Wenches: Loud, Belligerent, and “Effin’ Gnarly” (Early Album Stream)
In a world where youth—and perhaps more crucially, the idea of youth—has been fully commodified and monetized, the notion of dangerous, subversive rock and roll seems downright quaint. Nobody's parents are banning rock albums from the house; especially not when Johnny's YouTube reaction videos are paying the mortgage. Still, some of that original spirit continues to seep down through the generations, curdling the stale beer and dirt weed on the floors of dank practice spaces the world over. It burns a little brighter in Bloomington IN, the little big town that Wenches call home. See for yourself with our premiere:
An amalgam of local punk and metal acts, Wenches live in the same fun, loud, obnoxious sonic neighborhood as Lecherous Gaze and Nashville Pussy. Their full-length debut, Effin' Gnarly, is exactly that: all rough edges, go-for-broke pacing, and little regard for convention. Opener "Mama, Wake Up" kicks the door in with a Nugent-worthy riff and foot stomping groove before scaling back to a "Shout!"-style buildup to rouse the titular mama from a drunken stupor on the floor. "Truck Stop Tank Top" and "Bad Man" deliver a few quick shots of Motor City madness straight from the MC5 Rock Academy, which leads to a pitch-perfect cover of AC/DC's "What's Next To The Moon".
It would be easy for Effin' Gnarly to lose steam after a breakneck side A, but the energy level never dips. The back half of the album includes the manic "Break Up To Make Up" and monster groove of "Slip Slidin'", and lets off the gas just a tad on closing track "100,000 Years" if only to show off a Don Brewer-style drum solo and confirm that yes, Wenches has the talent to back up the passion. With James Plotkin (Pelican, Earth, ISIS [the band]) on mastering duties, the album is crystal clear without sacrificing the inherent grit a band like this needs. Because Wenches go where a lot of rock bands don't anymore: into the streets, smashing bottles, irreverent and free.
Check out an interview with James (vocals) and Jarod (guitar) below.
The songs on this album crackles with live energy. How was Effin' Gnarly recorded?
James: I'm stoked to hear you say that since we did actually record the skeletal tracks ‘live' in the studio at Russian. The engineer, Mike Bridavsky, is very good at what he does and I've worked with him numerous times. His studio is one of the best in the Midwest and I'm so happy we recorded all of the instruments there. The way the band was set up still allowed for everyone to vibe off of each other and I thought they totally ripped it. I ended up recording the vocals at my studio because I can be a bit meticulous about how I sound. Of course, also having James Plotkin master the whole thing was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. I would never consider going to anyone else.
Is "What's Next To The Moon" a collective AC/DC favorite, or was there other reasons you wanted to cover it?
James: When Jarod and I started the band we talked about how we could mix in the influences we had from the punk and hardcore records we loved like Antioch Arrow and Portraits of Past with bands like ZZ Top and really early AC/DC. I think we knew right away that we wanted to cover a Bon Scott-era song and I think we picked 3 songs to choose from and the whole band collectively settled on What's Next To The Moon. Those Bon Scott albums are definitely some of the greatest rock n' roll records to have ever existed.
Jarod: That song is sick, why wouldn't we cover it?
There is a lot of the old-school upper Midwest/Detroit music scene in Wenches' sound. What bands do you consider influences, and who currently would you think of as peers?
James: The motor city sound is and has always been an inspiration to me. Of course, The Stooges and MC5 go without saying, but for me it's actually Motown, aka Hitsville, USA. I'm a huge fan of Motown records and soul artists from Detroit like Jackie Wilson and Stevie Wonder. When we started I wanted WENCHES to have that gritty soulful rock n' roll blues sound with a punk and metal twist, if you know what I mean.
Jarod: If I were to name some principal northern Midwest influences they would be Death, The Gories, Negative Approach, Sam Cooke, Thoughts of Ionesco, Stooges, MC5, Prime Movers, Dead Boys (Cleveland), and Bob Seger. I hate to say it, but even The Nuge has some killer riffs, though I'm not a huge fan of him or his music overall – just his guitar playing. Aside from musical influences though, I'd say the riffs are more conjured from the same thing those bands were influenced by. Being from Fort Wayne Indiana, a northern rust belt factory city, I think it's just something that feels natural. The upper Midwest is full of poor blue collar families with overworked pissed off dads and tough mothers that raise their kids a little rough and gritty. Many old generations migrated from Appalachia, and have backgrounds in bluegrass, blues, and gospel and then passed that along to their kids. Really, I just want to create music that makes my deadbeat father roll over in his grave.
Who is "Break Up To Make Up" about?
James: That song isn't really about one person in particular. It's about all of the collective exes that play "mind games" that most of us have been familiar with at some point in our lives, I'm sure. You know how early in the relationship you get into arguments and then the making up part can be so romantic and fun, right? Well, what if that becomes all you have and the real attraction just revolves around that twisted ritual that keeps you together? That's not too healthy and eventually somebody is just gonna snap and end it. The freak out part of the song in the middle with all of the voices is that moment of losing it just before snapping. It's a really fun song to play live. Though I'm sure the crowd thinks I seem a bit crazed out which, I guess I am.
How is Wenches managing the pandemic, and what are the band's plans once it has passed?
James: We are sitting tight for the most part and being as patient as we can. We're trying to get everything lined up to hit it hard as soon as we can get back together. We can't wait to play as many shows as possible and write some new music. The time away has definitely been trying but also inspiring and we are itching to reunite so we can effin' rock again!
Effin' Gnarly releases February 26th, 2021 via Master Kontrol Audio.