Bassist Joseph D. Rowland of the Arkansas band Pallbearer provided thoughtful comments on the band’s direction and the nature of their new album, Heartless, on an atypically cool summer afternoon. Pallbearer, supported by Kayo Dot and Bask, plays an all ages show the Blue Moose on Aug. 25. Doors open at 6; the show starts at 7. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.
What biggest misconception about doom metal would you like to address?
I don’t feel like we have been as closely associated with the term “doom metal” as time has gone on. The term has ended up being a buzzword that people use for describing a variety of things or concepts or styles in music. There’s no parallel in the bands and concepts it is used to reference. It has become a catch all from all kinds of music that aren’t really that closely related.
What would a better term be?
We listen to a lot of metal, but our inspiration also comes from seventies era rock — progressive rock being the number one thing in terms of composition and song structure. We draw a lot on Pink Floyd, and tend to emphasize melody.
What would you say that you add to the foundation of prog and metal that’s unique to Pallbearer?
We grew up in Little Rock — there are distinctive sounds that the metal bands from the area [share]. There’s a common thread — we’ve shared members over the years. We’ve all played in bands together from the late ’90s to the 2010s. We developed a shared sound, and we haven’t heard it anywhere else. It gets a style that’s unique sounding. I think that’s part of what people hear.
What about that place contributes to the sound?
There’s a sort of dark desperation in Little Rock and the region. There’s not a lot going for the economy. It’s bleak — there’s a lot of violent crime. It adds to the sense of isolation.
Was it difficult to grow up as a musician in that environment?
It’s a hard place to live, and I can’t imagine not having done it. But there was no value put on music or the arts in a general sense in that community. The music community is almost all underground — more like the punk scene used to be. There’s a lot of a DIY mentality, and it makes for a pretty small scene. For a long time, [there was] the club that was owned by members of a few bands on the scene and it was the Mecca of everything. Once it closed, things splintered. But on a bigger scale, very little value was put on the arts. There’s not much going on in the culture.
Does metal come out of that cultural scene in a particular way?
We’re just now entering an era where metal is viewed as artistic at all. There’s been a longstanding view that metal is stupid music that only geeks would get involved with. Now, there’s so many offshoots under the larger idea of what metal is. People are starting to place more importance, seeing it as an artistic statement, and are finally giving it some credit for being beautiful art.
What were the major influences on Heartless?
It’s partially a culmination of the direction that we’d wanted to go and playing catch up to pull off the sound. We spent a lot of time playing together on the road, and it helped to sharpen our skills and facilities a bit. We’d hear how the songs would play live — we wanted to tailor the album to that aesthetic, the way we could perform it.
On the other side of the coin, there were specific bands that also influenced us — songs or concepts we liked. We took the foundation of what we’d done previously. We engaged Pink Floyd more directly, for example, or bands like Funeral or Smashing Pumpkins. But any part of any song can be inspired by a lot of different things.
What were you attempting to accomplish with the album as a whole?
To articulate a definitive sense of what our sound is as a band, to make an album that was clearly Pallbearer. In some ways, we wanted to have this be the culmination of the past ten years and close that chapter. Also, like all of our albums, our number one goal is to create something timeless, something that’d be difficult to pinpoint when it was from.
How successful do you think that you were? What about it are you most proud of?
It’s been over a year since we’ve finished recording it, and I still love how it all fits together on the record. We managed to get it into the world. I’m really happy with what everyone brought to it — it was a lot more collaborative than the last record and that really shows.
What’s your favorite part about playing it live?
It’s fun to play. It’s considerably more technical than what we did previously, and it’s a challenge to try to pull it off.
What do you think you’ll continue to change as you tour and start working on your next album?
We have some smaller projects that we’re going to be doing. There’s a single for the Adult Swim series for next year and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell.” That’s informing our direction for the moment. We’ve started verbalizing some ideas about the new direction. It’s tough to say — it might be quite awhile to form the next album’s core.