Psychedelic punk in its best possible shape. Here are the Banshee!
Who’s in Banshee and what do you all play? Have you all made any changes to the lineup since you started or is this the original trio?
Nick – Vocals
Joe – Guitar
Kyle – Bass
Davy – Guitar
Randy – Drums
Sam – Sax
Nick: We started jamming as a 4 piece in the summer of 2015 with myself on guitar/vocals, Joe Freedman – the “Cozmik King” on guitar, Kyle Buresh on bass, and Jack Damage on drums. Jack didn’t want to be on the cover of the record which is why there is only 3 of us on there. Jack quit the band shortly after recording the main band tracks for the album, Caw! because he said me and Joe had gone crazy, which may or may not be true. We had something magic with Jack because we played as a unit, not a group of guys playing songs exactly how they’re written but something bigger. Something that hypnotizes you. So when he quit it really hurt us and we’re just now starting to get that magic back with our current band after over a year of searching for it.
Joe: A good part of the last year was spent without the band working full time but we were making demos and coming up with the concept for our next album.
Nick: We wanted to transition into a live band so we needed another guitarist since I can’t play guitar and sing at the same time and tried out our long time pal Sam Shultz. We realized he could play a saxophone like a fucked up hyena so that’s what he does now.
Joe: We tried out a lot of different people to take Nick’s place on guitar. It became pretty apparent that it took something special to be part of this group.
Nick: Longtime buds of ours Davy Lyko came on as guitar, Gary Nadeau on drums, and Paul McAlarney on electric sitar-synth-and percussion to complete a live lineup. We played our first show on June 25, 2017 with that lineup.
Joe: We played more shows throughout the fall with Gary but it just wasn’t feeling right. For awhile it seemed like we weren’t going to ever find a someone to take Jack’s place. Nick and Sam played Randy the album at a party and he was into it. Kyle and I ran into him at grocery store and he mentioned trying it. With Randy on drums it finally feels like we have a solid lineup to spread the Banshee.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
Joe: I grew up in a house that had an upright piano. My dad would sit down and play “Misty” by Erroll Garner for hours at a time. For a long time I thought he wrote that song until I was in my twenties and heard it on the radio. It blew my mind. I still think him playing it is the best I’ve heard. Sorry Erroll.
Kyle: My parents have old home movies of me dancing in my crib to Motown, disco, and old soul songs. I couldn’t walk yet but I was bouncin’ to the beat. Music has always been a big part of my life. My whole family loves to dance and has really good rhythm. When I was 9 years old, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game had just came out and I thought skateboarding was the coolest thing ever. The soundtrack to that video game and the music in skate videos really peaked my interest in rock and roll and punk. I realized I couldn’t skate very well so I turned my attention to playing bass. When I started playing bass and focusing more on music, my taste in rock and roll started expanding.
Nick: My parents had stacks of cassette tapes that I would listen to. My favorite one had Native American music on it and I would blast it on my way to first grade.
When and how did you all originally meet?
Nick: We’ve all been friends through music for many years. When we were starting the band I knew I wanted Joe to play guitar because he’s the best guitarist I’ve ever known but I didn’t really know him at all so we basically met by starting the band together. I had been friends with Kyle and Jack for years.
Kyle: Me and Joe grew up in Stoughton together but he is two years older than me. When I was 11 or 12 a friend of mine sent me a recording Joe made. I thought it was so cool that he and his friend recorded it themselves and I was able to listen to it on my computer. Over the years I’d always hear about how nasty he was on guitar, so when I got to high school I sort of made sure that we would meet each other.
Joe: I gave up playing music entirely for a couple of years after quitting a band in 2008 only to have my interest in playing sparked again by spending time with Kyle. I joke to him often that he “saved my life.” I felt pretty lost at the time. I was going to community college and paying an expensive rent. I was devoting so much of my time just trying to stay afloat. We started a band called Native Sun, which I consider to be proto-Banshee in many ways. It got me playing music again. I had heard that Nick, who I was fan of but hadn’t known personally, wanted to start a band with me, Kyle, and Jack – who I got to know through the band – and we went from there. We clicked together right from the first practice.
