This is the band that a group of us are going to see tomorrow night. I've written about them before. Their live shows rock. Tomorrow is the cd release party. I'm such a geek, I'm going to the early show at the music store to get an early copy of their cd. Be sure to check out their website.....witchshat.net.
album opens up treasure chest of talent
Published Thursday, December 1, 2005
Sometimes it’s hard for local musicians to be taken seriously. As they work to win fans and establish identities, Columbia’s bands might seem like mere novelties of local culture.
| G.J. McCarthy photo |
| Flanked by band members Steve Doerhoff, left, and Michael Wilson, left and right, Witch’s Hat singer Greg Linde sings into a large cardboard cylinder as the group practices the song “WW VI” Sunday at Clark’s house. Linde found the cylinder during practice and decided to incorporate it into the song. |
That might be particularly true when an act consists of lots of bare chests, pumping fists and rock anthems about dragon slayers, androgynous aliens and a time-traveling dinosaur called Rockasaurus.
But more than just superficial theatrics, Witch’s Hat is poised to become the real deal. And as band members celebrate the release of their debut album on Columbia’s Emergency Umbrella Records, they’re out to make it happen. Still, there are challenges.
"It’s hard getting people to take us seriously; we’re a little silly," singer Greg Linde said. "But there’s not much we can do. We just play music that’s interesting and shows that rock, and most people get it eventually."
Packed Witch’s Hat performances at Eastside Tavern and other local venues suggest people are already getting it. The band seems to play locally at least every two weeks, which is too often for most bands to sustain interest. But Witch’s Hat always brings a party and strives to make each show a little different by incorporating guest musicians, themed performances and hilarious cover songs.
| G.J. McCarthy photo |
| Wilson, left, and Bert Clark run through the song, “Vapor Trails” as they rehearse at Clark’s house in Columbia. |
"What we’re doing is entertainment," Linde said. "We just make it entertaining and make it a fun show. Even if people get to have a few giggles at our expense."
For Linde, music wasn’t always about entertainment. Before Witch’s Hat, he was just one among the ranks of singer-songwriters playing acoustic guitars and singing about clichéd revelations at open mic nights.
"I was doing boring stuff before," Linde said. "Now what I’m doing is really cool. You get to have fun and be weird."
Now Linde looks beyond himself for lyrical ideas, preferring to find inspiration in the realms of science fiction and fantasy.
"Those are things I know a lot about," he said, "so it’s easy subject matter for me to get to. Not whiny personal stuff."
While Linde writes most of the band’s lyrics, Steve Doerhoff generates most of the musical ideas and plays bass and keyboard. Michael Wilson, on guitar, and Bert Clark, on drums, complete the picture.
Drawing on a host of inspiration from metal to funk to progressive rock to video game music, the band’s compositions offer something for almost everyone, even if you’re not sure what to make of the music at first.
"I think there’s something in our music that you don’t get right away, and it takes awhile to figure it out," Doerhoff said. "Like a rusty treasure chest. No, a dusty treasure chest. You have to clean it off."
Indeed, it takes a few listens to fully comprehend what the band has set out to do with its new album. But "Mastery of the Steel," recorded at Columbia’s Red Boots Recording Studio, is a solid first effort. The production is a little thin, which is a bit unexpected for these epic works, and there are a few rough spots, but the point of this record is to document the band members as they are, without a lot of fancy embellishments or in-the-studio layering.
The record’s strength lies in its clever lyrics and detailed compositions, which are expertly arranged and demand a serious listen despite their superficial silliness. Standouts include "Popsicles," with its majestic horns; "Glodyany, 1972," the album’s closer; and "Space Baby," its first single.
The future looks bright for the Hat; it plans to start a radio promotional campaign and tour in the spring with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Shäffer the Darklord, who it befriended this year at a pair of Eastside Tavern shows.
For now, Witch’s Hat will keep on entertaining its legions of local fans as it prepares to entice those beyond the state line with explosive antics that are both silly and serious.
"There shouldn’t be any reason why it gets boring," Linde said.