Windhand, a new era of gloom and grief. CVLT Nation interviews the singer Dorthia Cottrell
In 2018, Windhand begin a new era of gloom and grief and team up with Virginia’s Satan’s Satyrs for an amp-worshipping, acid trip from hell on the split release in February via Relapse Records. A new full-length is projected for late 2018 as well along with plenty of touring as Windhand continue to cement themselves as one of the premiere heavy bands of our time.
I had the chance to talk with the singer Dorthia Cottrell about the songs “Old Evil” and “Three sisters,” the new full-length and what has changed after Grief’s Infernal Flower.
Windhand and Satan’s Satyrs split is finally out. Are you pleased with the response from the critics and your audience?
Yeah. I haven’t really read many of the reviews, so I hope they’re good. I’m really proud of what we did on the split, both us and Satan’s Satyrs. So I’m definitely happy about it.
Why did you do this collaboration with Satan’s Satyrs?
We’ve known them for a long time – some of them since we were in high school, actually. We did a couple of tours with them and it was just a really enjoyable experience. They’re cool dudes, we like their music. It is really cool to know them and have listened to their music since they were little teenagers and to see their progression until now.
We were waiting for something new from you since Grief’s Infernal Flower. Why did it take so long to release these new songs?
We were just busy with live stuff, I guess. Garrett [Morris, guitar] had a baby and that took up a lot of time, of course. And touring here and there. Just normal stuff. No reason, really. We’re writing our new record right now, which should be done recording in April and out in the fall.
I can’t wait for it. What has changed about Windhand since Grief’s Infernal Flower?
I don’t know, really. That’s a really hard question. I think we’re definitely more in tune with each other. We’re really comfortable being able to tell each other what we like and what we don’t like while we’re going through the writing process. That makes it a lot easier. Nobody’s feelings get hurt. If we don’t like something we can just change it.
Do you think your way of writing is different after Grief’s Infernal Flower or not?
Other than that, I don’t really think it is. We never have anything specific in mind going into it. We just want to play music that we like at the end of the day.
Could you tell us more about what inspired you when writing “Old Evil” and “Three Sisters”?
Like I said, I don’t really go into writing the song lyrics with anything specific in mind. I kind of just listen to the song over and over again and then try to hear what is already there. With “Three Sisters” it was kind of weird because I had this weird, dissonant, higher harmony in mind and the name Lorelei kept coming up when I was trying to mumble through it, basically just to get the harmony down. It ended up being called “Three Sisters” after that. I think Ryan or Garret named it. The name Lorelei is actually the Celtic version of the Greek siren myth with three sisters who would sit on the rocks and sing and lure sailors to their death. So it’s kind of weird. We were both on the same page when it came to that without even realizing it.
What is the creation process of your songs? I have always pictured you sitting on the sofa with candles surrounding you, your guitar and a glass of wine. Is my vision right or am I dreaming?
Well that’s pretty much how we practice, for sure [she laughs]. But Garrett writes most of the music at home and I think he does a lot of it on the acoustic guitar. Then he’ll bring in the parts and we’ll try to put them together. Or he’ll already have a basic structure and then I’ll come home and that’s when I’ll turn off my lights, eat my pizza, drink my wine and write the lyrics.
When and how did you start your approach to music?
I just grew up around a lot of musicians. A lot of people in my family play music; it was just always there. My dad plays guitar, my grandma plays piano and sings. We would always have parties growing up where my dad’s friends would come over and we would all just play music and sit around and sing, just kind of jam together.
How did you discover that you have such a beautiful voice?
Thank you. I don’t know. I guess just growing up singing. My dad would always think it was cute to teach me how to sing songs while he was playing guitar, and make me sing for his friends. I guess I just kind of built up confidence that way.
Do you have a memory of a song or an album from your childhood or teenage years that you are emotionally linked to?
Yeah, the first song that my dad ever taught me how to sing along to and play was Willy Nelson’s “Angel Flying to Close to the Ground.” At first he would sing it to me and then he taught me how to sing it and play it. I would always play it for his friends when they came over.
I’m a journalist, and I started writing stuff when I was a kid. And I still remember the feeling linked to one of the first stories I wrote. Is it the same for you? Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Totally, yeah. I think the first song that I wrote all the way through I actually sang at my high school talent show. That’s kind of dorky, but I was super nervous and I was excited. But definitely, I could sing it for you right now.
Playing with a band is not easy at all. I was wondering if you’ve ever felt judged for playing in a band like Windhand.
No, not really. I try not to think about that stuff too much. You can really go down a rabbit hole with that.
Recently, I talked to Emma Ruth Rundle, Myrkur, Zola Jesus and Caro from Oathbreaker about how difficult it is to be a woman in the metal scene. What do you think about that?
That’s always the question. My answer is always changing. I do feel it. As you know, it’s really easy for booking agents to want to book your band with other female-fronted bands as if it were a genre in and of itself.
My colleague Kelsey Chapstick from Metal Sucks wrote an article about why it’s important to stop using female-fronted as a metal genre. What do you think about that?
Yeah, totally. It’s just kind of frustrating that you get to a town, you’re excited to play and then you realize all the bands you’re playing with are cool and it’s all very diverse, but the only thing you have in common is they’re all female singers! I’m always stoked to see other women playing music too, but I think it’s sort of detrimental to just define it as a genre in and of itself. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would you do that?
You mentioned before that you are working with Windhand on a full length. Could you please tell us more about it?
We’re supposed to be done by the beginning of April. Then we’re going to fly out to Seattle and record with Jack Endino again. I think we’re going to be there for two weeks. We’re excited about it. All the songs have come together pretty naturally and quickly. On my end, I always feel confident when the lyrics and the vocals seem to write themselves and happen fast. I feel like that’s when I know that it’s going to be a good song. And that’s pretty much how every song has come out so far. So I’m really excited about it.
Do you feel differently when you play with your band and when you play solo?
Yeah. My acoustic stuff is just kind of me singing my diary. It’s like shit that is actually happening to me in my life at the time.
Are you planning a new record for your solo project?
I’m always writing and I do want to eventually, but right now the focus is definitely only on Windhand.
Are you planning to come back to Europe?
For sure. I’m not sure when. We we’re just talking about it the other day. Maybe in the spring of 2018 but it’s really kind of up in the air. Everybody’s got their family stuff, you know.
If you had one wish for 2018, what would it be and why?
There’s so much that’s wrong with the world right now, it’s hard to answer. I think if everyone just tried to be a little more open-minded and empathetic and tried to see things from somebody else’s point of view that would be a good start.
And what do you wish for Windhand?
I’m just excited to see how the record sounds when all is said and done. And we’ll be touring again in the fall. This one is a little different for us too, so it will be interesting to see how it sounds after Jack helps produce it.