Kyle: I met Nick when I was 16 or 17, back in like 2006 or 2007. I went to see this disgusting thrash punk band called UFA at a Bowling Alley. The only thing I was interested in in High School was filming and editing movies and short skits for my video production class. It turned out that Nick was doing the same thing a town over. I would watch his videos over and over and just thought he was so good. We started hanging out more and I realized that he had serious talent, and great taste. I met Davy back in 2008 through Nick. They played in Male Nurses together, my favorite Boston punk band in the last 10 years. Davy also played guitar and sang lead vocals for Cassanovas In Heat. I was amazed at his ability to play guitar so well while also being completely wasted. One time at a Novas show I was with Davy after they played and he asked when Cassanovas was going on… I’m like “dude you already played!” I had seen Sam at Boston punk shows since I started going to them, he was always skateboarding and doin’ wild shit, there was a period of time where he always had some part of his body in a cast. Nick had mentioned that Randy was interested in playing drums with us. I had never met him before, but one day Joe and I went into this grocery store by my apartment and Randy was working. He asked us if we were in Banshee and we made plans to jam. Once we all got into a room together and started playing it was pretty obvious this was a perfect fit.
How would you describe the local scene where you are at? Are you very involved in the local scene?
Nick: The local scene is quite dried up here in Boston. We all have roots in the punk/hardcore scene here and over the last few years things have really fallen apart and there are basically no DIY spots anymore. There isn’t a whole lot in terms of rock n roll or psychedelic rock so we try to play whatever types of shows we can but we look forward to touring in the future and playing more out of town gigs.
Kyle: Within Boston, I would say each scene has always sort of been separate from one another and I wouldn’t say Banshee exclusively belong to one specific scene. I think that can feel isolating at times, but I also sort of love it, I think it makes a lot of sense for us. Recently, there has been a real lull in activity. The city started cracking down on basement shows and other DIY spots, so we’re really lacking venues right now. I think not having consistent DIY venues has lead to some stagnation and frustration over here, but that might not be forever, who knows, we’ll see.
Joe: I really enjoy the vibe, good times, and the people at the punk shows around here but there’s not much variety. I like some of the bands here but things feel pretty static. The more art-y shows tend to lack the oomph and wild power of rock n roll. I’d like to think that we can be the bridge to the gap between those two things but we haven’t found a home yet.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?
Joe: It seemed to be the natural thing to do once I started playing. Before I started playing music with other people I would record myself playing through riffs and progressions and I would play leads over them. Improvisation had always been a big part of my music. I had never written songs until after we recorded Caw! and I had a breakthrough. Some of those songs will be on the next album.
Nick: Art has always been a natural urge for me and the only way I am really comfortable communicating and expressing myself. Rock n Roll is the ultimate and most true art form for me and I love everything about it.
Kyle: I was probably 12 years old, kids in my class started a metal band and I would go to their practices just to watch and hang out. I wanted to so badly be in their band but I didn’t own an instrument. Eventually my dad bought me a bass for my 13th birthday and I started writing my own riffs.
What does the name “Banshee” refer to in the context of the band name? Who came up with and how did you go about choosing it?
Nick: I came up with the name and it just felt right. We all liked what it represents, as well as the way it looked and sounded so there was no real debate about it so here we are, “BANSHEE” is here to stay.
Joe: To me the name just refers to a wild spirit. I know there’s a Celtic legend about these spirits called banshees who would sing men to their deaths yeah-yeah-yeah, but I never think of it like that. A lot times I refer to what we’re doing as “the Banshee”. When we’re all on and playing as one unit and ripping hard, that’s Banshee.
