August 15th, 2008 was a tumultuous day for Eric Harris, who was then bassist for Ohio-based death-thrashers Skeletonwitch. Rising tensions with the rest of the band came to a head. Having just played a raucous show at the Troubadour, the group kicked Harris out and left him in Los Angeles.
During our recent drinking session with him at The Colorado Bar in Pasadena, Harris declines to get into the gory details, claiming he “wants to be a classy broad.” Still, it's clear that while he was stuck in L.A. with no band and no money, friends he had made locally while touring over the years helped Harris get on his feet, which allowed him to form his new band, Pasadena-based hard rockers Gypsyhawk.
Revelry & Resilience, the group's sophomore album (and first for new label home Metal Blade Records), is a stunning blend of fantasy and science fiction-inspired lyrics set against a backdrop of booty-shaking Thin Lizzy-inspired heavy rock. Gypsyhawk's musical brew is a far cry from the blackened death-thrash of Harris' previous band.
“I still love extreme metal,” bassist-vocalist Harris points out. “But I just got sick of seeing how much of a huge trend it became. I saw that photo of Richard Simmons wearing corpse paint, and it just made me sad. I found myself having fun more and more just going to a friend's house, drinking beers, doing tons of weed, and listening to Uriah Heep records while chilling under the black light.”
Gypsyhawk guitarist Andrew Packer is also doing some drinking tonight as well. He had the same revelation after starting work on a heavy prog-rock project rooted in history and politics. “Then one day,” Packer says, “I was like…I want to play music that people will listen to in a basement, spilling beer all over each other in clouds of cigarette smoke.”
While there are a couple of songs on the new album inspired by tales of partying lore (“1345”), the majority of the group's lyrics are inspired by literature (most notably George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series), as well as other subjects rarely associated with L.A. rock bands.
After finishing his Jameson and Coke, Harris explains that “As far as lyrical content goes, new developments in quantum physics are super exciting to me…the recent discovery of the Higgs boson particle, for example. It's really heavy because it can potentially explain how we got here. Religion can't do that empirically. We're never going to really know for sure unless we pay attention to what's going on with science. “
Packer seconds this notion, asserting that, “Science is one of the sharpest tools for developing philosophy. When there is proven data on how the universe works, you can develop much more satisfying philosophical ideas on how you want to live your life.”
When talking of the band's propensity for partying not being reflected much in their lyrics, Packer launches into how much he hates it “when rappers sing about how good rappers they are, instead of just being good rappers. So we do enjoy partying, but we're not just going to sing about that. That doesn't appeal to us creatively. We live it, so why write songs about it?”
Gypsyhawk performs tomorrow night, August 24, at Vacation Vinyl at 8pm. Revelry & Resilience hits stores on Tuesday, August 28th.