Music lovers, this one’s for you. Iowa’s Closet Witch released their self titled album in June 2018, infusing it with the dreams of an intense live music experience that occupy alternative metal fans. Those who might otherwise be listening alone gather in live settings to pool their energy into something greater — and Closet Witch encapsulates that broader purpose.
The band’s music fills in gaps left on some traditional recordings that concert attendees traditionally fill in with their own energy. The songs bring listeners together, transcending single minded heavy music releases, those who would prefer to pigeonhole art, and even, if you really dig in, geography considering not everyone can make it to a Closet Witch live performance.
These traits are largely intentional, the band’s guitarist Alex Crist explains.
“Every release basically comes from the same place: love of music/performance and the passion that comes from the scene,” he says. “It really helps when you have 3 of your closest friends all together, pouring themselves out onto a basement floor — molding this release together. It was stressful but also beautiful. We learned a lot about our music and each other. What was behind it was pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone; some songs were written the weekend before tracking. It was the idea of: we’re doing this and it’s going to happen.”
Iowa & The Midwest: Closet Witch’s Home
Crist and the band’s “scene” centers around where they’re based — Iowa. The state has a lot more to offer than Slipknot, however popular they may be.
“I can’t begin to tell you what the Midwest Scene has to offer,” Crist explains. “The amount of inspiration is ridiculously overwhelming — the musicianship is superb. I can’t remember the last show I walked away from and went ‘dang, didn’t learn anything from that.’ Closet Witch is a melting pot of Power Violence/Screamo with every scene band that put hearts in our eyes. Bigger acts need to start considering Iowa more often when routing tours.”
He adds: “The more shows and bands we get to see, the more songs get written. We’re not ripping off parts, we’re just aiming to achieve the moment that got us hooked during their performance. We’ve started writing for two new splits and we’re pleased with the direction it’s going, though different- it’s exciting. We played with Comrades in Fargo for New Direction Fest 7, along with Weathered and more. A lot was taken in that day.”
Like other locales, the Iowa scene births something special and personal for the members of Closet Witch and others who get to be involved. Vocalist Mollie Piatetsky explains: “I think we were feeling really inspired to do something heavier than what we were all doing when we started Closet Witch and now it’s our diary. It’s our sacred outlet for letting out what we might not always be able to just say and aggression we cannot usually outwardly express.”
Closet Witch Shows Are Something Else
Although the mood is incorporated, Closet Witch’s modus operandi extends beyond aggression to cover anything the band wants to say, as Piatetsky noted. Considering the intensity of their music, Closet Witch feels like they’re pouring out every emotion all at once — including some of the testy ones like aggression.
At the same time, though, there’s smiling involved. When an extreme metal band reaches a point where their listeners can just have a good time while listening, something special has been achieved. An artist might not be able to win over everyone in a crowd to their side, but Closet Witch is certainly getting there.
“There are a lot of people that would be turned off when someone hits play on the record but when seeing the energy and really the crowd’s reaction — it’s not fucking bullshit bro-core hate moshing, it’s radically different,” Crist shares. “There is a sense of unity; we all feel it. The smaller the room and the more things happen, the more people get excited. They stop worrying about work and home. They stop worrying about deadlines…bills. We’re all there for 15 minutes of just raw energy. I get it, ‘being metal should be brootal man’ but that’s not for us. You should see the smiles during that 15 minutes.”
Crist shares a story of one such live performance that you’d be hard pressed to parallel to anything else.
“Oddly enough, we just played the 80/35 Festival in Des Moines where our stage was positioned right next to a restaurant with an outdoor patio on a lovely day. They even had us playing around dinner time, so we were pretty sure those folks were gonna be pissed. But like I said before, the crowd’s reaction and energy is what allows some people to view this act differently. They don’t see violence or hatred; I think they just get wrapped up in the moment too. We’re half way through our set and golf dads are whooping over their steaks and their wives are filming it for their Facebook friends, huge smiles. Man, it’s been a really fucking weird ride with this band.”
“We are just doing our own thing, hoping to inspire people to find their outlet, like we did,” Piatetsky adds. “I think we accomplish that regularly, too, which is a beautiful thing. It can be unreal sometimes when we play… you can feel the weight of the world rising from the shoulders of the people smiling and dancing, watching us upfront, sometimes surrounded by their friends who pick them up immediately when Alex accidentally backs into them. It’s a lot of emotion and raw, raw energy brought to the table.”
An artist who sought to conform to restraining molds might not be able to see that vision through to reality. Closet Witch, however, doesn’t seem to be interested in fitting themselves into a straitjacket. They’re blasting apart boxes, labels, and the like — and, importantly, they’re having a good time doing it and sharing that with listeners. What more can you ask for?
Listen to and support the band via Bandcamp below.
Photo via Angelo Rossi