Kyle: I think we had like four words that we liked. “Banshee” “Messiah” “Desert” and “Gypsy” we tried different combinations of the four but “Banshee” on its own felt right.
What’s the songwriting process like?
Joe: Songs are written by either me, Nick, or Kyle playing a riff or a groove.
Nick: It all depends on who has the rock n roll demon inside them at the time. It usually comes out at a quick pace like a violently expelled guttural force.
Kyle: The writing process in the “The Banshee Den” is pretty organic and simple, it’s usually based off of how something feels, more so than intricately thought out and planned.
Joe: The first thing we play at practice is usually the best. We all jump in on it and bang out an arrangement. We don’t always end up with an entire song but we do have the riffs and ideas for it another time. Sometimes we’ll never play it again and forget about it entirely, but luckily the tape recorder is often rolling, so we have a lot of recorded material. We’ve made a lot of music recently out of unstructured material that we’ve recorded by finding places that we can sink some hooks and turn it into something more digestible. Caw! is only representative one part of our collective’s work. We have a lot of varied material that no one has heard yet.
Nick: During the period between Jack and Randy on drums we were demoing full recordings on our own one track at a time rather than jamming songs out which allowed us to experiment with recording processes and basically buying every exotic instrument we could get our hands on. That helped us shape the music that we wanted to create as a group. Now we are able to take what we learned from that time and apply it to the full band writing process which is more spontaneous and breaths together as a unit. I want us to sound like the most alive thing that’s ever lived and to me “The Banshee” ideally is this massive monstrosity that shoots lightning bolts out of it in every direction.
Joe: Nick and I usually write lyrics together while we’re demoing songs. We’ll get stoned and sit there, sometimes for a while, until one of us comes up with something. For me a title always helps. We share a single mind when it comes to what a song is about. Usually without discussing the general idea we sketch out lyrics that say it for us.
What would you say influenced you the most? Have influences changed during the years?
Nick: Musically the influences are whatever we’re into at the time which is generally older music but we try to give current music an ear too. I think we come from a rare place where we have a punk background and tend to bring a punk attitude to anything we make whether it’s a slow, jammy 10 minute epic or something that you might hear inside a Mayan Temple. My desire to create is fed in part by living amongst a society that is so over-civilized and detached from the Earth, one that feeds us constant lies and wants the general population to remain ignorant and unable to see anything wrong with modern civilization’s never ending quest for power and profit over sustaining the environment and actually important issues that aren’t mere distractions of the infinite void of the universe. Also the fact that you can have a life outside of working and cheap stress reliefs from working. For me that “life” revolves around this band. Personally it represents the desire to be as creative as possible with a mind free of restraints and the willingness for constant change and evolution brought forth through love and passion. I truly believe this band will show us the entire world if we allow it to.
Joe: Working on and completing Caw! has had a profound influence on me. It has introduced me to many new ideas and ways to express myself. Painting the cover of the record was one of the first times I had painted or created something visually. And it’s something I still enjoy to do now. Since finishing it I have stopped working full time to try and become the person that I want to be. Banshee is the vessel that is helping me get there. For a long time I was living with more than I needed, and the more that I was able to live without, the more free I feel. Spending less money and making that what I do spend money on count that much more has brought me to a better place and way of living. I couldn’t be living my life this way without the help of my brothers and sisters so it’s brought me closer to people and given me a family that I’ve never had. Caw! was the soundtrack for me while I began to figure these things out.
Kyle: It sounds sort of funny but Marijuana has had a major influence on me. I didn’t start smoking weed until I was 20 and when I started, I felt my mind explode with ideas, creativity, and clarity. I felt so open to trying new things and going for shit that I would normally write off or be judgmental about. I started to really embrace who I am. It was a very positive experience for me and continues to be. Seeing people like Lemmy and Jimi Hendrix do their thing with such confidence and style it made me want to operate the same way. When I was 21 or so I watched a documentary on the Z Boys, the skateboard crew from LA/Santa Monica in the 70s. That really stuck with me, I started viewing life as art and aesthetics and just started going for shit more. Being part of the Boston punk scene I was surrounded by kids with great taste, it’s something that is important and continues to have an influence on me.
