From the banks of the River Mississippi known as Dubuque hail WRETCHES, a progressive / sludge / down tempo metal band that deserved a lot of praise for their December 2012 debut full length “Dreamcrusher”. Actually, it’s very hard to label these guys as they bring A LOT of different influences to the table, including death metal, djent, deathcore, post hardcore, post metal, etc., all packed up in a decent form proving their amazing skills as musicians. The aforementioned album is a pure blast in the head from up close, so you better play this beauty (ugly?) right now!
I spent some excellent time with Alex, who was extra kind to discuss their local area and everything about the band with me. You can read the entire thing below. Enjoy!
Hey, guys! I’m really excited to have a chance to talk to a band from Iowa! Haha, you’re thea first IA band interviewed by IDIOTEQ, ya know?
Dubuque sounds like Dybbuk ;) Hope it’s not haunted ;)
Alright, let’s cut the crap and please shoot me an introduction to your local grounds and does it feel to live by the Mississippi River.
Believe it or not there are actually quite a few supposedly haunted places in Dubuque. There is an audio CD called haunted Dubuque that I checked out from the library once, and it was an hour long and just talked about all these haunted places in Dubuque. It was actually fairly interesting.
Living by the Mississippi river isn’t awful and it isn’t great. Dubuque is a town of just under 60,000 people. It used to be a pretty small town but is growing rapidly. The music scene out here is descent overall, but pretty lacking when it comes to opportunities if you play in a band that plays heavier music, so we have to go out of town if we want to play very many shows. We experience all four seasons out here but it seems like winter is half the year and it gets cold as fuck. Alcoholism and seasonal depression are pretty prevalent here. There are literally bars and churches on every street corner. I guess all the bars help people sin so they feel bad and ask for forgiveness at church in the morning. Hahah.
We enjoy hanging out on the river, but the water is filthy and disgusting, so I wouldn’t really recommend swimming in it, even though sometimes we do anyway. We also get a plague of May Flies for about a month every summer, which are these bugs that come from the river and are absolutely repulsive. They hatch by the hundreds of thousands and cover absolutely everything; sidewalks, buildings, cars, and they only live for a day at a time. There ends up being thousands upon thousands of dead fish flies covering everything and it smells like rotting fish for a solid month. However there are some very beautiful places in Dubuque which we are thankful for, so it’s not all bad by any means. We would like to think that the filthy yet powerful river, our cold winters, and those fish flys give us character and hopefully all that filth and seasonal depression is reflected in our music.
Amazing. I guess it would be super cool to have some pics of a few corners from Dubuque. I’m ever-interested in learning about everything that’s local.
What about the hills? Do you go there to watch the world from above?
Here are some photos to give you an idea of what Dubuque, IA is like.
Alex (WRETCHES guitarist) on a train bridge during algae overgrowth on Mississippi River
Dubuque IA Mississippi River at Night
Swarm of May Flies in Dubuque / Cathedral in Dubuque
Abandoned Brewery In Dubuque
Dubuque is full of rolling hills
A great place to hike, Horseshoe Bluff at the Mines of Spain in Dubuque, IA.
Dubuque is full of rolling hills which makes it very unique for Iowa because most of Iowa is flat and boring. We are blessed in that sense. Growing up here though, you are so used to it that you don’t even think about it, at least until you leave town and come back. Than you realize how neat it really is. The longer I have lived here, the more I appreciate it.
If you want to see the earth from a birds eye view in Dubuque there are some clifflike bluffs by the river that you can climb and there are some amazing views up there. It’s so high up that it is borderline creepy and you can definitely see for miles and miles. It’s a favorite place of mine to relax and get closer to nature if I want to feel more inspired. I think it’s impossible to not feel connected when you are up there.
Wow, thanks for the pics, man!
So, I guess now you have a perfect platform to transfer your thoughts inspired by this environment. It’s called “Dreamcrusher” and it’s been available for free for some time now. The genre and the blend of styles you’ve decided to develop seems perfect to do so, huh?
Although it is something completely subconscious, I’m certain that our surroundings have left a certain influence on our music. But it was never like we were sitting around one day and were like “The river is filthy man, lets make some filthy music!” Hahah. I think it was just natural growing up here to want to make something miserable, depressing, and disgusting.
