"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Interview

Uncommon Evolution: "If You Aren't Sweating Or Bleeding, You're Doing It Wrong"

Some evolution is coming your way - and I don't mean through Pokemon or natural selection either! This transformation is instead of a rather more uncommon variety, brought about by heavy stoner rock from the rocky mountains and vast plains of Montana.

Freshly signed to Argonauta Records, Uncommon Evolution is gearing up to drop the "Junkyard Jesus" EP at the end of the month (pre-orders are online now).

Ahead of that release, vocalist / guitarist Briar Gillund got in touch with us to discuss everything from beards that are unquestionably majestic-as-fuck to having your wildest musical dreams come true, and we even took a couple little detours into current events and gaming. Read on for the full interview!

xFiruath: I'm a Montana resident myself (I live in Great Falls), so it's always a pleasure to see heavier bands in our typically country and pop-obsessed state. Can you give me a little background on how Uncommon Evolution came together and how all the guys know each other?

Briar: Well, Uncommon Evolution came together early spring of 2013, when I (Briar Gillund, lead vocals and guitar, the other blonde dude with a beard, flannel shirt) put out an ad in our local Craig's list after the jam band I was in broke up. A recently separated local Flathead punk band replied. After the dust settled, drummer Matt Niles and I were standing. After cycling through four bassists, we found Rick Bushnell to be the right fit for us. He played in a local metal band that hit the brakes. River Riotto (lead guitar) jumped on board in 2015 and brought a killer doomy tone to our sound.

xFiruath: I wasn't sure which member was which based off the band photo, but for the dude in the Darkest Hour shirt wearing the sandals (now identified as drummer Matt) how does he get his beard to splay out like that so fucking majestically, and is he frequently approached by people on the street asking that very question?

Briar: Ah haha, Matt's beard is something to behold. He uses, like many mountain men, sawdust, rain water and badger milk. Haha nah, we were told by a very reputable source, to embrace our Montana roots and look like we come from Montana, so... ta da... some of our band pics were taken at the summit of Going To the Sun Road in Glacier Park and there was a lot of wind that day. We all ended up getting sick from that photo shoot, it was so cold and we had to stand there in short sleeves and shorts at the top of the world and look "cool." Hahaha.

xFiruath: Are there any local venues that have been particularly helpful in setting up live metal shows in your area, or are you finding travel is a necessity to get to play in front of a crowd?

Briar: There has been one dude in particular, that has built a great scene in the Flathead valley. Kenny Stiffler!! The local scene is kicking ass right now due to him working his ass off for little to no $, just the love of the music is his fuel. That dude deserves a BIG round of applause and a big pat on the back, maybe a pay raise too, hahaha, we could all use that, right? Then there is a very cool underground scene here too. Like the basement of Old School Records and house parties too. We do travel a bit, mostly in the colder months trying to break the cabin fever, get to Texas and warm up a bit. You just can't beat the Flathead summers though. We like to stay close to home and enjoy our summers in the Flathead unless something cool pops up.

xFiruath: Let's talk about this new EP release. Where did you guys record the tracks, who did you work with on the production side, and when were these songs first written?

Briar: Shit man, we had our wildest dreams come true when the man, the myth, the legendary producer, Machine!!! produced, mixed and mastered it. He has done Clutch, Lamb of God, White Zombie, Crobot... so many, I am just scratching the surface of his credentials. We had a few songs fairly assembled when we hit the studio but I tend to do my best work when I am under pressure, so I don't usually write many lyrics until the day before I track vocals for that song. I can get into the mood of the music and let the words and melodies come to me without changing thought patterns until I find a resolution. I find that I can be possessed by the song and let it wash over me until the words bubble to the surface. We just have a few lines and cue marks to hit for changes in the songs for scratch tracks then I write words around the music. In the end, it seems to have a bigger impact for me.

When we were just starting out, we hooked up with the Machine Shop Productions in New Jersey and recorded our first EP with Machine's engineer, Alberto De Icaza producing it. Then they moved the studio to just outside of Austin Texas so the following year we went to Texas and recorded our second EP with Alberto again and had the pleasure of playing the largest music festival I know of, South by South West. By then, Machine and I had a great friendship and he said one day, "fuck it dude, I am going to produce your guys' next project and it's gonna kick some ass!" And he did in November of 2016 and it does kick huge ass.

xFiruath: What's happening with the lyrics and themes on “Junkyard Jesus?”

Briar: We were playing a fairly big show for whitefish one day and River broke a string and didn't have his back up guitar for some reason so he had to throw a new string on in the middle of a set. So I just started jamming on a riff to fill the emptiness and then a magical moment in time happened for us. It just popped out and we just happened to have a camera rolling. The lyrics, oh man. I lived in Sunburst, Shelby, the Sweetgrass Hills and the Hi Line area for the majority of my life. So the story evolves out of that. "It was storming like hell on the Hi Line, when I heard a yell from the hills"..."Big Sky is kinda mean for a Friday, but I trust you gonna hear me say, man you got a place I can hide, some place I can kill my pain." I talk about the sweetgrass blowing in the wind... you know, Hi Line shit.