Nick: The inability for the local punk scene to truly embrace the term punk as what it actually symbolizes but instead employing a strict set of rules and a lack of creativity, original ideas, or anything that challenges the norm. That’s what personally influenced me to want to start a band with no strict rules and more of an outside the box way of thinking, which at the same time has proven to sort of alienate us from that scene. So.. fuck ‘em.
Can you share details how your album Caw! was recorded and released?
Nick: We released it on our own Banshee Records and recorded it all analog from tape to vinyl but I’ll let Joe tell the story, being the man tangled in the tape.
Joe: The recording for the basic tracks took place in a house in Lincoln, Maine aptly called the Snowmobile Retreat. It’s a big house with no neighbors around to hear any sound that we could make. I had just bought an old class C RV with my girlfriend at the time, a week before we left for the Retreat. I hadn’t spent much time with it at the time and my excitement for the trip to led to some lapses in my thinking. I never took a minute to check the oil. After four hours of driving, when we were about 45 minutes away from the house, the engine started to overheat and thick clouds of anti freeze were pouring from the exhaust. From outside of it you would have thought that it was on fire. We lost a day that was supposed to be spent recording in a motel room trying to figure out how we were going to get all of our gear to this house. We eventually found a small moving truck to rent and made it to the house. I ended having to junk the RV, and tell my girlfriend…
It felt like a miracle when we made it to the house. Banshee hadn’t played a show at this point so this was our first experience playing outside of a dark practice room in the middle of Boston. The house had a lot of windows and the yard outside was lined with a perimeter of trees. The sun shining into the room made me feel differently about what our music was. I felt American in very distinct way. The basic tracks were recorded in the three days that we stayed there. We played the songs the same way we were playing them at practice. A lot of those songs have their basic structure and endings are just felt out as were doing them. No two takes of “Devil’s Eyes” or “Dance Of The Dead” ever end the same way. We have multiple takes of each song from the trip, each is exciting in a different way.
When we got back from Maine we picked the takes we liked best and spent the summer in The Den recording vocals and coming up with little ideas based off of the nuances on the recordings. Things like the little drum chant at the end of “Devil’s Eyes” came about because after the take ends there was a track of drums that was playing for something we must have recorded over so we just went with it and added some more stuff to make it something else. It was little ideas like this that made recording the album so fun. I learned to see possibilities in every little piece of music. There’s a couple of really cool pieces of music that didn’t make it onto the album that came about from just being distracted while we were working on a vocal track. We’ll find a place for those sounds eventually.
When the recording of the tracks was nearly finished I had this idea that I wanted a room full of people to play drums on the end “Devil’s Eyes”. I wanted to make it a big party so I called up Gary, before he was in the band, and a bunch of people to have them come over. I ordered a keg from the liquor store down the street. I wanted to up the ante even more so I dropped acid. It was a big mistake. I couldn’t operate the tape recorder. I’d push a fader up and the sound wouldn’t get any louder. I couldn’t direct anyone at all. It was a big mess. You can hear the track just a little bit if you listen during the soloing at the end of the song. It sounds like a bag of drums being dropped onto the floor. I wish there were more photos from the night. The only one that I have seen is a picture of me in underwear. That night became more of a celebration of the completion of the album.
What kind of process do you have at mastering material for the release?
