(After a hiatus in which Comrade Aleks was writing a book about doom, he returns to NCS with this very engaging interview of Cory McCallum, bassist of the Canadian band Olde, whose new album is headed our way next month.)
Olde (first known as Corvus) have provided their crushing down-tuned rumble since 2014. Olde’s place of origin is Malton of God-blessed Ontario… The band is big, they play as a quintet: Doug McLarty on vocals, Chris Hughes and Greg Dawson (who’s known also as a sound producer) play guitars, Cory McCallum is the bass player, and Ryan Aubin is the drummer, coming from Sons of Otis.
Their first record is a full-length album named simply I. Hypaethral Records released it as a 12” vinyl on November 12, 2014. Olde’s debut was a damn focused, tight, and fierce blend of doom and stoner with violent sludgy vocals. They kept well the balance, but they don’t identify the band with any of those things (though their songs contain elements of each). They just tried to write heavy riffs, heavy parts, heavy songs. They aimed for that, and they got it…
Olde’s second full-length Temple is going to be released by STB Records in August (it follows the band’s Shallow Graves EP, released last August). We made a decision to do this interview with Cory McCallum to bring you much information about this release.
Hi Cory! How are you? What’s going on in Olde’s camp?
I’m good, busy as always. Things are good here in Olde. Everyone is excited to get the new record out, play some shows, and then move on to new material, get back in the studio. We’re always moving, in our own way, always trying to be sure that we are doing what we can to stay fresh.
Wait! Are you really already planning to return in the studio? Do you have some certain ideas to fulfill there or do you mean that it’s just your natural condition?
You have to keep in mind it’s been 14 months since we were in the studio, despite the release dates. We are itching to get back in there. Greg and I have been emailing ideas back and forth for the last 5 months or so.
Greg owns and operates BWC Studios. Recording is his professional livelihood, but after 20-plus years, he still has a true passion for creation. I am like a shark, creatively, I can’t stop moving. Collectively, we are very excited to see what the next Olde record is going to be. I am fully confident that the next Olde will be even bigger and better. I just have faith in my team and I truly believe it’s mutual. We all love making music.
Well, the band almost has the second full-length in hand, so who will release this monument of sludgy doom metal, and when?
STB Records out of New Jersey will be releasing the album, Temple, on vinyl and CD on August 11th. Medusa Crush out of Toronto will be releasing a pretty limited run of the album on cassette, simultaneously, and it will also be available digitally on Bandcamp.
The songs included in the second full-length were recorded in the same time frame as songs which were done for the Shallow Graves EP. How did you split the whole amount of tracks in two? Why did you keep ones for the EP and others for the LP?
Well, we recorded it all thinking all of it (or most of it) was going to be our full-length. But then Steve at STB wanted us to cut some material so we could release it on one vinyl and not a double. It had nothing to do with sound or, in our minds, quality. So, we chose and sequenced what we thought would be a great full-length record, and what was left over, by default, became the Shallow Graves EP. We decided to release it to give our friends and fans something to listen to in the meanwhile, because we think it actually has four solid tracks on it.
Cory, the band released the Shallow Graves EP in August 2016, almost year ago. The break between both records is almost one year. Why did you wait for so long to publish the new LP?
It was simply a matter of working with STB Records and their existing release schedule. Steve had a bunch of bands signed before us and had them all scheduled for release at specific times and we just got in line, and that ended up bringing us where we are now.
Olde – Shallow Graves
Do the lyrics on Shallow Graves and the new album differ? What kind of topics does Doug raise in his texts nowadays?
I think they touch upon the same themes. You can sort of see them as companion pieces to each other. Doug is Doug. He is still very interested in the human condition, the things that we as people have to do for ourselves and to ourselves in order to be able to survive in this world, The different masks that humanity is forced to wear, and conversely the masks that some humans choose to wear. He is still very much intrigued and enraged by the lengths that many will go to in order to get ahead and stay ahead in our society. The division between the rich and the poor growing ever bigger. The seemingly never-ending destruction of our planet.
I would say both the EP and the Temple full-length are really a good look, through Doug’s eyes, at all the things that are causing this world to be a pretty crummy place to live in, and by proxy, the things that people have to do in order to survive, like it or not.
By the way, how do you see the balance of stoner, doom, and sludge in Olde? How do you manage to find the right sound without anything excess?
While it is true that we love all those styles, we don’t self-identify as any of those things (though we, at times, contain elements of each). We do, on some level, enjoy being all of those things, and none of them. Same goes with hard rock, slow heavy metal, hardcore punk, even dipping our toes into death once in a blue moon. You label yourself, you handcuff yourself.
I don’t believe that we THINK about it too consciously. We are just trying to write heavy riffs, heavy parts, heavy songs. That is a crucial distinction; we want them to feel like songs, to be songs, not just slapped-together heavy slab after heavy slab. There must be cohesion, ebb and flow, tension and release, hooks, etc. In my opinion, we still need to be writing songs that make sense to the average Jane or Joe. It’s part of what we feel makes Olde Olde.
The LP sounds like the band plays it at maximum capacity, it’s bloody focused and confident material. How did you reach such results in the studio?
The writing for these releases happened a lot more organically. We were actually in the studio together, throwing around ideas, seeing what we were collectively “into”. There was a lot more opportunity to be choosy, to take time to make things right, the ability to just stop working on something that seemed to be going nowhere. Also, as we have grown together as a band, we are more cognizant and confidant in what we each do, so during the initial writing process, you can almost think on two levels; I can write my part a little differently knowing what the other lads might end up doing to it. It allowed us a lot more freedom.
