Earth Drummer Adrienne Davies Discusses Cutting Loose (By Earth Standards)
Few bands can boast as impressive a second act as Seattle drone rockers Earth. Led by guitarist Dylan Carlson, the early discography for Sub Pop defined the distorted doom/drone metal sound that inspired Sunn O))) (named in relation to "Earth") and the Southern Lord label.
Sarah Barrick Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies of Earth
Following nearly a decade devoted to overcoming addiction and legal problems, Carlson returned with Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method in 2005. It marked a seismic shift in Earth's sound, embracing a distant, sunbaked tone that incorporated elements of country, blues, folk, and jazz. Carlson was afforded sure footing by methodical drummer Adrienne Davies, who's remained a constant since.
The band's maintained a steady clip: 2008's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull was a biblical masterpiece, and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Vol. 1 and 2 (released in 2011 and 2012, respectively) brought in elements of funk and English folk rock.
Up on the Sun spoke with Davies about the band's improvisational approach, and the unlikely introduction of swampy R&B into the band's arsenal.
Up on the Sun: The landscape most often mentioned in discussion of Earth albums post Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method is the "Southwest," but you're based in a greener area. Have you spent much time in the actual Southwest?
Adrienne Davies: It's funny, because I've noticed that as well. It must just be innate, because no, not a lot of direct experience there. I know [guitarist Dylan Carlson] spent did spent some time growing up in New Mexico. But, no, not a lot of direct experience from there. [Laughs] Especially on Hex, and some of the more specifically country influenced stuff, it's definitely there. I'm always amazed when people say that, because it must just be part of what we do at this point.
Are you guys touring with the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light [1&2] lineup?
Actually no. We just did a tour of Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and oddly enough we just had a three-piece. It was more of a power trio at the time. It was Don McGreevy, our bass player from The Bees Made Honey [in the Lion's Skull], and we couldn't get [keyboardist] Steve Moore at the time. But for the U.S. tour, it's Don McGreevy on bass and Steve Moore on Wurlitzer organ and trombone. It's the Bees Made Honey lineup, so that's always fun. It's a little louder and grittier, but Steve always brings that delicate gospel flair with his organ.
Are you still playing a lot of stuff from the Angels of Darkness records?
Yeah, and it's interesting to not have the cello, because it's such a lead instrument and so present on those albums. We're trying to rework stuff, which is something we always do anyway. It's a different feel, it's got more of a southern, gospel-y vibe. We're reworking the material, and stuff from previous albums and also some new material.
You're known for your restraint, and Earth is generally know for a minimalist style, but both Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums sound like the vibe was looser. Do you feel like that's a fair characterization of those albums, specifically regarding percussion?
Yeah, that's definitely what I was going for. It was one of the first times in the studio that I felt totally free, and without any expectations. I was totally free to play what was coming to mind at that second, and not feel locked into this very specific, very set and rigid [format]. Before, when we've done albums, it was a very perfectionistic, layer-by-layer, dense project. So the drums were extremely specific, and so controlled and tight. A very specific way of playing. The last two albums were totally the opposite: We were all playing without a set [idea]. It was much more immediate, and okay if happy accidents happened. It was okay to let things wander. The drums were much more of a lead instrument. It was really fun, is what it was.
There was more improvisation? Some of these songs were culled from long-form jam sessions, correct?
Yeah, there was a lot of rolling tape and just playing. The songs where we had more of an idea that we were working off had parts were we improvised within the songs, and then there were whole songs that were literally, not even a word of discussion, we just rolled tape and there it was. Like the title track from part one; it was completely [improvised], no overdubs. It was left completely as it was. That was just it.