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


Lo-Pan Rings Your Bell

Columbus, Ohio, stoner rock band Lo-Pan has been trekking across the country as of late with High on Fire and Goatwhore, and being joined by Corrosion of Conformity for a few of those dates. But many metal heads have not heard much about this band; without vicious growls, crazy fast guitar riffs, and black band t-shirts, they haven't attracted much attention from typical metal listeners. They will not make any excuses for their post-rock, nineties-inspired sound, and will be exposed to a whole new audience full of new fans. I caught up with vocalist Jeff Martin and drummer Jesse Bartz to talk about the tour and the plethora of hotel desk bells that curiously lined their tour van's dashboard.

Buick McKane: Why all the bells?

Jesse Bartz: We steal them. That’s part of being on the road a lot: something to pass the time.

Buick: How many do you have?

Jeff Martin: Close to forty now.

Jesse: Show her the whole dash, Jeff. Unveil the legend! They’re actually all labeled where we stole them from and stuff. The new ones which we have are down here, and we don’t have enough room for them. We just write on them where we got them from. There’s a picture of them on the inside of our album. We didn’t actually use them for anything.

Buick: So other than bell-stealing, how are y’all doing today?

Jesse: Good, good. Bell stealing is a good thing, right?

Jeff: Definitely. And doing great.

Jesse: We started with it because it’s of relevance…the very first one we stole from a place in Morgantown, West Virginia, which is awesome. We play there pretty regular. We put it on our dash just to ding during relevance; things that make sense or somebody says an epiphany, or funny thing…

Buick: Like a drum riff.

Jesse: Yeah, you know. And it worked out perfect. But then every time we heard one ding, we were like, “Ahh, we’ve got to steal that one too.” They’re all different; each one is unique like a snowflake.

Jeff: They sound exactly different.

Jesse: Exactly different…I like that.

Buick: Do they ding when you hit a bump?

Jesse: No, but when we do rumble strips, when they have to slow you down at toll booths and for a turn, a whole bunch of them do it together really quick. It’s pretty awesome. That’s the only time though. When we hit bumps, they really don’t do anything.

Buick: There’s a lot of information about bells I did not think I would be getting.

Jeff: It kind of became it’s own thing.

Jesse: Actually, yeah, it’s totally own thing; its own identity. People take pictures of the bells all the time. We’re starting to sell them now. We have such an abundance that we’re just like, “Fuck it. We’ll just start getting rid of them.” Don’t try to steal your own. And guard your bell because we’re after them.

Buick: Has anybody seen you doing it?

Jesse: Jeff got caught! Jeff got caught one time.

Jeff: Out of all the times I stole bells, I only got caught one time. I stole it from this place in Nebraska. She came and tracked me down at the club down the street, and asked for me.

Jesse: She’s like, “Where is he at!?”

Jeff: So I was sitting in the green room and Jesse came in and said, “There’s a lady out there asking for you.” And I said, “I don’t know who she is.” I walked outside and she said, “Can I have my fucking bell back please?” I said, “Oh, alright, come on.”

Jesse: On the road, you tend to sleep in a lot of strange places and stuff, and one time we woke up at a rest stop and there were, literally, tourists taking pictures of the bells with all of us asleep in the van. But that’s reality, we’re out here doing this.

Buick: Kicking ass and taking bells.

Jesse: That’s right.

Buick: Marvelous: I know it’s only four dates in, but how’s the tour going?

Jesse: We did a couple days beforehand and did one day on the off, so far. But we’re stoked. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re overwhelmed. It’s awesome.

Buick: Your album “Salvador” came out about a year ago. Do you have plans for a new album yet?

Jesse: Not really.

Jeff: We’re about seven songs into writing our next record. But we don’t have a schedule on when we’ll be recording or anything. But I’m sure next year.

Buick: And since you formed many years ago, you’ve only had three releases. Do you put more of an emphasis on performing live than recording?

Jesse: I wouldn’t say “emphasis.”

