We talk with german band WILLOW CHILD. “Paradise & Nadir” release 11/04/2018 on StoneFree Records.
DenpaFuzz: First things first, I want to thank your words and congratulate for your “Paradise & Nadir”. A record that can be easily idenfied with the tag “retro-rock”. Do you like this term to define your music? How do you define your style?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): Well, while we do refer to our genre as “retro-rock” we aren’t quite sure if this is totally correct. It’s just an easy and quick way to get a very brief idea of what we do. I don’t think we’re doing just retro-rock.
I mean the band originally started out as a cover band that played songs by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Led Zep, etc… So there’s definitely some retro-vibe to us. BUT we also do love some contemporary music such as Greenleaf and Graveyard. Also every member of the band adds his personal influences. Flo for example (our “youngest” member, entered the band in June 2017) is a huge Pink Floyd admirer. And when you compare our “Trip Down Memory Lane EP” to “Paradise & Nadir” you’ll get it real fast! As from my side: I grew up with a lot of Grunge. Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Foo Fighters got me into music in the first place. After that Stoner Rock (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, QOTSA, Slo Burn, ..) really hit me hard. And I like to think that we do have some 90s sound elements, too.
Of course Eva is the main thing in Willow Child. She’s in charge of all the vocals and lyrics. So her musical heritage is key to what we sound like. From rockabilly to classic blues rock – Eva is influenced by different singers like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Stevie Nicks, Janis Martin…
As a conclusion I’d say we do play rock music that has a lot of retro heritage to it but does try display more than one musical era.
DenpaFuzz: Please, tell us how the band was born and who you look at when it is me to compose your music. Which bands are your references or inspire you?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): So the band was born out of a school band in 2012, when Jonas (organ) and Oxi (former bass player) entered the school orchestra and started to put together a school rock band with Dave on drums. After some changes in the line-up. The band was called “Trip Down Memory Lane” and played Cover-Rock as mentioned above. Also interesting to say: Dave and Eva are siblings and their sister Anna is also a singer and has been part of the band for a while. Their father has been a real rock and roll drummer
Oh that is a wide field right there! As I mentioned we all do have very different tastes in music. Of course we share a lot of bands that we like. We visit festivals and concerts together all the time. But let me think of some new bands we ALL dig at the moment: KADAVAR, WUCAN, GREENLEAF, THE GOLDEN VOID, COOGAN’S BLUFF, ASTROBOY, DEATH ALLEY, HORISONT, KING FATHER BABOON (who are very good friends), HONEYMOON DISEASE and sooo many more!
DenpaFuzz: What had changed from your first EP to “Paradise & Nadir”? The idea of union with nature is evident, both in the lyrics and in the ambience created in the tracks; even the promo pics you show up in the middle of a snowy forest. Do you try to escape from fast paced and stressful urban environments?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): Well, the most obvious change would be our change in the Line-Up: Flo Ryan Kiss (Ex-Limestone Whale) joined us on lead guitar. This opened up our musical range very vast. Of course, now we have the ability to feature organ AND guitar in every song and in some songs even two guitars. But also Flo’s know-how and musical style made writing Paradise & Nadir a much more complex and fulfilling process.
You really hit the nail on the head when you stress out that our songs are very focused on nature pretty much all the time. This is due to Eva. She’s usually the mastermind behind the song. While we all do write parts and riffs and hooks, Eva would ALWAYS put a point on it with her lyrics and vocals.
So while someone has a rough idea where his riff or groove is going after Eva has heard it we very often end up referring to nature in some way. This is very characteristics to WILLOW CHILD.
We actually do not want to “escape” from the fast, momentary and complex digital everyday world.
We acknowledge that it’s there and we live in it but since attentiveness and meditation are some topics that we personally pursue it’s come to us quite naturally to focus on the “easier” and more comfortable things on this planet.
Personally, I believe that the human mind nowadays is being constantly overwhelmed by all the brain has to process throughout the day. I like to compare our living situation to the musicians in the 60s and 70s. So when I get up, I would check my various mail accounts, take a peek into facebook and so on. Most people own a smartphone and are therefore accessible about 90 per cent of their lifetime. That 40 years ago was completely different. For me it’s great inspiration to watch movies or TV Shows out of that time or read/watch interviews with artists who worked in the 60s and 70s trying to grasp what their everyday life was all about.
DenpaFuzz: Although following a similar path, I appreciate some differences from your EP “Trip Down Memory Lane”. En “Paradise & Nadir” the organ has a strong presence. Is this a consequence of Jonas’ accident, which prevented him from playing guitar? It seems like if the organ sound compensated the absence of the guitar chords, is this the idea behind of it?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): No, the idea was never to compensate something musically. While it is true that Jonas had some difficulties playing the guitar after his accident this fact wasn’t even part of the discussion if we wanted to get another guitar player (Flo).
