Mind Inversion interviews Vernal Pool


mind inversion interviews Vernal Pool

Vernal Pool is a Minneapolis-by-way-of-South Dakota doom metal band that really doesn’t give a shit if you like them or not – but they do think that right people might if they just had the time. It’s a sound that takes patience, but their free-minded, introspective, brand of classic doom metal is one that reveals many astonishing sonic rewards amidst its many varied layers, from devastation to meditative bliss. In truth, Vernal Pool may play the bleakest, slowest metal music you’re bound to hear in your life, and the wisping traces of shoegaze, Americana, western, and folk music that accent their doom, especially in the live setting, create a result is something very dark and haunting indeed. After nearly two years of work and quiet shows around the area, they’ve just finished putting their first record together and look to be releasing it soon. However, before it’s out they’ll be playing the album live at their shows around the area, the first of which comes next week when they open the much anticipated Battlefields, Irepress, Frontier show at Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis next Wednesday, March 11th. Ryan from Mind Inversion was able to meet up with Eric (vocals, bass) and Heath (drums) from Vernal Pool at their place in NE to talk about their band, their sound, their take on doom and experimental metal in the Midwest and Minneapolis, and what we can expect from their future.

Mind Inversion: For anyone not familiar with Vernal Pool, could you tell me a bit about yourselves, your history, where you come from, and how you all came together as Vernal Pool.

Eric Torkelson: Well Heath and I are both from South Dakota, near Sioux Falls, and we both left there.

Heath Rave: Yeah, exactly; we left…. We both did other things when we were back there. He was in a band called Examination Of The…, and I was in a couple of shitty bands that didn’t matter, but we were friends for a long time and were always into the same music and whatever. After a few years I moved to Denver and started playing in Across Tundras, and then I made the move back to here from Colorado. Eric had already been living in Minneapolis for a few years, and I had met our friend and guitar player Mitch, who is in Lungs, in Mankato when I was on tour with Across Tundras. Eric had met him while he was living in Mankato too, and eventually they just emailed each other and said ‘hey, we should probably start a band’. And then they were like ‘who can play drums?’, and they just remembered ‘oh yeah, Heath’s up here’. And then Micah was playing in this really weird project with me but it never really fleshed itself out it so he just came along with me to do this band. I knew it was going to be really good, and it just kind of all came together.

Eric and I – and I know everyone’s on Neurosis’s bandwagon for so long now – but he and I have been listening to slow music for a really, really, really long time. Since like what, 1993 or ’94?

Eric: At least!

Heath: We use to get ostracized for it back in Sioux Falls. Everyone we knew absolutely hated the slow shit there; stuff like Godflesh, shit like that. So when they got a hold of me I was stoked because I knew we’d make something good.

Mind Inversion: Even when you’re talking about slow stuff, that is still a pretty broad definition. Do you guys still all vibe on the same bands?

Heath: Oh man, we run the gamut with our tastes.

Eric: I think by now we’ve all got really varying musical tastes.

Heath: Myself, I’m really into black metal these days. For the last 4 or so years I just totally delved into black metal and now I really love that stuff. It’s just so hard to listen to, and it’s just the most scathingly brutal stuff on the planet. I’m not into the cheesiness of some of it – but actually, even that stuff is fun too.

Mind Inversion: I just read it should be a good summer here for black metal in Minnesota. Mayhem, Absu, and a bunch of other black metal bands are all planning St. Paul dates this May…

Heath: Yeah, and I think I’m going to be on tour with Battlefields when those shows come through town so I’m a little bummed about that. I really wanted to see Marduk, and that Withered album that came out last year is so good.

Mind Inversion: When we were setting up this interview, you mentioned that Vernal Pool is very close to completion on your first album, Wardens of the Dim Sect.

Heath: Yeah, the album is done now. I’m actually surprised it didn’t arrive back here today. Hopefully it will be available soon, but we don’t have anything solidly scheduled for a release yet.

Mind Inversion: How long have you guys been working on the material that is on the album album?

Heath: Oh man, it’s taken us what, a year to get this done?

Eric: At least a year and a half. Even before Mitch and I contacted Heath, we had been working on a couple of songs that are on the album for at least 3 months. We’ve really just taken our time with this recording to hone our sound before when went in to record.

Mind Inversion: For anyone who hasn’t been to one of your shows and can’t hear the music in the background now, how would you describe your sound to just any average fan of rock or metal?

Eric: I think the easiest thing for me to say is that we’re a classic doom band.

Heath: Yeah, really, that’s what it ended up turning into. I would agree with that wholeheartedly. When anyone asks us, and I just say “we’re a doom band”.

Eric: If you would compare Vernal Pool to any of our previous bands, we’ve kind of taken our slowness to an extreme.

Mind Inversion: In modern press, the closest bands to you guys that I hear mentioned might be Isis or Neurosis, and it seems as if they’re calling that post-metal these days. I don’t know if that definition would even apply to your style of metal.

Heath: I think that the glaring difference is that our music tends to be far bleaker and uglier than anything those writers would touch. To be honest, I don’t think that we have that “beautiful” quality like the band’s you mentioned, necessarily. Another thing is that with our dynamics, especially on our quieter moments, it has an almost Western or Americana vibe that you couldn’t pick out of many of those bands.

