Parks (center): “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”
A live show from the Nashville-based psychedelic rockers All Them Witches is an immersive experience. Often, Ben McLeod’s guitar comes in first — intricate remnants of stoned Southern blues slithering across his fretboard. Then Robby Staebler kicks in on drums. Charles Michael Parks Jr. adds propulsive bass lines and haunting vocals over melodies played by keyboardist Allan Van Cleave. As the tempo builds, the audience begins writhing to the beat. Writhing turns to thrashing.
One word? Heavy.
The band, which plays the High Noon Saloon March 18, released the critically acclaimed Sleeping Through the War in February on New West Records, and it’s the first time they’ve worked with Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb. Before the group embarked on an ambitious tour that takes them all over the U.S. and Europe, Parks chatted with Isthmus from his new home in North Carolina.
This is the band’s first time back to Madison since you played FRZN Fest at the High Noon Saloon in January 2016. How are you feeling about returning?
Wait, how cold it is it in March? No, I like the Midwest. I think Wisconsin is pretty great. I like being on tour in the winter, but it’s weird going to cold places, driving around in our van in hazardous conditions. For some reason, we usually hit the Midwest in winter.
Tell me about the title of your latest album, Sleeping Through the War.
We see all of these terrible things happening around us, and we can turn it off or turn off the emotions about it. That’s how we were raised — being desensitized to actual human feelings and needs. You have the ability to turn off the bad news and watch something that will entertain you. Living in a society where you can whip out your phone and be stimulated takes the focus off the violence.
You wrote and recorded the album in a ridiculously short time. What was that about?
We took four days to write, went on tour in Europe, came back, recorded for six days, then went back on tour. This album has the same idea of moving forward. If I had to sum up all the records down to one idea, it would be that somewhere in the future things get better for a lot of people.
“3-5-7”, the fourth track on the album, explores the theme of focus. What grabs you about this idea?
When we get on the road, we turn into machines. We know how to go out on tour and set our shit up and play shows. I feel very focused on tour. I feel scatterbrained when I stay in one place for a while — time begins to take on a different meaning. It’s more about staying focused on what you’re focused on, questioning why are you focused on that thing, and wondering if it’s what you want to be focused on.
What’s next on the horizon for the band?
It’s always been this strange connection with our band where we just get in a room and start playing. I think the guys in this band are the most talented people I know. They can all play their asses off, but they’re not too showy. We don’t practice — we go on tour and that’s about it. But if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.