Takes Tombs to tango at Picador

BY BRIAN DAU | MARCH 12, 2009 7:27 AM

mp3 sample: Tombs


The members of Tombs refuse to succumb to the status quo. By the time the post-metal threesome released their self-titled, seven-track début EP last April, they had written the 10 songs that would make up their next album.

Not content to wait around for success to find them, the band released Winter Hours — the group’s first full-length record — last month, less than one year after the début CD. For guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill, the band’s work ethic is a product of the band members’ continually challenging themselves to improve.

“One of the things that motivates us is trying to break the routine of our lives,” Hill said. “Everyone gets up in the morning and goes to work, and if you have the opportunity to be together with a group of people who are creative, that’s where the volume of work comes from. The fear of being mediocre keeps us trying to do the best possible work we can.”

Tombs, filled out by bassist Carson James and drummer Andrew Hernandez, will open for Pelican and Dredg at 6 p.m. on March 15 at the Picador, 330 E. Washington St. Admission is $12.

Although some bands function as a trio simply because of a shortage of members, Tombs seems to thrive off the raw, stripped-down sound provided by a straight guitar/bass/drums lineup. In fact, Hill said, many of his influences are three-person bands, including such groups as Rush and Hüsker Dü. He generally prefers one guitarist over bands with two, in which “each person has less of a role in the band.”

“I think I like that everyone in a three piece has to really fill up the spectrum of sounds,” he said. “The bass and guitar player have to work together to create a bigger sound with fewer components. I like to have everyone kind of maxed out pushing himself to fill up the space.”

The band’s instrumentation seems important to its fans as well. Jon Shank, the host of the weekly “Gloves of Metal” radio show on KRUI, said Tombs’ crushing riffs create a powerful, angry atmosphere.

“I really like the massive wall-of-sound production on the new Tombs album,” he said. “The drums and guitars sound absolutely huge and bombastic.”

As Hill wrote material for Winter Hours, he said, he spent a lot of time watching films by cult director David Lynch. The surrealist filmmaker, best known for such films as The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive, often blurs the real with the unreal and focuses on conveying strong emotions over making overt sense. The disorienting, emotion-heavy films were something Hill wanted to emulate in his music.

“I’m trying to get underneath everything, the way [Lynch] puts together moods and feelings as an emotional representation,” he said. “I’m aspiring to do a similar thing with lyrics and music as opposed to film. With [Winter Hours], I was trying to create a series of themes and connect them with a thread — to write each song as a stand-alone piece but have everything fit into this continuum. It’s something I want to go deeper into as we write more material.”

The emotions most prevalent on Winter Hours are feelings of “paranoia and fear” caused by two topics: the war in Iraq and humans’ effect on the environment, he said. Considering that the bulk of the material was written at the end of 2007 and into 2008, as Americans decided on a new president, it’s no surprise these issues were at the forefront of his mind.

“The intensity of the music comes through a lot of the anxieties and paranoia associated with the current affairs we were experiencing, such as the reality of the war and environmental climate,” Hill said. “It’s aggressive, but not in the way Slayer is aggressive — on more of an emotional level.”

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