It seems that the guitars sound on Olde’s debut was drier than this powerful, charged sound you have on the second album. What kind of equipment did you use for it?
We used different fuzz pedals on this record. After playing with Ufomammut and being completely floored by their sound, Greg (guitars/engineer/production) looked into Hovercraft amps. We couldn’t afford to ship one of their amps to Canada so he ordered a Hovercraft fuzz pedal. It played a big role on the new record. We also welcomed delay pedals a little more. Maybe a lot more actually.
Greg and I also utilized a system where we double-tracked the bass. I played and recorded the whole record on two different basses through two different rigs, and then in certain spots, Greg married those two bass tracks together to add more OOMPH.
I think in the actual writing of parts, though, we did a better job concentrating on making sure every player was adding something tasty to the mix. The guitars are playing away from each other, doing complementary and different things, more so than in the past. As a bassist, I was able to either just stay simple and carry the bottom end or do a little stretching out myself.
Man, you have two guitars, your songs are far from simple circling riffing, and the songwriting in itself is the band’s strong side. Are you really so serious in considering the quality of music you perform?
We absolutely take our music seriously, 100%. We may not be a full-time touring and working band, per se, but when it comes to the writing and recording, we are as professional and dedicated and as passionate as possible. This band acts as a respite for us, it allows us to shake free of our day-to-day lives and rock out. It’s very cathartic.
In our day-to-day lives, maybe we are not so serious. We are a pretty jokey lot. There are plenty of good laughs when we get together. But having said that, it is a serious and dour world, and I’m glad that Doug takes that on in his writing. I, personally, don’t think Olde would be what it is if we were singing about bongs or ogres.
So you aren’t those guys who’re satisfied with songs about smoking grass and drinking beer with Satan in a hell of smoke and skulls, right? What do you like in the aesthetic of the musical genres you perform through Olde?
There are great bands that do those specific things BRILLIANTLY. I am not in any way trying to disrespect their craft sonically or visually. But I don’t think it would ring true for US.
Aesthetically, nailing down this band to imagery and visual direction has been a juggle from the start. We want our visuals to be indicative of what we are, how we sound, what we do. It is actually a lot more difficult than maybe some people realize.
Having great art and visuals is a huge part of what we do and we want things to look great. Doug is very interested in making sure our stuff at least does not steer people down the wrong path (not that the other members aren’t interested, but with Doug it is a big part of the puzzle that he enjoys being involved in). He is an old school believer in grabbing a record and 1) saying “FUCK YES!” and 2) the art should, to a certain extent, LOOK like what the band IS. It’s hard to put into words, which is part of why it is always a juggle. You can’t explain what’s in your head always, but when you SEE it, you feel 100% if the artist nailed it.
Otherwise, we are pretty simple. Jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flannel, me in a ball cap. We don’t go in for costumes.
Cory, Olde are adult men who have jobs, families, and obligations. How do your relatives support this harmless hobby of performing this crushing stuff with other boys?
All of the significant others in the band are highly supportive of what we do, as long as we remain realistic and respectful of our families and home lives. My kids get a kick out of hearing the tunes; they really want to see us live. My wife loves that I have this outlet, but she’s not coming to a show anytime soon!
Olde – Now I See You
The album will be released in August, and I guess that summertime isn’t the best time for tours. However, what do you think? Will you actively promote the new songs with a tour or series of gigs?
Because of the aforementioned home lives and jobs, etc., as well as our status as relative unknowns for the most part, we can’t do very long tour stretches without losing a lot of money, to be frank. Mortgages….self-employment, lack of vacation days….we understand the reasons that touring is a young person’s game. We’ll still get out there and crush some spots, and have a blast doing it.
Maybe if this record helps us gather some more attention, we can viably string together some shows, possibly get on some of next year’s festivals. But until then, we’ll keep doing what we do. Write what we love, record it the best we can, get it out one way or another, and take those opportunities as they come up to crank it live and keep ourselves, our friends, and our fans as happy as possible.
Speaking about “adult” questions – do you know how many copies of Olde’s debut were produced by the label? Are you satisfied with the interest the band attracts?
I think Hypaethral did about 300-350 of the debut record. We were pretty happy with how far it got out there. They are good guys there and we didn’t move away from them acrimoniously or anything. We recently played with Brandon from Hypaethral’s band Ancress for their album release (the album is amazing). Life is too short and the scene is too small to not keep friendly with as many honest and good people as possible. But we are excited to see how our collaboration with STB goes as well, and hopefully we can build on the foundation that we have. More ears the better.
Cory, how would you sum up Olde’s message? What’s it all about?
I think, at the end of the day, Olde as a band is about sincerity. That sounds a bit much, but in the sense that we are who we are, we write for ourselves, we follow no trends, we play when we can and we bring it as hard and heavy as we can muster whenever given the chance, we’re fair to work with and expect fairness in return, we have few aspirations but for the continued opportunity to keep doing all these things, more or less, on our terms.
We are who we are, we make no bones about it. We hope people dig it, but if they don’t, so be it. We’re not everyone’s cup of tea; but if you DO dig our tea, we’re happy that our friends and fans are beginning to know that they can count on us for a significantly-steeped brew every time. We are always 100% genuinely appreciative for every set of ears that ever gives us a chance, and we strive to do our best.
At the end of the day, I would like to think that’s about as artistically-sincere as a band could hope to be. And I’m cool with that.