Alibi V.28 No.14 • April 4-10, 2019 

Music Interview

SuperGiant Status

The Tree of Life beckons band

SuperGiant
SuperGiant
Eric Williams Photography
While he sat thinking about what he was going to write about SuperGiant, one of the longest lasting and most beloved local Albuquerque rock bands to pass through the ether and onto the Earth in the vicinity of Albuquerque, New Mexico—part of the quadrant to which he was assigned more by fate than any editor—August March played the classic rock station, number 833, through his television, a Toshiba with great big speakers.

So Billy Joel and then the Wings danced around his ears with stories of conquering the stranger or of the loneliness of the moon. Meanwhile March thought deeply about the signicance of SuperGiant, a quartet that had, much like its namesake, grown and grown to epic proportions as it sought the ultimate starry communion with the sky.

“It’s introspective. I’ve been through a lot of personal changes in the last 4 or 5 years. So I think, emotionally for me, the album reflects those changes. Lyrically, especially on the title track—my mom had some health issues, there were all sorts of things I was feeling. A lot of this new music is really cathartic. It’s a way for us to get things out, to leave all the responsibilities we have behind us. But there are also some songs on there that are just fun.”

A quartet composed of Jeremy McCollum on guitar, vocalist Joel Rogers, bassist Keith Laffler and drummer Gary Chavez, SuperGiant represents the best of what rock can be in the Duke City: loud, proud and intricate, with deeply melodic vocals, tasty riffs and a propulsive rhythm section that speaks to and of the deep desert at that precise moment when dark becomes life, when cacti turn their flowers to the sun and the sound of the universe erupts everywhere, from each pore and all the surfaces in that drifting, starstrewn environment.

And you know they didn’t get to that place by accident. Years of hard work, constant touring and consequently developing a fan base here and around the country have led SuperGiant to their fifth album, a star-turn called The Tree of Life.

Weekly Alibi met with the members of SuperGiant to get a better idea of what their brightness portends and to find indications of where the road will lead a quartet of rockers who came up in El Burque, gigging as they went, even as their journey to the stars and beyond becomes evident in their music and in their moves.

On Friday April 5, SuperGiant debuts their new disc at Sister; they’ll be distributing copies of The Tree of Life to all who attend.

Weekly Alibi: You guys are stalwarts of the scene. You’ve survived and thrived while many bands have come and gone. What’s the history of the band, how did you come together, for readers who might not be familiar with SuperGiant?

Jeremy McCollum: I acutally started the band with Gary, the drummer. That originally came from an ad in Weekly Alibi, back in the days when people would actually post ads looking for other musicians to jam with. I put an ad in that said, “hey I wanna put a band together.” I didn’t know anyone to start that with. Gary answered and I met him and we jammed.

When was that?

Joel Rogers: That was late 2005, I came into the fold in 2006, in the summer.

Jeremy: Me and Gary worked together for a while, we tried out a couple of singers and bassists and didn’t find the right match until we met Kyle, our original bassist. He was quite younger than us. He was just kinda a cool kid I’d seen around the metal shows. He fit right in at the beginning. Joel, I believe, joined up last. We played our first show with Weedeater.

They’re like, from North Carolina, right? Swampy stoner rock!

They’re kinda one of the staple stoner rock bands. Back in those days, stoner rock wasn’t a thing—well there was like five people at every show you went to—like it is now.

Yeah, it’s gotten very popular, but now there seems to be a wrestling match going on between the forces of doom and sludge and desert rock and all of the other sub-genres associated with stoner rock. But in the past 4 or 5 years, the popularity level has risen to great heights.

It has, a lot. The favorite bands I used to go see, it was usually just me and three or four other dudes. Occassionally there would be a little bit of a crowd. But it wasn’t like it is today. Weedeater sells out Sister.

Yeah, and Mastodon shows are all the rage.

Stoner rock has gotten a lot more popular, so that’s cool. Now we’ve got a whole festival happening this summer, the Monolith on the Mesa festival.

You guys are playing that. We’re going to cover that festival for our Summer Guide this year, I think.

Well there are several festivals of that type in the works. There’s one happening in Vegas, there are a couple in California ...

Joel: Psycho Las Vegas is huge!

So you guys were doing this way ahead of many others.

Joel: But we also don’t like to be pigeon-holed as just stoner rock. We’re not doom, we’re not sludge. We do have elements of stoner rock, but I think it’s more blues-based rock and roll that we do. We do have elements of punk rock also.

And some prog-rock, I think, especially in the themes you all explore.

There’s a lot of things going on in our work, so it’s more an amalgamation of influences that we put together.

I like the old-fashioned hard rock moniker; you guys remind me of some of the classic hard rock bands of the seventies—like April Wine or even mid-career Black Sabbath.

Yeah, it’s pretty heavy and unforgiving. It’s in your face. But most stoner rock—as I know it—is really long and drawn out, drop D with cookie monster vocals.

It’s too bad about the cookie monster vocals. I gotta say, I’d love a lotta metal bands better if they dispensed with that. I’m glad to see bands who have a vocalist who sings. That’s definitely something that you all have, a real melodicism in the vocals.

And on this album in particular, on Tree of Life, I spent a lot of time on the vocal tracks. There are a lot of layers and harmonies. We’re taking things to the next level there. Matthew Tobias, our engineer, helped us produce the album too. He had a lot of great ideas.

Tobias has a fine ear.

He’s a professional drummer, a studio drummer. He’s played on 1500 different albums. He’s got a lot of experience. With him, we were able to take our songs to the next level. He even helped us condense our work.

Jeremy: Before this, we always worked on a shoestring budget. We were very independent, very DIY. But he actually came to two or three of our practices to listen to us, to take notes. He had some excellent input. He went above and beyond to make a really great album.

Joel: It’s important to know that all the bass and the drums on the album are live. Keith nailed his parts. Gary really had to do that too. Then Jeremy can go back in and track everything, if he wanted to get different guitar tones or work on his solos. Obviously, the vocals had to be clean.

So let’s talk a little bit about the results of all that, the album called Tree of Life!

I write all the lyrics and the melodies. It’s a huge departure from our other albums because a lot of our previous work was space-oriented. They really revolved around trips into space, just all these astral things going on in my head at the time. This album, in comparison, is literally grounded. There’s not a space song on the entire record.

What are the songs about?

It’s introspective. I’ve been through a lot of personal changes in the last 4 or 5 years. So I think, emotionally for me, the album reflects those changes. Lyrically, especially on the title track—my mom had some health issues, there were all sorts of things I was feeling. A lot of this new music is really cathartic. It’s a way for us to get things out, to leave all the responsibilities we have behind us. But there are also some songs on there that are just fun. There’s a song called “Drop Punk,” that’s an homage to punk rock. The album is all over the place.

Jeremy, where’s your guitar playing going on this album?

This is the first album that has an acoustic guitar, on a political song. It’s about society slowly falling apart.

Joel: But it’s also about still finding respite in life from the things we experience every day. In that way the album is celebratory.

But with a massive and listenable sound, right?

Jeremy: Exactly. We’re gonna send this around. We already have a loyal following. We haven’t made a big push in a while.

Joel: We’re planning on doing just that with this album. I really feel like we’ve gotten to the point where we’re accomplished, together. But it’s always going to be a labor of love.

SuperGiant Album Release Party
with Talking Hours and The Sex on TV
Sister • 407 Central Ave. NW • Friday, April 5
8pm • $8 • 21+
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