Eric: Yeah, he’s right; we have a tendency to specifically focus on the bleakness of the music rather than the melody. We all wanted Vernal Pool to sound uglier than any other music we had done, and unspokenly, I think we almost wanted it to sound painful to listen to.

Heath: This isn’t meant to be an easy album to listen to in any way.

Eric: When we came together, we decided we didn’t want to make music that someone could say ‘oh, another one of those records’.

Heath: Personally, I think that certain people will really enjoy what we’ve done. But they’ll either really love it or they really won’t.

Mind Inversion: So with all that said, what types of audiences has Vernal Pool gone over well with in Minneapolis? Have you any gotten any unexpectedly good responses from certain crowds?

Heath: Haha, our friends bands love us! You know, the people I’m always surprised by is when the “true” metal heads like us. For example, there’s some certain dudes in bands that are super fucking technical who have told us they dug it and that catches me off guard. But honestly, the metal community is the one that I want to appeal to most with our music because they are consistently the hardest ones to impress; for those music listeners it can sound just so avant garde and off the map that it can be hard to digest. But who knows, we haven’t played too many different shows; maybe some people who were into some really dark alternative country…

Eric: One band that really surprised me that likes us was The Funeral and the Twilight.

Heath: Oh yeah, and Building Better Bombs. We played with those guys and they seemed to enjoy it..

Mind Inversion: I thought I read something about a show you guys had scheduled at the 400 Bar with a big lineup of bands…

Heath: Yeah, yeah, that’s the Devil’s Workshop 5 Year Anniversary show, and it’s a little more diverse than most of our shows. It’s just a tribute to the Workshop and all the bands that have recorded in there over the years. I think they’re literally giving us 15 minutes to play, and it’s at like 1 AM.

Mind Inversion: I know you guys are both South Dakota natives, but what is your perception of the Minneapolis music scene and its support for musicians of your kind? How often do you both go to shows these days?

Heath: I enjoy it, but I think that’s because I don’t know that many people here. For us, it seems to be a really small scene and the people that know about and like this type of music come out for it. Our shows are always a great time, and I think there’s a lot of great bands in Minneapolis, but I personally don’t know much of what’s available here.

Eric: It’s kind of surprising, but I think for our style of music there seems to be some very strong support.

Heath: Yeah really, there is a few bands, as far as doom music goes, like Empires, Frontier, and Lungs. Blue Ox is our biggest fans and we’re their biggest; we fucking love those guys! The guys in Castle are really good friends of ours, as well.

Mind Inversion: Has the worsening economic situation affected your ability to function as a band at all during the last five years? Such as your ability to book shows or book tours, and such.

Heath: For the most part, we really just enjoy being a studio band. In the end of it our eventual goal, and something that I think everyone would be about, would be to do soundtracks. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy playing shows because it’s fun, and now we’ve finally got a van. But in a whole year, we might only do a tour once or twice in the Midwest for 3 or 4 days; we’re not looking to road-dog it anymore.

Eric: Actually, we’re pretty past doing tours now. And I’m sorry, cause that kind of sounds pretty dickish, but I mean, I’m a dad now.

Heath: And I’ve got a great career in tattooing, so I’m happy doing what we’re doing. For us, it’s not so much about that anymore. The shows are really fun to play, and we think it’d be cool to get out and play some dates in a row, but if we get any kind of success out of this we’d be very happy. I think a lot of bands can actually do that these days more in the last five years; more and more people seem to be getting into extreme music and are able to search it out. Now some music like this is even more accessible than it would be through a method like touring.

Eric: For us, recording quality, interesting music has just been a much easier and more fun option than setting up tours. There are definitely some labels that like to just put out this kind of music and don’t care if you tour, and that’s what we do.

Mind Inversion: On a similar note, and this question’s not really directed at you in particular, but I just wanted to get your opinion on something that I noticed. Why do you think it is that bands like Earth, Harvey Milk and other bands that seem to be on your “wavelength” happen to get tons of praise from the critics in the year-end polls and lists, but consistently fail to find commercial support among the greater public?

Heath: Honestly, that can be a genuine measure of success for some people that like to make challenging music like us. To have some guy who writes for a magazine like your band or have a bunch of kids who consciously don’t listen to the radio but really like your band, I think that’s about as successful has any band like ours could hope to be. In our realm, if you’re aspiring to success, I would say you’ve made it if you can do that.

Eric: It’s a very different type of success, and the feeling is different. From my point of view, it’s way more satisfying.

Heath: There’s a lot of hard work involved, and there’s a lot of ugly people doing it, and that’s the way it should be. Harvey Milk, man? That band totally writes for themselves and no one else.

Minneapolis metal fans, don’t forget, we want to see you at the show on Wednesday March 11th at the Triple Rock Social Club! Battlefields (Fargo, ND) is supporting their forthcoming Thresholds of Imbalance, Irepress (Boston, MA) is supporting their incredible new album Sol Eye Sea: I, and Vernal Pool and Frontier (Minneapolis, MN) will be opening the show. Check out Vernal Pool online at their official website and stay tuned for news on the release of their forthcoming album, Wardens of the Dim Sect.

interviewed by Ryan Buege, Feb. 2009

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One Response to “Mind Inversion interviews Vernal Pool”

  1. […] interview was originally published on 03/05/2009 by Mind Inversion and has been republished with […]

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