Poison the Well Regain Stability, Shed Clothing for New Album
After an ill-fated, single-album fling with Atlantic Records, Poison the Well returned to the indie scene both sonically and physically on 2007’s ‘Versions.’ The disc was eclectic and experimental, featuring a progressive smattering of banjo, mandolin and horns between jangly guitars and roaring hardcore riffs. As much as it seemed like a colorful and copasetic return to form, it was actually the group’s most divisive record.
“I did everything but sing and play drums on ‘Versions,'” guitarist Ryan Primrack tells Noisecreep. “It’s not good for me to have that kind of freedom because I’m one of those ‘give him in inch, he’ll take a mile’ sort of people in the studio. I’ll tend to go overboard and overlayer and have too many ideas and try to cram them all in one spot. So I wanted to try to avoid that from happening this time.”
Fortunately, when Primrack started working on songs for their new album ‘The Tropic Rot,’ Poison the Well had secured a stable lineup of musicians who shared his hunger for writing heavier, simpler and more cohesive material.
“There was so much going on with ‘Versions’ that I think it really lacked hooks, especially when it came to singing,” says guitarist Bradley Clifford, who replaced Jason Boyer in 2008 after Boyer decided to get married and settle down. “This time, we wanted to write choruses that would stick with people. But we also wanted to bring the dynamics of ‘Versions’ into every song so you wouldn’t have this fast song followed by a slow song, you’d have everything going up and down within a single song.”
Another new addition to Poison the Well is bassist Brad Grace, whose fluid playing veers between heavy, percussive brooding and hook-tinged rock. With the new guitarist and bassist complimenting the oldtimers — Primrack, vocalist Jeffrey Moreira and drummer Chris A. Hornbrook – Poison the Well aren’t exactly a new band, but on ‘The Tropic Rot’ they approach old ideas in a new way that’s ultimately more visceral and immediate, paralleling the innovative chaos of the band’s crushing 1999 debut ‘The Opposite of December.’
“We’ve got a better chemistry now than we’ve had in a long, long time,” explains Primrack. “There were a lot of times when we were recording and I felt I was 19 again. There was a sense of innocence and it seemed very smooth and easy and fun.”
Poison the Well entered the practice space in the summer of 2008 to start writing ‘The Tropic Rot.’ Many of the songs stemmed from jam sessions. Others were written by individual members at home, then brought to practice. And if everyone in the band couldn’t agree on an idea it was scrapped. “We probably threw away half an album’s worth of material, but everything was still easier,” Primrack says. “We practiced five days a week and if we ran into a wall, we’d say, ‘Alright, day off tomorrow.’ And by the time we came back to practice someone would have either worked out the song or we’d just start on something else.”
Originally, Poison the Well planned to work on ‘The Tropic Rot’ with producer J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). But at the eleventh hour, Robbins was sidelined by a family emergency and the band wound up in the studio with Steve Evetts (The Dillinger Escape Plan, God Forbid).
“Steve and I had already had a couple conversations before we decided to work with J.,” Primrack says. “When that fell through, fortunately Steve was still available. Obviously, I’m not happy that J. had a family thing to take care of, but in the end I think with Steve it played out just as it should have.”
Largely, the studio sessions for ‘The Tropic Rot’ were productive and free of drama – which doesn’t mean there weren’t odd moments. “I came downstairs to the tracking one day and Brad [Grace] and Ryan were both in their underwear clapping and stomping and the microphone was on the ground.”