Ahead of their Cork gig this Sunday at UrbanJungle, Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to OHHMS frontman Paul Waller about the band’s most recent EP and their future.
OHHMS are in a good place, all things considered. Winding up a busy set of tours off the back of second extended-play Cold, and all the attendant promotion and (gasp!) radio play the band has received, the band hasn’t much to do before finishing up winter dates and heading back to studio. Except that international touring rarity: a standalone Irish jaunt. Vocalist Paul Waller outlines their rationale behind this move. “Well, we were finishing up the plans for the touring cycle of Cold and realised that even though we had played live throughout most of Europe, we had missed out Ireland. English bands always do that, and we don’t want to be ‘that’ band, so we fixed it.”
Cold, released in 2015 via influential London metal label Holy Roar, is a long and lurching beast, sprawled over two Homeric tracks of gravestone-heavy atmospheric sludge metal. Having finished tour and sold out of physical stock, Waller examines the band’s relationship with the finished product, a year after signing off. “We love it still. Personally, I am incredibly proud, it’s been a year since its release, and we still don’t tire of playing the songs. We noticed people in the crowd singing along a few months ago for the first time as well. That just blew my mind. I thought getting a fifteen-minute song played on Radio 1 was mad, but to see people in the audience singing the lyrics to each other, that just topped everything.”
It’s quite immense, the array of influences and genres evident in OHHMS’ stuff – sludge, psych, doom, post-metal. Where did it all come from, was this a matter of jamming or was there thought put into potential directions for the music? “It’s all totally natural and accidental, it mainly stems from the rehearsal room, jamming on ideas. As long as a song turns us on, and holds our attention each time we play it then it stays. Bands are often scared of genres and being labelled. I can see why, nobody wants to be pigeon-holed and stuck in a genre, afraid to move on due to their fanbase being unwilling to accept change. But It doesn’t affect us though, label us doom, sludge, post-metal, whatever makes you happy, as long as we challenge our selves and continue to make music that we would want to listen to ourselves I reckon we will be fine.”
Over the course of the record’s pair of epics, the band refined and expanded their sound, escaping the shackles of DIY recording and taking full advantage of the studio environment. “We went nuts in the studio when we recorded Dawn of the Swarm. We were like kids in a candy shop with unlimited access to the sweets. Loads of vocal overdubs, strange instruments, chanting and other effects like a bee’s humming wings being slowed down were involved. It was insane and expensive as hell. As for The Anchor that was pretty much a one take job with guitar solos and vocal overdubs only. Both turned out great, there really is no formula.”
As mentioned earlier, the band are with London label Holy Roar, a working relationship Waller says the band is committed to. “They have been incredible of course. We have spent a lot of time working on a new album this year and they have been totally open to each of our ideas. Other labels would balk at a band with only two E.P.s behind them wanting to release a double album with lavish packaging and a bizarre concept but not Holy Roar, if anything they encourage us.” On the topic of Holy Roar, the band will be playing with label mainstays Hang the B*stard on their final show in London later this month. “Are you kidding? We were utterly honoured to receive the call from their bass player Joe asking us to be the main support. We were not going to play London again until 2017 but you know when the B*stard give you the call-up… you best answer.”
On this pair of Irish dates, also taking in the Hangar in Dublin on the 22nd, the band is playing with Midland stoner outfit Unkindness of Ravens and Leeside doom boys Soothsayer on this tour. Waller is excited to share the stage. “I make a point of listening to every band that we play with, and both of them sound great. In fact I was listening to them both just this morning, I can’t wait to bang my head watching them.”
These dates and a few spot shows in the UK wind down the band’s year, their busiest so far. 2017 will be another step forward for the hotly-tipped outfit. “So much it’s not funny. A new album for starters, a bunch of tours and festivals and hopefully another visit to Ireland to top things off. More of the same really, just bigger, better and louder.”
OHHMS play the UrbanJungle on Sheares’ Street on Sunday October 23rd. Tickets €8 on the door, support from Unkindness of Ravens and Soothsayer.