We recently reviewed Western Addiction’s latest album Frail Bray, which we really enjoyed. After listening to it, we knew we had to speak to the band themselves to hear more about them, culminating in an interview with band member Jason Hall. See how it all went below!
By Jane Howkins
You’ve just released a new album called Frail Bray. How has the reception been so far?
I don’t want to jinx anything but despite the state of the world, and this being the absolute worst time in recent history to release a record, it has been pretty solid and quite exciting. It’s definitely the best reception of any of our records. One guy did post a barfing emoji but that could probably just mean, “punk” or “sick,” both of which we will gladly accept.
What can you tell our readers about the album, and what does the title refer to?
The album is about hope, positivity through grief, rejuvenation and motherhood. The title refers to the faint whimper of hope. Everyone needs hope or you are truly defeated. A “bray” is a pained whimper from an animal, usually a mule. It’s an interesting metaphor for hope and the will to work hard and carry on. Or…we are a bunch of sniveling asses.
You recently released a new single from the album called Lurchers. What can you tell us about that track, and why did you pick that one as a single?
That was the last song written for the record. It is based on the structure of a classic country/western, 50s rock and roll song. We put a lot of thought into the balance, length and sequence of our records and we needed a quick ripper to create some equilibrium. I really like classic country and Johnny Cash is my favorite singer of all time. The structures and melody are undeniable. As for it being a single, we tried to be much more open minded about what we liked and what the label liked. I worked at our label for 11 years and one thing I learned is that bands NEVER know their best song and they will force the label to promote something they don’t find the most effective. Therefore, I want everyone to be happy and motivated so we let them choose, and we got lucky because we also think that song turned out really great.
Do you plan to release any more singles anytime soon? If so what are they, and when do you think they’ll be released? Do you know a song will be a single when you’re writing it, or is that decided later on?
Yes, we do plan on releasing a few more songs. We have two songs leftover from this session. One song is called Belix and it’s about my grandfather who I respect more than any human. He’s the man I want to be and I miss him. The other song is a re-recording of I’m Not the Man that I Thought I’d Be. We put it on an earlier 7″ and it has become a show favorite so we wanted a version that sounded big. There is something about the song that makes people move. We had Brenna from the Last Gang sing the female part and it turned out so awesome. She has an incredible voice. We hotly debated putting it on the record because it turned out so good but we decided to hold it so Frail Bray was all new material. We will probably release it when we are able to tour again.
I try to prevent my mind from saying, “this is a single” when I write it. I do feel that sometimes but I try to push it out of my mind. I probably shouldn’t say this, but when I finished Wildflowers of Italy I considered it the closest thing I’ve ever felt to being a single. But, if you read my answer above, bands never know their best songs until they play them live and the audience reacts, so what the hell do I know? I spend a large portion of my life trying to figure out why a song is liked.
This is your third full length album. Do you feel that your songwriting has changed over the years? How has writing and recording Frail Bray been different/similar to the other two albums?
Yes, it has definitely changed over the years. At least my approach to it has changed. When I wrote Cognicide, and I’m not trying to be coy or humble, I honestly didn’t know how to “make a song.” I just put a bunch of parts together and shouted over the top. I knew nothing about melody, phrasing, cadence, etc., but somehow it worked. Maybe that’s the purity of ambition that presented itself. As I went on, I slowly learned tricks and I ask my songwriter friends questions along the way. I try to listen to what makes my favorite songs special and emulate that. For Frail Bray, the difference is I focused heavily on vocal melody. For Tremulous, I had a “general idea” of melody but for this record, I exhausted every angle and had it ready before we hit the studio. I believe the secret to a good song is vocal melody. I can’t sing particularly well so I did my best to bark like a bird.
You released the album through Fat Wreck Chords. They’ve got a good reputation in the punk scene – how have you found working with them? The music industry has changed a lot since you first formed back in 2002 – how do you find this has affected the band?
I love working with Fat because I’m working with my family and friends. I worked at the label for 11 years so I know what it’s like from their perspective and from a band’s perspective. They are very, very fair. You will always be paid and you will always be heard. Bart Henderson is the label manager and I completely trust him to give me his true, unvarnished opinion. I know some bands want to be lied to, but I don’t. I want to be told the truth so I can stay closer to Earth and not get (more) delusional. We aren’t a giant band, but they treat us with respect and the press this time around has been so great.
I’ve definitely had a chance to watch the music industry thrive, and gasp. I was around when “downloading” hit the scene and it greatly impacted bands. As for our band, I’m not sure if we have been impacted that much since we fly under the radar. One good thing is that we have been given some pretty incredible opportunities for the size of band we are. We were scheduled to play some major European festivals this summer (which we will do next summer) and that’s very flattering.
You worked with producer Jack Shirley on the record. What was it like working with him? Did you do most of the writing before you hit the studio?
We greatly enjoyed working with Jack Shirley. I recommend any band work with him. He’s hyper-professional but knows our world completely. We wanted a bright, big-sounding record and he absolutely delivered. When it comes to being in the studio, we like to be very efficient and have everything in line and that marries well with Jack’s style. He knows what it’s like to play a crappy club, sit in a van AND be nominated for a Grammy (for Deafheaven), ha ha. What more experience could you ask for? We were completely open to his input but he’s excellent at not fixing what isn’t broken. He gives JUST the right advice. And his studio, Atomic Garden, is absolutely beautiful which has a big impact on how you feel.
The hardcore scene has changed a lot over the years. Are there any current bands you can recommend for our readers to check out?
I listen to a LOT of new music and most every genre. I’m constantly finding new bands I enjoy. When someone says, “there are no good bands now,” I know they aren’t paying attention. The word “hardcore” means something totally different now, but in terms of aggressive, fast punk, recently I’ve enjoyed Nosebleed, Kohti Tuhoa, Gouge Away, Torso, Ghouli, Khiis, Acrylics, Zorn, etc.
Do you have any plans to tour in the UK once the coronavirus pandemic is over? What can people expect from a Western Addiction gig if they come to see you perform live?
Absolutely. We can’t wait to play. We had three big festivals lined up for this summer but those are now postponed until next summer. We try our very best to make the shows fun and wild. To be a singer is sometimes awkward and I can definitely see when the audience is bored so I do whatever I can to get their attention. That might be walking around the crowd, riding someone’s shoulders, ramming into a trashcan, etc. I think the best shows are wild enough to make you go, “uh oh” but not dangerous. I would feel terrible if I hurt anyone but we are going to do our best to get the place going. We don’t always make sense in every town but there is something about touring Europe that makes works for our style. We had a great time on our last tour and can’t WAIT to come back.
Any last words for the fans?
Thanks so much for checking out Frail Bray and come up and say hello when we play your town. My men like vegan food, tequila, trail mix, plants, good beer, black metal, records and horrible comedies. Come prepared!