The North Carolina-based noisy rock group Wailin’ Storms sound immersively huge on their powerful new album Rattle, which is available now via Gilead Media in North America and Antena Krzyku in Europe. The group combines an off-kilter noise rock intensity with heavy doom textures and sends the whole mix through a filter of psychedelically uneasy rhythms. Rattle feels like the band’s decidedly own beast as they traverse from the big, booming riffs of the album’s opening track into the heavier and faster rhythms of follow-up track “Rope” and beyond.
The Spirit of Rattle
“Lyrically the songs are about dreams, depression, love, and death,” vocalist and guitarist Justin Storms explains. “Sonically, there’s something visceral and raw about our approach on this record which I think is always my preference with records in general. I’m a fan of keeping the human element in there and not covering up all the blemishes.”
That visceral rawness repeatedly emerges front-and-center, even as the band dive deep into their heavy, chaotic rock textures. They keep these rhythms in a realm that’s very close to the chest, so to speak.
Bassist Steve Stanczyk explains: “Our song writing process is fairly organic and not one where there are firm expectations or any sort of stated goal like ‘we need to write a song that sounds like this…’ I think Rattle is an evolution of the four of us understanding how our unique styles fit together best in context of our sound/Wailin’ Storms. It is that refinement that shapes the music. You could call it a maturation of this strange post-punk, swampy doom rock.”
The bluesy yet frequently very powerful vocals from Justin feature markedly prominently in the band’s unique sound. Right along with the rest of the music, he sounds like he’s delivering the revelation of some primal “wail” ringing out like a wind howling across some abandoned plain on which creatures have suffered and died while the environment lives on. Lyrically, “Grass” dials into this feeling, as the central figure in Justin’s singing faces run-ins with the apparent ghost of a deceased lover who’s calling them into the beyond. The ominously ambiance-setting yet energetic streaks of heavy groove across this album really define this mood powerfully.
“My style of singing and lyrical themes are influenced by my upbringing,” Justin explains. “I grew up in a musical family in South Texas where storytelling was central. My father was a Southern Baptist Minister, my mother was a journalist and pianist, and many of my relatives were cattle ranchers, farmers, and storytellers. It’s hard not to sing this way, in other words, since it’s in my blood.”
Developing the Sound
The ominously soulful elements of Justin’s singing extend into the rest of the music.
“I don’t know if we really had any specific approach in mind,” lead guitarist Todd Warner observes. “We just wanted to write something interesting and try not to repeat ourselves. I can’t speak for anyone else but I was interested in trying to at least think more avant-garde than what we’ve done in the past. As a band, I think it’s safe to say that we were all interested in sort of bridging the gap between the production value and style of our first two full-lengths One Foot in the Flesh Grave and Sick City.”
The band have aptly and organically intertwined the band members’ own unique contributions. Justin notes that he thinks the “instinctive” process helped ensure that “each track works well individually or together which sometimes doesn’t happen with records,” and Stanczyk adds: “We all come from different DIY/Indie musical backgrounds and different areas of the country that probably influence us more individually than as a whole. That mix of influences is really what creates this unique sound. In other experiences I’ve had, that can create a disjointed mess but we’ve seemed to have figured out a way to make it mesh. If anything, the current environment is probably more of an influence than any specific musician or genre.”
Warner, the lead guitarist, notes that he was listening to records including 2006’s The Drift by Scott Walker and Girl Band’s 2015 album Holding Hands With Jamie amidst the Rattle writing process.
Wailin’ Storms drummer Mark Oates explains that the songwriting process for Rattle normally led off with something like a riff or two accompanied by a vocal melody that Justin crafted, followed by collective work on the song arrangements. As for his drum parts, Oates shares that he’d been admiring the huge-sounding drum parts in the music of Young Widows and says “it was really important to lock in with the bass to create a dark and heavy groove” for Rattle.
The dynamics extend to their overall discography, since Wailin’ Storms have evolved their sound throughout their records, Justin chimes in, noting: “Stylistically, I feel like we’ve developed some semblance of a sound several records back but with every album we find some cool ways to revisit our thing and mutate it over and over until it becomes some new hybridized offspring but with some recognizable features.”
The sounds of Wailin’ Storms position the group among noisy rockers who have forged unique paths through the musical thicket.
Asked for what they think makes a rock song great in the first place, the band members have pointed answers. “I would say anything that pushes the art form forward,” the band’s lead guitarist, Todd, says. “Hopefully into territory that hasn’t been explored before. Interesting textures. Unusual words and imagery. Creative production decisions.”
Steve, the bassist, adds: “Personally, I really enjoy songs that have a volume dynamic and have an inherent tension that resolves–that loud to quiet to loud where if you’re watching live, you can feel that long, intense build up and anticipate that moment when the song kicks back in. Hits you in the chest and punches the air.”
Justin, meanwhile, cites “soul” as important, and Oates has the pointed observation: “One word. Energy. If you don’t have it, you don’t move people. Some of the best rock songs ever written make you want to get down.”
That sort of energy definitely figures prominently in the music of Wailin’ Storms in particular.
Asked about what they think the sounds of Rattle would pair up well with, Todd observes that the group generally likes “to find comfort in discomfort,” and Justin adds that some songs “could be the soundtrack to a movie based on a Flannery O’Conner novel while others could be used for a Spaghetti Western or a 60’s horror movie.”
Steve chimes in: “Maybe that first season of True Detective? There are haunting elements of the songs on Rattle that seem like they’d feel more at home in a bayou or abandoned cemetery. There is a dirtiness to this record, the sonic scratches, feedback, noise, etc. that make for a distressed soundscape in my view. Like the remnants of something aspirational that have weathered and cracked.”
Steve also suggests that the sound of Rattle encapsulates a precarious emotional state. Discussing the feel of the record, he says: “Perhaps it is the sound of how you cope with or confront your own struggles, demons, trials. Can be subdued and sorrowful or violent and angry—chaotic and unpredictable.”
Press photos via Cambria Storms & Andy Marino
Check out Rattle below! The album was recorded at The Magpie Cage Recording Studio by J. Robbins in spring of 2019 and mixed and mastered at The Gradwell House by Dave Downham in fall of 2019.