Joe: The tracks were all recorded onto a Tascam 8 track reel to reel and then bounced down to a stereo two track master tape. It was a pretty difficult process because I was essentially mixing everything live and playing the mixer like an instrument. I had to get to know the recordings well to be able to switch certain tracks on and off for different parts of the songs. It was pretty cool. Try and retrying to line songs up is what gave birth to little ideas like the glitchy intro to “Culture Vulture”. I would go to the Den every night and try to bang it out in one night so all the songs were consistent. It was difficult to do. I would stay up until 5 in the morning, catch a bit of sleep, go to work, and then go right back to try and finish it. If I could do it again I would have waited until I could designate two straight days for it, but I was becoming impatient. I’m not entirely happy with how the overall mix of the album came out, still I love the album for the slimy mess that it is. I’d like to remix the album someday but I don’t wanna lose myself in those songs again anytime soon. I always tell people to turn down the treble and turn up the bass on their stereos when they play the album.
Is there any other material available?
Joe: We have over 5 hours of recorded material but none that is available, yet. We seem to be able to come up with new stuff almost every time we get together. And it’s really starting to add up. We have a new album written called “Livin’ In The Jungle” that we’re going away to record this March and another album in the early stages called “Time Warriors.” We have a lot of other Banshee projects in the works. I’d like to release a wild-psychedelic-jam-rocknroll music-collage tape once enough material is gathered for it. We’ve also been throwing around plans for a 7” record.
Nick: I’ve been working on a VHS music video for “Inside The Walls” and plan on doing some more as soon as it’s finished. I’ve also been making some weird VHS collages out of anything I’ve been shooting mixed with deranged audio and music recordings we’ve made. I’ve been dabbling with circuit-bent “glitch” manipulation and video feedback loops for a while to create an analog psychedelic world to make movies inside of. I want to shoot the next one on super 8 and. For awhile I scraped by as a cinematographer for no budget horror films and backyard hip hop videos so it’s cool to finally be making my own films, exactly the way I want to.
Joe: I think the ultimate project for us would be an audio/visual experience.
Who is behind the artwork?
Joe: That’s a painting behind us.
Nick: The artwork for Caw! was based on loose concept artwork we had made and then myself, Joe, and Sam all painted the album cover on a 5 foot by 5 foot piece of plywood over a number of nights and then we collaged the rest of the layout on top of that and photographed it. The photos on the album were taken on 35mm by Mother Yod. Sam, Joe, and I make artwork for the band as well as solo and plan on putting together future artwork in a similar fashion.
Joe: For a while I was obsessed with making that painting. It was one of the most satisfying parts of making the album.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Joe: We played a show in a basement in western Mass with a band called Stowaways. The singer Tony is my favorite musician from around here. His band Gluebag released a tape a couple years ago that I think is really great.
Other than that I’m really looking forward to playing with a newer band called called The Laces who are total rocknroll with great songs.
Nick: We played a couple shows in Puerto Rico and those were my favorite bands and shows we’ve played so far, La Maquinaria de Tortura and Ultraje.
What are some future plans?
Nick: We have a show in NYC coming up with Hank Wood & The Hammerheads that we’re excited about. We’ve got some tour plans lined up such as a Euro tour next fall, and hopefully a US tour soon as well. We’d like to tour the entire world. Some of this is repetitive but we are recording our second album, “Livin’ In The Jungle” late next month and that will be out in time for our Euro Tour. We’re putting together a wild jammy mixtape out of live recorded jams and other deranged recordings and also a 7” record with 4 songs or so, and our third album is also in the works. We are also working on a couple music videos shot on VHS and super 8 film that we will be releasing very soon.
Joe: Besides “Livin’ In The Jungle” and the other immediate Banshee projects, I’m working on putting together a compilation tape that includes us and other rockin’ bands from around here currently.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Some lesser known favorites that have influenced us in shaping our sound include:
Pärson Sound – S/T
Ngozi Family – 45,000 Volts & Day of Judgement
Ash Ra Tempel – S/T
Bruce Haack – Electric Lucifer
Les Rallizes Dénudés – Heavier Than a Death In The Family
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx
Cambodian Pebbles Vol 1
Rikki Ililonga – Dark Sunrise
Lots of stuff on Sahel Sounds like Mdou Moctar and Tinariwen
The Stooges – Fun House
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– Klemen Breznikar