LA-based band Brass Box will have you screaming “Heathcliff!” while you run across the moors in a long black gown. Their new LP, The Cathedral, out today via Dune Altar, paints a Wuthering Heights-worthy picture.
At the opening, Brass Box sets the tone with “Bats,” complete with a rolling guitar lick, vigorous drums, and sweet, faraway vocals from lead singer and bassist Ammo Bankoff; there’s a lot more tension there than the usual shoegaze description with which the band is often labelled. As The Cathedral continues, Bankoff, along with guitarists Neil Popkin and Matt Bennett and drummer Pablo Amador, take a torch into the darkness, exploring landscapes thick with fog, witches hiding in thickets, and romance consummated beneath a full moon.
AudioFemme is thrilled to premiere The Cathedral; read our interview with lead singer Ammo Bankoff and listen to the full LP below.
AF: Tell us about The Cathedral. What was the writing process like? Did you draw from any specific source material or visual inspiration?
Ammo Bankoff: The Cathedral was a long drawn out process over a number of years. I’m always writing demos off and on with no goal other than to bring to life something that is in my head. When Neil and I reconnected after a number of years, I showed him a few songs and we started working on them. I had about 3-4 songs which ended up becoming an EP. Over the years I would write demos, bring them to Neil and work on them. There was never a strict goal in mind until Justin from Dune Altar reached out to us. We were working on a full length, but it wasn’t imminent. With Justin wanting to release our record it gave us a timeline to work with. I’m not sure the record would have been completed by now without Dune Altar. (Thank you Justin!)
AF: When working on a song, how do you navigate including different band member ideas? Is it a matter of creating multiple versions of the same song, then picking the one that resonates most?
AB: Most often I write and record a demo and bring it to Neil. We then go through it and flush it out. Neil is very good with arrangements and has an ear for pop. I’m quite the opposite, but we’re a good match. It brings a balanced quality to Brass Box songs. It’s also nice to have someone who gets you to hash out ideas with. After we put together most of the track we have Matt and Pablo come in and add their magic.
AF: Does the band as a whole create on stage personas for live performance?
AB: The thing that I really appreciate about my bandmates is that no one is trying to be anything. They just are who they are and it’s genuine. They love music and being a part of Brass Box. I think being your true self on stage is the best way to present your art in my opinion. People can sense when it’s a sham. I get things like David Bowie, etc. but it was still a true vision for him and you could feel it. It’s very hard to let that shine through for some people. Most people have some type of a persona with social media. You’re only seeing one part of the story, so I think many people are craving genuineness and welcome it.
AF: Is it ever difficult taking studio songs into a live venue?
AB: Taking a studio song live has never been a problem for us. We will sometimes play a song and make changes to the live version. We’re not stuck on having everything match the record. I’ve heard feedback that we are a lot heavier live, which is great. I don’t think bands should sound exactly the same as their record at all times. Shows are for entertaining. We’re not robots, we’re human and that’s what makes it interesting. With our release of “Tragedy” we had two versions of the song. The first one was more upbeat; when we went into the studio to rehearse we were playing around and slowed it down and made a second version which we ended up recording as well. It came out as an A/B single and was an interesting experiment.
AF: How do you overcome any stage jitters?
AB: I lost the stage jitters many moons ago, but in the beginning [it was] nothing a shot of tequila or whiskey couldn’t fix.
AF: What’s your favorite LA venue to perform in?
AB: The Echo is the my home. I’ve been playing there for so many years and it’s always been lovely. They have a great staff and allow artists to be themselves. And it’s great that they have a no bullshit policy when it comes to female musicians being undermined.
AF: What music are you currently spinning at home?
AB: Dead Can Dance is always on my stereo. I’ve really been into Anna Von Hausswolff lately as well as a lot of Middle Eastern music. Anything heavy and emotional works for me. But some days I have to put on punk records – The Damned, TSOL, or Christian Death. And maybe some Lou Miami for some ol’ “tropical goth.”
AF: Do y’all have any shows coming up soon?
AB: Our West Coast tour starts Thursday April 5th.
The Cathedral is out today via LA-based label Dune Altar. Check out their tour dates below.
BRASS BOX TOUR DATES:
4/5 – Portland, OR @ Out From The Shadows Fest
4/7 – Vancouver, BC @ Astoria Hotel
4/8 – Seattle, WA @ Central Saloon
4/9 – Oakland, CA @ Elbo Room Jack London
4/11 – Joshua Tree, CA @ Furstworld
4/12 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex (Record Release Show)
4/14 – San Diego, CA @ The Whistle Stop