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Extremely Mild, Mildly Extreme: A Chat with Christian Lembach of Whores.

Photo credit: Brandon Belcher.
Photo credit: Brandon Belcher.

Since their inception, Whores. have made no effort to dull the blade. The trio’s debut EP Ruiner and its follow-up Clean showcased immediate promise through the band’s over-fuzzed blend of crawling sludge and 1990s “pigfuck” style of noise rock. The trio’s 2016 full length Gold was a 40-minute bump of electric, no-frills scum rock, and the group has also gone on to leave a permanent dent in the now-legendary rebooted Drugs, Guns, ‘n’ Fucking in the Streets series by Amphetamine Reptile.

Having more recently made an appearance on the Bash 17 compilation (alongside underground royalty such as The Melvins and Mudhoney!) with the dissonant rager “Flag Day,” the Atlanta-based starlets appear ready to take their place on the Mount Rushmore of modern noise rock. That is, if they don’t permanently ruin themselves first. The man is Christian Lembach, and if you didn’t know, the band is Whores.

— Oliver Meades

Hey Christian! Thanks for taking the time to chat! First off, how is your knee right now? And what exactly happened to you?

Thanks for asking. I slipped and fell onstage in Toronto while we were supporting Cult of Luna. Tore two ligaments and damaged the meniscus. I had surgery, and I’m in physical therapy now.

Do you think your injury has put you off from going full Dillinger Escape Plan in the future, and how frustrating is it having to play sitting down?

Time will tell, but I’m hopeful. It totally sucks having to play sitting down. Our music moves me emotionally, so I tend to want to play as hard as I can at every single show. It’s been difficult. I always have this “put me in coach” feeling having to sit during our sets. I hate it.

As far as great releases go, 2017 has been a ridiculous year! Of the year’s crop, what have you been unable to turn off?

Off the top of my head, the new records from Metz, The Bronx, Pissed Jeans, Mastodon, Meat Wave, Dead Cross, and the Bummer split all rule.

Just over a year ago, Whores. dropped a fuzzed-out monster of a debut. A year on, how do you feel about Gold, how is the sophomore album shaping up, and do you still have the bin from the cover?

Thanks man, but Gold is actually our third release. We have two EPs, Ruiner and Clean, that came out prior to Gold. Ruiner is on its fourth pressing and I think Clean is on its sixth. I feel pretty proud of Gold. I’m grateful that it was received so well, but we’re just getting started. We’re writing the new record now and looking at recording early next year. The trash can from the cover is actually in my apartment right now, ha. I painted that thing myself.

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How does your life as Christian Lembach, frontman of a noise rock powerhouse, differ to the one you led before touring full time and even before Whores.?

Dude. I’m so mild-mannered. I literally sit quietly and pet my cat at home. I don’t drink or get high. I’m totally normal. When we’re on tour we obviously go, go, go. But at home I’m super chill. It’s really not too different, as we all still work when we’re not on tour. We’d love for the band to be our only source of income, but we’re not there quite yet.

Earlier this summer, you guys played Amrep’s “Bash 17.” How did you first meet the underground legend/borderline mythic figure that is Tom Hazelmyer?

Oh man, this is nuts. Whenever we sell a digital download I get an e-mail alerting me to the sale. I was working on a commercial shoot down in Florida and got an email saying Tom Hazelmyer just paid for a download. I was floored. I immediately took a screenshot and posted it on our social media. I have been a fan of Haze’s since I was a small fry. The fact that he was not only aware of our band but also a fan knocked my socks off. The next time we played in Minneapolis, Tom came to the show, and he invited us to Amrep headquarters and his restaurant the next day. We’ve been friends ever since.

It is great to see Amrep putting out releases every now and again, especially with a visual and sonic “brand” as captivating as that of Amphetamine Reptile. As someone who undoubtedly has their finger on the pulse of the underground, have you ever considered putting together a label of your own?

As much as I love music, and new music in particular, starting and running a label the right way costs a bit of money, which I don’t have. I would love to get all of our friends and contemporaries under one roof. That would really be something. My main focus needs to be on the band for the next few years, though. I’m dead set on turning this band into something with permanence.

Music aside, during the 1990s, Amrep had some of the most incredible visual artists creating posters and album artwork. Out of the bunch, who do you think would come up with the best cover for Whores.?

Haze’s stuff is obviously incredible, as is Coop’s. But I am admittedly a bit of a control freak, and I come up with the concept, cover art, color scheme, and overall art direction for each release. I’m all for outside artists designing merch, but I like to keep the design of the records in-house. Continuity is important to me.

As a bonus of following you guys, I’ve managed to discover the ridiculously underrated Karp, Vic Chesnutt, and countless other lesser-known but fully awesome artists. Off the top of your head, what would you say is the one band that you feel the kids should be doing their history on?

Our homies in Bummer, who opened our U.S. tour for Gold, are spectacular. As far as legendary/influential bands, I always default to my holy trinity: The Birthday Party, The Stooges, and The Velvet Underground. All super influential to me, and with good reason.

How was touring with Cult of Luna? An awesome band for sure but I can’t imagine their crowds felt like completely familiar territory. Do you feel you managed to win the crowds over and maybe even make a few converts?

Oh man they were all so nice. I actually know Andrew Schneider from playing so many shows in NYC. The crowds were super responsive. Very intense. I couldn’t have asked for more.

How cool is it to see The Jesus Lizard playing a few shows again? Are you planning on going to any of the dates and did you catch them much back in the day?

I don’t think I’m going to be able to catch any of the shows coming up, but I’m obviously a huge fan. I saw them a ton back in the day, and I managed to catch them on the last run as well.

For a while now, a lot of the music press seems to be kind of vulture-esque when it comes to guitar-based music. Constantly waiting to swoop down and carve the death date on the tombstone of rock. That said, do you think rock will ever again reach the critical acclaim that it achieved in the 1990s, and does it even matter if a band crosses over into the mainstream anymore?

That’s sort of a meta question. I don’t speculate about things like that, because it makes no difference to me. It’s really easy to get caught up in the business side of stuff. It’s a very, very dirty business. It’s important for us to focus on writing and performing. We definitely stay aware and involved, but as far as crossing over… I don’t know man. I just want to go as hard as we can and stay out of the results.

I’ve read about trouble finding you as a result of the band’s name, which in today’s sensitive times is hardly surprising. Have you had any notable clashes with the scene police recently?

Yeah, but we don’t like to add fuel to the fire. Giving people like that attention is exactly what they want. So we don’t. I feel like that wave may actually be cresting, now that the world is facing some bigger issues. You either get it or you don’t.

I know you are a champion of a wide range of music, but what is it specifically about playing noise rock that you find so appealing?

I really enjoy simplicity and intensity. Noise rock is able to be tough without sounding like redneck music. I always say that I prefer music that is sort of dumb but clearly played by pretty smart people, and opposed to “smart” music, which always sounds like Guitar Center employees to me. Like, I’ll take Melvins over Dream Theater or some other nonsense every single time. I love a lot of quiet, sad bastard music, a lot of post-punk, goth, 1990s hip-hop, 1980s hardcore, just tons of stuff. But my love for pedals and giant amps sort of necessitates that we do what we do.

To wrap this up, when did you realise that it was time to waver security and stability in your life and to take Whores. to a full-time level?

I guess about three years ago or so it occurred to me that if I want to be successful or effective or whatever you want to call it, then I have to go at it full-force, with no brakes and no reservations.

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