It was more of a logical development after Flo was finally in. We are very lucky that Jonas injuries healed off very fast and pretty good as well. So he basically regained all of his sleight of his left hand.
But with Flo in the band we noticed pretty quick that there was just a lot more possibilities for the organ. I wouldn’t even say it was a conscious process we just made music together and afterwards saw “Well, that it quite a new role the organ can fulfill from now on.” And with the organ having a stronger more present role, we were able to go more progressive ways in terms of songwriting.
DenpaFuzz: On the other hand, Eva’s vocal register seems to have become sweeter, with more feeling, if possible. It is impossible to me not to recall Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) when I hear her voice in several tracks of the record.
WILLOW CHILD (Eva): I used the time that went by since we finished the our EP to improve my singing game. Flo taking over on lead guitar, meaning less guitar work for me, gave me headroom to really focus on my vocal parts. Now, I enjoy putting even more time and work in my vocal lines and lyrics. I’m happy if it already shows on “Paradise & Nadir”! I don’t necessarily identify much with Grace Slick. To be honest, I never thought about it, but maybe the sound of our voices is a bit similar. Although, I think that we have different styles of singing. So, I tend to say any resemblance is flattering but unintended.
DenpaFuzz: Also, in the new album there are up as a band? Is this the path the band wants to follow, moving away from sounds that could re more tracks with progressive touches, somemes even folk. Is this a queson of growing semble stoner rock?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): Of course, we want to grow as a band. I feel quite flattered that you already see some sort of
evolvement! As mentioned before, having Flo in the band brought a new range of Genres to the mix.
Folk being one of them, quite obviously. But I would like to separate the song structures from the sounds. What I’m saying is: While we definitely do not want to just recreate what’s been there a thousand times before in terms of songwriting I think we will still try to mix some well-known sounds in. So, WILLOW CHILD won’t be a “traditional” folk band, neither will we completely drift away to all too progressive styles. We still want to play and write Rock and Roll but the goal is to display as many influences and historical resemblances as possible!
DenpaFuzz: How are those weekends in which you throw away the key of your rehearsal room and keep playing for hours together?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier) : Absolutely! We did that a couple of times in the last year. We actually went to remote places to rehearse. This is because Flo let us use his other bands (Limestone Whale!) rehearsal room in Schwandorf which is about one and a half hour away in the Bavarian woods. So during the pre-production and songwriting process we would go there, live at Flo’s parents’ house to do this:
Rehearse, eat (and drink), sleep, repeat. As a result, we ended up spending weekends with everyday about 12 to 15 hours in the room doing what we love. Hard work but worth every second, as you can probably tell!
DenpaFuzz: Do you keep playing all that me to have fun doing it or is it playing, playing unl the songs are perfect?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): If it only was that easy, haha. It’s totally a bit of both, really. We do want the songs to be perfect and have fun making them. So there’s two sides of a song being perfect: One is that the structure is clear and there are special moments here and there, stops, licks and all that, but there’s also the sound that has to fit the topic of the song (also if you look at the lyrics). We want you to be able to get a feeling of the song’s story before you even hear the lyrics. I guess you could say we want to create an atmosphere that allows you to emotionally be ready for the lyrics.
The other side of a perfect song would be the song has to be performed perfectly. So, we would also talk A LOT about what exactly each of us is doing. Sometimes playing a 10 seconds phrase back and forth for hours until every note and everything is not only tight but carries the same power and meaning in the expression of the note.
DenpaFuzz: How will you approach this summer filled with festivals and other events?
WILLOW CHILD (Javier): After the Release-Show on May 11 th in our hometown Nuremberg, we will take one week of before we will go on tour for 17 days! We will play Austria (Linz & Vienna) and then Germany from the very south (Munich) up into the north (Hamburg).
Regarding festivals we will play WUDZDOG OPEN AIR in Dornstadt (GER) with bands like MY BABY.
Our Festival highlight in 2018 will be ROCK IM WALD in Lichtenfels (GER). This is one of the main German (or European) Vintage-Rock/Stoner-Rock/Psychedelic Festivals and we’re super psyched about this gig. We will join the line-up with ORANGE GOBLIN, MUSTASCH, THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, SPIDERGAWD, STONED JESUS, and many more great bands!
From DenpaFuzz we want to thank you your words and wish you luck with you new album,which will be reviewed here. And we wish see you playing Spain soon.
(translator: Omar Prieto)