There’s not a whole lot to do in Dubuque, and there are a lot of judgmental people out here. WRETCHES is just us musically saying if you don’t like our music, go fuck yourself, and if you like it, go fuck yourself. A lot of people around here go to shows with an attitude like here we are, now impress us. We aren’t here to impress anybody. We are just here to kill ourselves and kill the audience while we are at it. It seems like people are connecting with that so far. Although our music is technical at points, overall as musicians we could easily play shit 10 times more complicated. The thing is we are more interested in channeling sheer power, than playing at 100 miles per hour the whole time, and doing a bunch of guitar sweeps or something. There is certainly a time and place for that, it’s just not what we are trying to do at this point. Hagström from MESHUGGAH once said, “It doesn’t really matter if something is hard to play or not. The thing is, what does it do to your mind when you listen to it? Where does it take you?” I would have to say that statement resonates with us.
Yeah, but you seem to be talented and well taught musicians anyway. The way you go through the genres and all kinds of styles makes me wonder how do you develop and improve your musicianship. How have you grown since you started playing instruments?
Thanks man! Well, I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10, so 16 years. Our drummers been playing for 8 years and is jazz trained. We’ve all been in a bunch of bands and what not and we all listen to a wide variety of music, which is part of the reason you probably hear a blend of different things going on in our sound. On our Dreamcrusher record I did most of the writing. I would write like an entire song on guitar and drums and bring it in and see what the guys thought. 90% of the time things stayed exactly like how I would write it, and the guys all will fill in the guts of the song and we might change things a bit if the guys have ideas on how to spice things up here or there.
To be honest, I rarely just sit around and practice guitar. If I’m playing guitar on my own time I’m always writing stuff or coming up with ideas. Alan and Mike are always writing shit on their own time too. Our drummer Rocky is the most disciplined member of the band in the sense of sitting around and practicing different exercises and stuff like that. As far as how we improve our musicianship or music, we always just try to think outside the box a bit, throw in some unexpected timings or some flows you might not expect. We purposely try not to fall too much in any one genre. We don’t want to be a carbon copy of MESHUGGAH or one of the thousands of new djent bands for example, even though we dig a lot of that stuff. I also dig a lot of sludge and doom shit, but sometimes stuff that’s so slow the whole time can get boring too. We kind of mix those styles together to keep it interesting. I look at us as a mix of sludge, hardcore, and djent.
Sometime in the next few months we are looking to release a new EP, and you will definitely notice more unusual timings and things like that. Some timings can make the listener feel downright uncomfortable, and I love that. We are definitely stepping up our game a bit in the complexity department, while still maintaining the sludgy crushing power you’ve grown to expect from WRETCHES.
Funny you should say about MESHUGGAH in this context. We’re right after their gig here in Warsaw with the support of SEMANTIK PUNK (ex-MOJA ADRENALINA), a Polish experimental heavy music band, amazingly reviewed by Fredrik. When I think “unusual timings”, it’s definitely something that crosses my mind instantly. Check’em out:
Anyway, about that mixture of genres, tell me more about it. What are some of your primary influences? Who are some of the newer bands and sounds that inspire you and why?
I just checked out that SEMANTIK PUNK stuff, definitely very cool! Very different for sure, it sounds like they are totally doing their own thing. Shit that’s so different and unique like that gets me inspired to pick up my guitar. Bands that just don’t give a fuck and play whatever they like, as chaotically or as crazy as they want. It’s a great reminder that there doesn’t have to be any limits when you make music.
Yeah man, my men recorded this stuff with Ross Robinson and mixed the shit with Steve Evetts! Definitely worth checking out. In fact, I’m going to see them playing as MOJA ADRENALINA the day after tomorrow. You should come! ;)
Ok, back to to your inspirations…
Some primary heavier influences or bands that inspire us are BLACK SHEEP WALL, LORD MANTIS, MESHUGGAH, ADMIRAL ANGRY, YOB, DARK CASTLE, VILDHJARTA, various djent bands. Some of these bands I never heard of until after Dreamcrusher was written, but these bands definitely inspire the fuck out of me at this point. LORD MANTIS is probably some of the filthiest most vile sludgy music I have ever heard. BLACK SHEEP WALL and ADMIRAL ANGRY are so heavy that it’s almost absurd. YOB is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. I think it would be impossible to not feel inspired by any of these bands if you enjoy heavy music. Although we don’t have much obvious grind influence, there was this pretty unknown grind band from Pennsylvania that came through the area years ago called ROBINSON. They had a cd called The Great City and it’s probably one of the most brutal things I’ve ever heard, and it has this amazing apocalyptic mood throughout it. Less obvious influences would be bands like AT THE DRIVE IN or THE MARS VOLTA. They are some of the bands that opened up my mind years ago, and prepared me to be able to appreciate more unusual music. As to why these bands are inspiring, they all are ruthless, unique, unforgiving, and just write smart music. None of these bands care about getting famous or writing radio hits or some bullshit. When you listen to these bands there is an undeniable energy or vibe that feels like the fucking roof is gonna blow off the place. All these bands have something special that you can’t fake.
