Old school Tacoma punk fans will recall Swelter as one of Grit City's most popular bands, circa 1995; an outfit that featured members of Mahnhammer, CFA and Mico de Noche, among the most popular hard rock acts on today's scene. Swelter will be back in action, for one night only, on Nov. 22 at Tacoma's New Frontier Lounge, and I recently met up with vocalist Micah Hembree for a story that will run in next week's paper.
But, while I had his attention, I couldn't help but ask about his current band, Mahnhammer's, forthcoming, new album. The band's sophomore disc – the follow up to 2011's “Above the New Frontier” - was recorded in Joshua Tree, Calif., under the direction of producer Dave Catching, of Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age and Masters of Reality fame. Here's what Hembree had to say about the new tunes, some of which will be on the set list when his band plays O'Malley's Irish Pub on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Tacoma Weekly: Where does the new album stand? Do you have a time frame?
Hembree: We're working really hard right now. Our good friend, Mike Masters, is in L.A. right now mixing it. Unfortunately, his father had a stroke recently. So things have been kind of put on halt for the time being.
But we had such an amazing time down in the desert, hanging out with Dave Catching. Hanging out at his home.
TW: Who, strangely, looks like future Sean Horst (Mahnhammer's bassist.)
Hembree: We had such an amazing time down there, and now it's kind of hurry up and wait. Typically, when you record an album you're with it non-stop. At least (that's) my experience with music. You're there until the end. And to have those songs someplace else being mixed, it's a little surreal. You have no say right now until you hear it. (He laughs.)
TW: But you've heard the early mixes, at least.
Hembree: Yes, and honestly the rough mixes are amazing.
TW: What direction would you say you're going in that might surprise some people?
Hembree: (He considers) I think without (guitarist) Dave Takata (who left the band last year) and adding Mike Crum (Mico de Noche) those songs would change no matter what. They're very similar as far as their tastes. But, as far as their style of playing, it's pretty different; which, I think, compliments the more technical songs that we have now.
TW: Around the last time I wrote about you guys, you were going in a more proggy, Mastadon-ny direction.
Hembree: We're inching towards something that's not that dirty rock that we were doing.
TW: But not too clean, hopefully.
Hembree: No matter what (guitarist) Sean Lanksbury and I do, it's not gonna be clean. (He laughs.) We believe in making music that has a backbone and a feeling. … Something you could possibly dance to if you felt like it, or tear your eyes out.
TW: That's quite the range of moods.
Hembree: Those technical songs will have to come out because Sean Lanksbury can't stop himself. In a lot of ways, Dave Takata has a very straightforward way that he wants to play music. You can tell the way that he does it, the bands that he's in. (They're) very straightforward, especially CFA. … They stick to a standard 4-4 (beat), compared to us. We're kind of all over the place as far as our timing now.
So I think that technicality is there. But I also think that same punk rock feeling that we had initially is there. We still have some fast songs. We still have some slower songs. We have a song called “Hexed Vex” which is almost our blues opus, if you will. It leaves it open to letting a lot more different people to enjoy the music instead of just a select group. But it's still dirty.
TW: And you were saying it's kind of on hold.
Hembree: It's on hold for right now. Mike Masters is pushing for a spring debut. We're hoping for something a little sooner than that, but the way things are goings that's probably not going to happen.
TW: Is it going to be an independent release, or are you looking at different label situations?
Hembree: We're gonna look around before we put it out. I think it's a smart thing to do at this moment. But if nothing pans out we'll put it out ourselves, like we do all the time.