If you ask me, 2014 wasn’t what I’d call a great year for new Post Punk- and/or Goth Rock-releases. But if there was one common denominator for both, fans and insiders, and especially when taking “Best of 2014 Records” year end lists into consideration, then it definitely has to be “Turkish Leather”, the eclectic second full-length album of the enigmatic trio Ritual Howls. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Post-Punk.com talked to Paul Bancell (Vocals, Guitars), Chris Samuels (Synths, Drums) and Ben (Bass) If you haven’t done it yet, make sure to check out the album as quickly as you can – it’s a true gem.
Gentlemen, thank you for granting us this interview as well as your precious spare time. Over here in Germany, it seems as if the Ritual Howls train has been slowly but steadily reaching full steam within the past two months or so. The feedback and response to your wonderful “Turkish Leather” album has been thoroughly positive and sometimes even overwhelming. So my first question is: How are you guys feeling right now?
Great! We appreciate the kind words.
Let’s push the rewind button a little bit and talk about your s/t debut from 2012. How long did it take you to put said record together? And where do you see the biggest differences but also similarities between albums number one and two?
The first record was a combination of Paul bringing songs he was already working on and songs we wrote as a band. We recorded it ourselves and Urinal Cake Records mastered and released it. With “Turkish Leather” all of us collectively wrote and arranged the songs resulting in a more unified sound or I guess you could say; a Ritual Howls sound. We went to High Bias, a studio here in Detroit, to record “Turkish Leather” as oppose to doing it all ourselves.
To me personally, “Turkish Leather” sounds more mature, but also edgier and – in the most positive way imaginable – more “weird”. I wholeheartedly contract a lot of the reviews I’ve read online who claim that Ritual Howls are a Gothic Rock band and “sound a lot like The Sisters Of Mercy”. Deep male vocals? Okay. Drum machine? Check. Swirling and sinister bass lines? Yep. But, and this is a big BUT, there’s a lot more to your sound than this. To my ears, there’s a big cinematic influence to it as well as a lot of neatly mixed Industrial and even Cold Wave-ish elements here and there. How would you personally describe your music? Is there any particular artistic lineage you’d consider yourselves a part of?
Please be so kind and give us a little insight into the composing and production process of “Turkish Leather” as well as the lyrics. What influenced you while working on the album? And how long did you work on said longplayer all in after releasing your debut two years before?
A lot of the “Turkish Leather” songs began as jams during practice. Once we decided the jam was going somewhere we would record and begin refining it. We create the outlines of songs quickly but spend a lot of time working out the details. The lyrics are written in a similar fashion. Paul gathers a collection of ideas from books and films and then elaborates on the ideas to fit the songs personality. He likes to find characters he identifies with and writes from their perspective, rather than writing from his own. We wrote the record in about a year.
How did you get in touch with your label Felte? And how has your working relationship been so far?
Our friends in the musical community of Detroit kept pushing our music towards Jeff Owens at Felte. He finally saw us play at Glass Lands in New York and decided he was interested in releasing our music. Felte has helped bring awareness to our band and provided immense artistic support. It has been great working with them.
Unfortunately I’ve never had the chance of seeing you guys perform live, but friends of mine from NYC raved about your gig in the Big Apple at the end of 2014. What can the audience expect from Ritual Howls on stage?
Visuals are a large part of our live performance. We use a combination of projections and lights to create an environment to accompany the music.
“Zemmoa” and “My Friends” have become instant crowd favorites at clubs of the cool kind in Germany. Would you ever have thought that people would actually dance to your music?
We always hope people will dance to our music.
Any ideas if Ritual Howls will make it across the pond to the Old World rather sooner than later? I’m pretty sure you could easily book a couple of neat shows across Europe’s bigger towns in an instant.
We are working on something for 2015. We don’t have anything booked yet but are working hard to make it a reality.
What’s next for the band? Are you already working on new material?
We are currently taking a break from playing live in order to focus on writing new songs and filming videos for several songs from “Turkish Leather”.
Since 2014 is about to end in approx. three weeks, what were the Top 5 albums of this year for all three of you? And, in addition, what are your respective Top 5 albums of all time?
Top 5 lists are very difficult, especially because we have three members. Mostly we’ve been jamming a lot of radio Rap, old Industrial, spiritual Jazz and all of the music our friends make, for e.g. Shigeto, Adult., Siobhan, Jamaican Queens, Clay Rendering, Marital Vows and YOU.
Keepin’ it traditional: Your hopes, plans and dreams for the future?!
Keep moving forward. Make it to Europe. Make it to Asia.