Hell yeah.. I remember when I had found out that I missed AT THE DRIVE-IN’s gig in Wroclaw, Poland back in 2001. They charged 15 PLN! (4,5 USD now, around 3,7 USD back then) Haha.. nice, huh? I caught THE MARS VOLTA 4 years later in Warsaw though.
AT THE DRIVE IN is one band that I will forever regret not getting to see live. Haha strangely enough though I have been luckily enough to meet everyone from AT THE DRIVE IN when I saw the new bands that they formed. I saw THE MARS VOLTA back in 2003 and after the show was lucky enough to meet Omar and Cedric. And I saw SPARTA back in 2004 and managed to meet Jim, Tony, and Paul before the show. It was cool as fuck to meet those guys because at the time I was only 16 years old and their music completely changed my life. It was sort of the equivalent of a 16 year old girl meeting N SYNC or something lol. Meeting your musical heroes when you were only 16 is a surreal thing.
Yes it is. … and SPARTA, oh well. I can only envy you :)
Are there any newer albums that you have been digging that are getting a solid play on your player at the moment?
As far as any newer records I’ve been digging:
BLACK SHEEP WALL posted a new ep last week I really like that you can here hear (the video below).
OLD MAN GLOOM‘s “No” album is badass as hell. What I’ve heard so far of “Sunbather” by DEAFHEAVEN I’ve really liked, although I haven’t gotten to listen to it extensively yet. On the more melodic side of the heavy spectrum, The new PERIPHERY album is very good. A few months back we were fortunate enough to play a show with CODE ORANGE KIDS which were fucking awesome live. I’ve been loving their “love is love/return to dust” album.
Lately I’ve also really been digging the rapper Danny Brown. His album “XXX” is actually from 2011 but it’s new to me. It’s one of the most badass and unique rap cd’s I’ve heard in quite a while, plus Danny is clever and funny as hell. I was lucky enough to see him live about a month ago and he absolutely fucking killed it.
Cool, thanks. CODE ORANGE KIDS have just announced their mini tour with MADBALL and EXPIRE, but the closest gig to Dubuque will take place in Baltimore, which is like 900 miles from your neighbourhood, right? Next time, huh? ;)
Haha yeah dude. We would love to play with them or see them again sometime soon. They are great live and are very nice people for sure.
So, how do you cope with loneliness amidst all these drunks and church goers in Dubuque? ;) Do you play a lot of gigs locally? 60k people mean something like a hundred of metal/hardcore fans tops! ;) Tell me about your local venues and everything about the Dubuque music scene :)
When it comes to loneliness out here, I would say Alan, Rocky, and Mike are all doing okay in that department since they are all in loving relationships currently. I’m the only single guy in the band right now, but I guess that’s alright cuz when we play shows I get all the ladies to myself, right? ;) hahaha. I find booze and partying with attractive women to be a nice temporary cure until I find someone worth getting serious with. When I’m too depressed to do anything worthwhile I usually just surf the internet or read about mysticism or the occult. Or hang out with my chinchilla. I like to think of her as my familiar lol.
We try not to overplay Dubuque because like you said there’s probably only like a couple hundred metal fans or whatever out here that actually care about local shows. We won’t play here more than once a month tops. As far as local venues its really a bummer because the only all ages venue in town recently shut down, and most of the other venues in town are too worried about appealing to the 30 somethings bar crowd to want to bring in heavy stuff very often. They like to bring in lots of blues and indie stuff, but usually nothing too loud. I like that stuff too but obviously they aren’t gonna throw WRETCHES on a bill like that. We are hoping to get our own house soon so that we can run our own house shows and practice daily.
We’ve played in some nearby towns like Platteville Wisconsin, Iowa City, cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Des Moines, Madison Wisconsin, and we’ve done some shows in Minnesota. We haven’t done extensive touring or anything yet because we were mostly concerned about getting out our first record. Now that we finally have that out and now that winters over we are looking to pick up the pace. When the time seems right we will definitely start looking to do longer tours and things of the sort. We have all been in bands in the past that did nationwide tours and stuff, and we are eager to do that in WRETCHES as soon as it makes sense.
What notable bands have visited Dubuque?
