Do you want to introduce the band?
I’m Melynda Jackson I play guitar, Haley Westeiner plays bass, and Chris Van Huffel plays the drums.
Even though “The Captain’s Daughter” is your debut album, you are definitely not new on the scene, given that you and Chris Van Huffel were both members of SubArachnoid Space. Do you consider Eight Bells to be a continuation of SubArachnoid Space or a completely new entity?
Melynda: Well, you can’t really run away from yourself- In other words, it is totally different but obviously my style is my style regardless what project I play in. Style changes as a person grows. I feel that there is always room for growth as a guitar player-but some parts of what I do are just the way that I play.
Chris: There are elements left over from SAS, but I think EB has evolved into something different. I know my playing and perspective have changed quite a bit since SAS. Haley also brings something to the table, which SAS didn’t have before.
Photos: Ted Reckoning
How does the creative process works in Eight Bells? Is it an individual process or you jam together and work the songs out that way instead?
Melynda: We mostly work as a group. Haley or I will come up with a part and share it with the rest of the group to create a song, or sometimes we spontaneously create together. There is no set rule or way that we do things, we let it happen as it will and I think we are still developing how we work and will work as a group.
Chris: I think generally we are more scrutinizing than before and that continues more and more going forward with the new songs we are working on since ‘The Captain’s Daughter’ was released.
You are currently signed to Seventh Rule Recordings, which seems to be releasing very interesting albums recently (the new BATILLUS being one of them). How is it working with them?
Melynda: Working with Seventh Rule is great. Very supportive and down to earth – it’s also nice that the label is located here in Portland Oregon.
Can you give us some info on the recording process of the album? Where was the album recorded? If I am not mistaken Billy Anderson (who was worked with bands such as NEUROSIS, EYEHATEGOD and thousand more) was involved.
Melynda: We used Revolver Studios here in Portland because we wanted an analogue recording. They have a two-inch machine there, so that was nice. We tracked with Billy there, and then he mixed most of it on his own at his studio, Everything Hz. For the final mix, I flew to LA for a couple of days.
Chris: Working with Billy was great! I think he did a very good job, especially with the time frame we had for tracking (4 days).
If I am not mistaken there are vocals in one of your songs (“Fate and Technology”) while the rest remain instrumental (not including the choirs). Do you think that in the future you will include vocals in more of your songs?
Melynda: Yes, we are moving toward more singing in the songs. Haley wrote the vocal passage for Fate and Technology- before she came up with that, it was just the guitar part in that spot but much shorter. Haley put the vocals in there, which gave shape to the part. Haley is instrumental in my growth this way, composing with vocals in mind is totally new to me both challenging and freeing… She is great at suggestions on harmonies, and also encouraging me as I continue to learn how to use my voice. Personally – I love instrumental music too- I don’t think we will ever have a song that centers completely around vocal parts. I do vocalizations on The Yellow Wallpaper, but these are done with a contact mic through a bunch of effects in order to create more of a voice as an instrument effect.
Your bassist, Haley Westeiner, seems to be a quite intriguing persona, classically trained and playing a six string. It seems really impressive. Can you give us some details on her background? Has she been in any other bands?
Haley: I am originally from Hartford, CT but moved to Portland in 2001 and have played in bands here since then, including the Haggard, Pom Pom Meltdown, Gay Deceivers, and Labryse. I have always been partial to progressive rock or metal trios and experimental sounds of all kinds, different mixes of pop and dissonance, structure and free- form. This is one aspect of what makes Eight Bells a rewarding project. I like six string basses because they up the ante of musicianship, allowing me to extend my range and adding elements of fusion, as they are often used in progressive, funk, or other technical genres.
Melynda: I am so glad that I found Haley- love her sense of melody.
Chris: Playing with Haley has been an amazing experience. Very grateful she is doing this project with us.
On a more engineering side of things, the use of effects is quite prominent throughout your music; I guess you have a quite impressive pedal board. Can you tell me for instance your three favorite effect units?
Melynda: My pedal board is not a crazy as you might think it is. I don’t really have room for pedals I don’t use or ‘one trick pony’ type pedals. I just have the basics: delays, distortions, overdrive, wah. My days of lugging around a pedal that is so particular in what it does that you can only use It once per set without sounding cheesy and overdone are long past. Right now I am really loving my new overdrive – Monarch pedal made by Earthquaker Devices . The rest is top secret.
To the music now you have an impressive array of influences from psychedelic elements and post rock atmosphere to jazzy abstracts themes and you still manage to sound unique and do not fit in a specific genre, something very rare these days. Firstly do you agree with that description? And do you all in the band listen to so many different genres or does each member brings something on the table? And finally do you find it difficult to balance between all those different sounds?
Melynda: I agree that we don’t fit any particular genre. The goal for me is to make the music that happens to me within a guideline of how it will feel, not who it sounds just like. We do listen to lots of different music- and I will say that my tastes are pretty wildly varied. I am more interested in capturing a feeling than fitting into a genre.
Chris: I find it hard to try and explain what genre of music we are when people ask me. I usually send people a link if they are really interested.
More into the inspiration side of your music: which bands would you say have influenced your sound mostly? And do you also find inspiration in other forms of art, I am asking because I believe that the closing track of the album “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a reference to the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Melynda: The Yellow Wallpaper is a great story from a time that is not so far gone. Essentially the story is about depression and how the treatment made it worse. I have most definitely felt like the character in that story, and can identify with her treatment.
Not going to be cruel and ask you for your favorite records of all time but what are you enjoying listening to lately?
Melynda: I have been listening to early polyphony recently- with short breaks for Depeche Mode.
I know it is probably a bit soon to ask but are you currently working on a follow up album?
Melynda: Yes we have begun writing for the next record. At this point we are working on a theme for it and have a couple songs mostly finished.
How was the tour that you just completed with SubRosa, and do you have any gig plans for the future?
Melynda: We had a fun time on the tour, and SubRosa are great people to travel with for sure. It was hard to say goodbye to them. We do have a couple of summer gigs that we are really excited about and some possibilities in the fall as well. I would like to focus on the writing though.
Chris: Touring with SubRosa was great! Crushing music and crushingly sweet people. I wish it could have been longer.
All right Melynda! Thank you again so very much for taking the time to do this interview. I wish you all the best and I will hopefully see you guys playing live soon. Take care!
Melynda: Not a problem!
Chris: Thank you!