The story is about a guy that lives in a junkyard that has every part in history. You are broke down in the middle of know where. So he takes you down to his still and gives you a shot to kill your pain, if you are pure, he will help you out, get you down the road, but if you aren't, he takes you to hell. The original inspiration for the title started as a little joke at home. I had to go to Spalding Junkyard in Spokane for parts. This Mexican dude came out to help me and he said his name was Jesus (pronounced as Hispanic..."hey sues"). So when I got home I was telling my wife that this dude was helping me and I said it was the Junkyard Jesus!!! And it stuck to the wall, as they say.

xFiruath: Who handled the cover artwork and how does it connect to the music?

Briar: Chris Bishop (guitarist of Crobot and legendary tattoo artist) did the artwork for the cover. We have an underlying love for old school hot rods in our music and art, and so Chris did it in the style of the old hot rod dude, Rat Fink, but in a junkyard Jesus setting.

xFiruath: I've been following Argonauta Records for a lot of years now working at Metalunderground – how did you guys get hooked up with the label for the release, and how is the fit going so far?

Briar: So We were considering just releasing the EP ourselves as we have done in the past. Got real close to it. But, I became friends with one of Machine's friends while working in the Machine Shop, Jeff Henson from the band Duel, whom also owns Red Nova recording studio in Austin. He talked me into label shopping a bit and gave me a few contacts to hit up which lead me to Ripple Music that really wanted us but their release schedule was full for a year and the label owner told me to talk to Argonauta Records and gave me Gero's contact info....and bam! We have been so blessed. There is no way I could have drummed up this much attention to our release by myself. Sometimes you have relinquished a little control to excel in this field. So we are blown away by Argonauta Records helping us out with the release. That label is doing really great things right now and we are proud to be with them and excited for the future.

xFiruath: If the band doesn't have a political bent and would prefer not to answer that's fine, but I'd like to get your take on the recent special election here in Montana between Quist and Gianforte to fill Zinke's seat. The eyes of the whole nation were on us there and things took a very odd turn the night before the election with the assault of a reporter. What did you think of that whole fiasco and the outcome?

Briar: We don't talk politics to often because it kills the mood. However, we wrote and recorded a song called "King of the Heap" off the new EP the day they announced that trump won. I don't want to give to much away because it hasn't been released yet. But, we were not impressed. The whole thing was ridiculous. You shouldn't have to choose between who is the less evil one and then the electoral college can just fuck the citizens and do what they want anyway.

On the other hand our own state had a hilarious situation with Gianforte body slamming that reporter. Most of us Montana ruffians thought, now that's what we fucking need. Someone who will beat these mouthy little bitches down. There is a huge deficit of mutual respect in this country. To get respect you give respect, you act like an entitled mouthy little shit, that's how we will treat you. However, we officially have no stance on the subject, we are just a rock band, what the hell do we know?

xFiruath: On another non-music related note – Far Cry 5 is going to be set here in Montana! You guys gamers at all, and what do you think of the choice of location and antagonist this time around? I saw one tongue-in-cheek fan of the series comment “Game will be in Montana? Why not just call it Far Cry Primal 2 then?”

Briar: River is the gamer in the band yet has little time for it currently. People are incredibly critical these days of every little breath... it's just entertainment. If you found any pleasure or escape from reality from it, it's great! Any exposure for the rough Montana way is good with us. We love guns and blowing stuff up, hunting and fishing, all that stuff. We are sick of the touchy feely victimized poor me state of the country. If you aren't sweating and or bleeding, you're doing it wrong. Stand up and be a man.

xFiruath: What's the best show you've played lately, and what's the best show you've seen as a fan?

Briar: We have been very blessed by playing a ton a great shows. Just this last weekend we played a biker rally. When people come out to cut loose, those are always the best. Because, there is a relaxed atmosphere so we relax and tend to jam on some new riffs between some songs which usually really gets the crowds attention then we'll jam right into the next song so there is little dead time. Seems like there is more magic in a set. It doesn't matter how many people are there as long as they are having fun, we are having fun.

Again, we are very lucky to have seen a ton of great shows. Seems we tend to find ourselves in crazy situations often. Brought on stage during an encore set at the Gorge in George Wa. One time our studio bros in Crobot came through Missoula with Anthrax and Volbeat. We spent the night backstage trading riffs and partied VERY hard. Also the band Clutch is always a good time and have been very welcoming towards us, Great guys! It seems like the bands we get to hang with are always the most fun shows to see. When you grow up in Montana, you tend to think these guys must live on another planet or something, like they aren't real. Then when you get to sit down and talk, have a beer or rip a spliff with them, your whole world changes.

xFiruath: Other than your own music, what's coming out soon in the heavy metal world you are looking forward to hearing?

Briar: Well I know the guys in Crobot are writing for the next one and of course Clutch. Lamb of God has been doing some work in the studio for some side projects and they are also setting up for their own new project soon too. It's hard to keep up but I just watch a few studios I like and you get a hint of what's to come.

xFiruath: Anything else you'd like to add?

Briar: We feel blessed and are so humbled by all the support. When you work at something sooo hard, where you pour your soul into it with no notions of success, just because it's what you were meant to do, what you were placed on this planet to do, it is a huge blessing when you find other people that believe in it too and we are all just a big family helping each other along. So from us to you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and welcome to the family.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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