Some of the more notable heavier bands that have come through Dubuque would be KEN MODE, ENABLER, YOB, DARK CASTLE, HORSE THE BAND, THE LOCUST, VEIL OF MAYA, TOWER OF ROME, THE BODY, SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY, DYSRHYTHMIA, BEHOLD THE ARCTOPUS, ROBINSON….those are just some I can think of off the top of my head. Most bigger bands that come through Iowa play in Iowa City rather than Dubuque because it’s a bigger town with a bigger music scene.
So… having your first record out a few months now, will you be looking for a label? :)
We would definitely enjoy having a label. As to what labels would be the best fit for a band like us I’m not really sure. Deathwish, Sumerian Records, Profound Lore, Black Market Activities, and Season of Mist are all labels with quite a few bands we look up to. If we ever got on any of those labels I could probably die happy. More than a label though we wish we had a booking agent. So far every show we’ve played has been self booked, and booking has always been my least favorite aspect of being in a band. It’s just an all around pain in the ass, even though it’s worth the hassle.
Yeah, you need to have a hell lot of contacts to manage it. Or simply go arm in arm with your tour buddies from another band that will take care of it for you, huh? ;)
Do you have any hilarious stories from the road? :)
Yeah it’s pretty tough and time consuming to book entire tours when you are a newer band without tons of contacts.
I have a story from the road that’s pretty funny and crazy. One time we played a show and our bassist Alan got completely wasted off his ass after our set when he was watching the other bands. Anyway this super creepy 50 something year old guy that was also wasted off his ass was talking to us saying a bunch of stuff that made absolutely no sense. Then he started to talk to Alan and the guy asked Alan if he could get a ride with us like 5 minutes away. Alan is too nice of a guy so he told him we would. I was the one driving and of course this was news to me when this old creepy drunk guy hops in the van with us. Anyway so I’m like fuck it whatever, we stop somewhere to get some alcohol, and this guy starts telling me about how he escaped from the mental hospital. I was just in shock but at the same time I wanted to laugh my ass off. Anyway then he made some excuse to ride with us to our destination because it was closer to wherever he was trying to go. Then when we got back to the place we were staying for the night, somehow the dude manged to invite himself into the party we were going to. We walked in the room and everyone was like whos this fucking guy. Him and Alan went into the other room and were blaring music. Everyone was super creeped out by this guy and wanted him to leave, cuz he seemed like the type of guy that would just stab you out of nowhere. Since everyone was so creeped out I was like fuck this I’m telling this guy to leave. So I walk in the other room to tell the dude he needs to get going. I walk into the room and him and Alan are wasted off their asses blaring the song freebird and singing it at the top of their lungs. I wanted to die of laughter right then and there because well, Alan was singing freebird with some dude that just escaped from the mental hospital. I go in there and tell him he needs to leave and he just kept sitting there and looking at me like an idiot. Then he asked if he could have a sip of my 40, and I said sure, but you gotta leave after that. Then he just starts chugging my 40, and drank literally half of it before I managed to get it out of his hands. Then we told him we were gonna kick his ass if he didn’t leave, so he finally left. Moral of the story, don’t give rides to creepy wierdos lol.
Haha! Man, you should be thankful for not having been stabbed or something.
Ok. So what are the next steps for the band. Sum it up for me and feel free to add anything I might have missed.
Hahah yeah luckily none of us got murdered, so we can look back on the story and have a good laugh :) lol.
As far as the next steps for the band, we are planning to release a 4-6 song EP in the near future. These new jams we are writing are heavier, darker, more filthy, and in my opinion a step up from our first release, even though we still absolutely love DREAMCRUSHER. If everything goes smoothly the new EP should be out in the next 3-5 months or so. We are planning on making a music video for one of those new songs as well. And as soon as the timing is right, we want to book some nationwide tours.
It would be amazing to have a label and/or a booking agent backing us, but until that happens we are totally down with the DIY life. So far we’ve recorded our own album, done our own artwork, released our own record, booked our own shows and so forth, and its been working good and we’ve saved tons of money doing everything ourselves. But if we get some sort of management it will be nice to be able to focus solely on writing and performing, and stop having to worry about the annoying but necessary business side of things.
About a month ago we made the decision to make our first album available for free download on our bandcamp website. Having as many people as possible hear our music and share it is more important to us than making money. We always appreciate the support though when people buy our merch. Either way everyone should go download our first album DREAMCRUSHER, for free.
Turn your volume full blast and let the filth seep into your soul. We hope you have a wonderfully miserable listen :)
Yeah, man! It’s crushing my speakers at this very moment! :)
It was a pleasure talking to you, man. Really! :) I wish you continued success with WRECTHES!
It was great talking to you as well! Thanks for everything and I hope we talk again soon!