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Brett Campbell - Pallbearer

Interview with Brett Campbell from Pallbearer
by David Nowels at 26 July 2019, 8:09 AM

Metal Temple Editor David Nowels recently got the chance to sit down with PALLBEARER Vocalist/Guitarist Brett Campbell at a show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to talk about rumors of a new album, how the band has changed over the years and approaches songwriting, and Brett's thoughts on music in general.

Word is, that the band is working on new material.

Indeed.

On the band's Facebook page, one of you posted that this short tour is a way to get out of album writing hibernation. How important is it to break that routine?

Well, it's good to knock the dust off every once and awhile (laughs) . We've been jamming a lot, and working on new stuff, but we realized when we began to prepare for these shows that we hadn't played some of these songs in like a year almost (laughs). So yeah, it's good to stay in musical shape so to speak. Also, relearning stuff while so deep in the writing process, kind of gives new perspectives on the new material in relation to the old stuff.  It's also nice to make a few extra bucks here and there (laughs), we haven't been on the road for a while.

Can you tell me a little bit about the band's writing process? How does a song begin for you guys, is there a certain idea or theme you're looking for?

There's a pretty wide range of….you know it kind of depends. For myself, a lot of the time it'll just be I pick up a guitar and a riff will happen, and then the whole song spills out of that one riff. That can happen in a day, you know? Or a couple of hours. Other times there will be a concept, or a type of song we want to make, like we'll use some kind of idea, and then try to build a song around a conceptual idea. Not lyrically conceptual, a mood  maybe, or a particular element like a drumbeat, or a melody, or an idea of how we want the song to flow. It kind of depends.

It's been 7 years since “things really started with Sorrow & Extinction”, has that writing process changed over the years?

Only in the sense that the band is more democratic than it used to be. It's always been kind of democratic, but every one says more now. We're all really comfortable playing with each other now. With this new material Devin has written a lot more than he has in the past. Traditionally, like with the first album it was just Joe and me.  I think maybe Devin wrote a riff on there, and then he had a little more input on the second album (“Foundations of Burden”),  and then a little more on “Heartless”. Now, he's writing whole songs and stuff. We're all contributing more I think. But, at the same time, sometimes one of us will just bring complete songs to the band. So, it's more of a fusion of working together and then having people bring in a song more or less complete, and then the last 15-20% of the song is worked out together. We're really good at working together and pretty excited about what each other writes. If there's something we don't agree on, we typically try each version of whatever it is that we're disagreeing on, and then which ever one we can all agree sounds best is the way the song ends up.

Is that democratic process what led to the band's recent single, “Atlantis”? Was it something that evolved live?

We've never even played that one live. That one more or less, Joe just brought that one almost totally complete to the band. Some of the leads were written by me or Devin, and a lot of the melodies I just embellished as we were recording. Those and the vocal harmonies are usually things I'll do in the studio, but yeah, that one was more or less complete when Joe brought it.

The band recently signed a deal with Nuclear Blast, and that's what the new album will be on right?

Yeah. We're really happy about that.

Any information you can share on timelines for the album?

We have like a dozen or so songs that are pretty far along at this point. I don't know if they'll all be on the next album, but we have a lot of material. We're not entirely sure when it'll be out. Probably some time next year. We're trying to record by the end of this year, but, you know…..

Does the album have a working title?

No, we don't even have any lyrics written yet. Just music.

Recently the bands been performing “Sorrow & Extinction” live, is that a tough or different process?

Not those songs really. It's mostly just replaying them since we haven't done that stuff complete. The “Sorrow & Extinction” songs we've probably played a thousand times over the years, so those are kind of like riding a bike. But, for example, we were relearning “Drop Out” in practice the other day, and that was a relatively new song and we haven't played it as much as the “Sorrow & Extinction” stuff. I wrote that one, and I couldn't remember how to play it! (laughs) Devin had to show me how to play it! (laughs) You don't play a song for the better part of a year, and it takes a second to relearn.

Is there one of you in the band that constructs a setlist for each particular show, or is it a democratic process?

Kind of whatever we're feeling like. Usually it comes down to who we're playing with, what the crowd is like, what we feel like playing, and what we've rehearsed and can actually play (laughs). For each tour we typically, we'll prepare a certain “x” number of songs, and we'll have a setlist that kind of solidifies over time, We'll usually have a couple extra songs prepared  that we can shuffle in and out as time goes on.

You have upcoming tour dates with Baroness this summer. Excited? All of you guys fans?

Oh yeah. We did a tour with them for maybe a month or so in maybe 2016? Maybe it was 2015. My life is a blur (laughs). Anyway, it was a few years ago, but it was really cool for them to take us on the road then. They had us play their first show back after the bus wreck years and years ago, so they've been pretty supportive of us for a long time. We're very appreciative of them. They're a really good band, and really high profile, it's very cool for them to request for us to play shows with them, and they're friends too you know.
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“Sorrow & Extinction” was so groundbreaking at the time, especially for Doom Metal. Obviously the album inspired a lot of bands. Do you see that, and how does that impact you?

Yeah, for sure. I've kind of noticed a kind of subtle shift in newer bands coming out and doing the  semi-traditional 'clean vocal Doom”. It's more prevalent now than it was in 2012 I guess now, the sort of “epic Doom style”,  we were just doing the “While Heaven Wept”, “Solstice” thing. It's all just passed down from other bands as well.

What are your thoughts on the current state of Doom?

I wish I could say more about what I feel about the current state of Doom, but honestly I don't listen to much heavy music at this point that I haven't heard before. Like, I keep up with my friend's bands and stuff. I just heard the new TORCHE which is really sick. I wish I could say. You get so surrounded by a particular thing and it loses, to a degree, it's novelty you know, listening to the same thing so much. I like to try different things. I'll get onto a tangent where I'll just listen to another type of music for a while. Then I'll get tired of that, and I'll listen to something else. At home I've been listening to experimental, electronic, and modern classical and stuff like that. Stuff that's pretty outside the realm of metal.

What's happening with the Arkansas metal scene?

It kind of comes and goes. We've got some good bands at all times pretty much. Just how active they are kind of changes.  There's a band called SUMOKEM which is really awesome. They've got a new album in the works, coming out relatively soon I think. They're awesome and good friends of ours. It's a really good scene, everybody is good friends and knows each other.

You touched on it a bit earlier, but what exactly have you been listening to lately?

Just kind of depends man. I'll do deep dives into Youtube and the Saturn Archives page which is cool. They have a bunch of rare Japanese ambient music from the '70s and '80s, or Russian experimental stuff, Soviet shit (laughs). I've been building a modular synth for the last three or four years, so instead of looking for other stuff, when I'm at home, and not writing Pallbearer stuff, usually I just play with that. Sounds stupid (laughs), but I don't really look outside my own creations, to listen to music that much (laughs). It's not because I think my stuff is so great, it's just that with the modular synth, you can direct it and it creates itself. It's basically listening to something totally unique every time. But, it's always based on a seed of an idea you had, so it's kind of like listening and performing at the same time, which is great for me because I get to jam and create. It's really all the things I like mixed together in one instrument.

Awesome. Thanks for your time Brett.

You bet. Thank you man.



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