Jeff: I wouldn’t say that, but I would definitely say that touring as much as we do makes it hard to sit down and write for a long time. I don’t think we put emphasis on one or the other, we give an equal amount to both, but we tend to write a little more slowly than we travel.

Jesse: I definitely think that we travel a lot, so it tends…if we write in our off time, we’re a band that thrives in the traveling situation and thrives in a live environment so that’s something that we really enjoy and we want to make a full-time part of our lives rather than just being a recording band or just being a band that only does studio stuff. Once we write songs, we usually test write them for six months on the road before we actually record them.

Buick: Are you very meticulous about recording when you do it?

Jesse: Yeah, I mean when we record, we just let the people who are in charge of the recording do their things. We do the performance part of it. The actual recording part of it is left up to somebody else who is a professional at that.

Jeff: “Salvador” is the first recording where it really gives a solid representation of what we sound like; of what our live sound is like. And I think that’s what we were really hoping for.

Buick: It is interesting to see the difference between a live show and a recording of the same song because it can be completely different.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Jesse: Benny Grotto, the guy who recorded us, came out to a couple of live performances before we actually went to record with him. He lives up in Boston which we happened to play a couple of times which again is another thing that helps when playing out on the road a lot; you get to be in certain cities and meet up with people that you don’t necessarily get to do when you’re sitting at home all the time just recording. Anyway, Benny came out to a couple shows and got a good appreciation of what we wanted to get over live and stuff. I think he did an amazing job recording; it was a really fluid environment and felt comfortable.

Buick: And is he a musician by trade?

Jesse: Yeah. He plays drums for a band called Mother Boar which ironically, we played with them years and years before recording with him. Yeah, Mother Boar is a really good Boston hardcore band.

Buick: Musicians make the best production because they know how it’s supposed to sound.

Jeff: Not only that, but Benny is kind of a whiz with the technology. It’s a fluid process when you record with him; he’s very quick at the mechanics of getting stuff down.

Buick: And most people describe your sound as stoner, but mostly rock. Metal doesn’t often come up, I found. So how do you create a cross-over appeal into the realm of hardcore metal.

Jeff: I don’t think we try to do that.

Jesse: Quite honestly, we don’t really think about that. We’re just getting up there and playing our music and it’s original, and it’s whatever we want to fucking play and it doesn't matter what genre it’s placed in.

Jeff: That’s what I really enjoyed most about this tour is that everyone, from the guys in Goatwhore to the guys in High on Fire, they’ve all been very vocal about they just want each band to do their own thing and not worry about trying to outdo the other one or try to outplay the other one. Just get out there and play what you brought to the table. And that’s what we’ve been doing and it’s been awesome so far.

Buick: Yeah, this bill was pretty varied.

Jesse: Eclectic.

Buick: You started by playing a lot in your hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Do you still do a lot of shows there?

Jesse: Once a month. Unless we’re picking up tours, then it’s like once every two or three months. But when we’re in town, we try to do once a month, and we have a lot of friends that we have networked with and we try to bring to Columbus, so that’s like a full-time thing to keep those trades going on too.

Buick: Right, I haven’t heard much about the Columbus music scene, so what’s it like there?

Jeff: There’s a great deal of musicians.

Jesse: Lot of musicians. I mean honestly, the entire town is built around Ohio State University. And in that respect, there’s 200,000 new eighteen and nineteen year-olds every year. So with that there’s a turnaround of at least four or five dozen different bands. That’s probably an underestimate. And at least a half dozen different clubs open up and close down every year, every two years, too. So, big turnover. And a lot of bands mold into other bands and people share musicians. It’s a really good scene though. The more you travel away from it, the more you appreciate it. It’s a better place to call home when you’re not home.

Jeff: There’s a lot of really talented people in Columbus, for sure.

Buick: Is there anything else y’all would like to say?

Jeff: Just thanks for checking us out.

Jesse: Come out and see us if you get a chance when we’re on the road.

buickmckane's avatar

Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.

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