Orchid – Into that Lunatic Fringe

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Orchid are a band who are made up of four individuals who not only play rock n’roll the way that is natural to them and provides great gratification for each of them, but it was always intended to be fun with maybe family and friends getting to hear what they came up with.  When you hear these guys play, the first impression that grips your ears is how much they sound very similar to Black Sabbath.  This is an unfortunate distraction to what is really going on.  Main man Theo Mindell has shared what he perceives to be the most influential bands on their sound; Pink Floyd, Pentagram, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators and even Chocolate Watchband.

Orchid 2Bass player Keith Nickel adds some of his personal influences to the list; “Howlin’ Wolf, erm, I love 50s rock n’roll too so I’m a big fan of Chuck Berry and Little Richard and people like this.”  Nickel continues to search the back of his mind providing more musical references.  “And then again I started music early on with classical music and so, my influences tie in with Mozart and Beethoven and y’know, I love Rachmaninoff and I love, y’know, the classical music is vast and a huge study in itself.”  At this point Nickel realises that he’s going to need to summarise, and adds “There’s the classical music; there’s the jazz/blues, and then rock music for me was really kind of a following of my Father, who had like this incredible vinyl collection growing up as a kid, I mean over 4000 vinyl records.”

If you look up the name of the band, you may get a little confused when articles go on about a U.S. hard-core band.  This Orchid hail from San Francisco and are a completely different entity.  The other band exists no longer, and has allowed these guys to pave an open path to do their thing.

Mindell who also works as a tattoo artist is the main brain behind Orchid.  “I think he had stepped away from music for quite some time” ponders Nickel over the activities of Mindell, “Him and Mark (the guitarist) had been in several projects together before, and he started to get an itch to do a band again, and kind of had this idea y’know for Orchid.  He had the name and everything actually, and he’d even drawn some logos, and had the starts of a few songs, and erm, I think Eyes Behind the Wall and Black Funeral were like a couple of songs that he had already had pretty well written…”

So the two of them went in search for a bass player and a drummer, eventually finding Nickel who was jamming with a blues band at a club not far from where Mindell worked.  Nickel reveals the discovery of Carter Kennedy who had recently moved to the area at that time from Alabama.  “Carter actually came in to Theo’s tattoo shop for a tattoo, and he was talking to one of the tattoo artists and Theo overheard him mention that he played drums.  So he said hey, I know nothing about you and your drumming but your look, I think you might fit in with this band that I’m doing.”  As the cliché goes, the rest as they say is history.

The Mouths of MadnessTheir recording career began in 2009 with the release of Through the Devil’s Doorway, a four track E.P. which captures the band in full flow and has a sound that’s not too dissimilar to the overall sound of their recent The Mouths of Madness album.  “You know, we had tried recording like a couple of times, different studios and then we, y’know, I mean we were really kind of beating our heads against the wall kind of chasing this idea of what we wanted to be doing sonically.”  The bassist wishing to convey the trials and tribulations of capturing the sound they wanted continues, “Theo really had this clear vision of what he wanted the music to sound like, and erm, you know sonically, it’s so hard in this day and age for music not to sound modern because the technology has changed so much.  Then even, we were going into studios that had all the vintage gear, and yet somehow there was still a quality that wasn’t coming across.”  Nickel then philosophised over how there’s a distinction between the process of recording which captures the sound, and the music itself which is created by the chemistry and dynamics of the band.

It becomes most evident at this junction how much blood, sweat and tears are invested in Orchid, and how seriously they take this band which initially was intended to be a fun musical escape from their respective realities.  With each member of the band jamming together in a cosy room accompanied by a couple of lava lamps and the deep sense of reward resulting from the remarkable chemistry they shared when combined in musical creativity, things have grown substantially from those modest intentions.

Through a surprising communication on the social networking website Facebook, an entrepreneur who was running his own record label called “The Church Within” approached the band about recording some music for him.  This label which was quite possibly named after the 1994 album recorded by a doom rock band called The Obsessed, began a partnership that spawned not only the release of their debut E.P. Through the Devil’s Doorway, but also their first full length album Capricorn.

“There was a few labels actually that were courting us after Capricorn had been out for a while, and erm, and then it turned into like, y’know we were bouncing back and forth; having to hire an attorney and negotiating with this label and then turning them down because of these reasons, and then negotiating with that label.”  It was during the second tour with their enterprising small record label when they were approached by another major label called Nuclear Blast.  After talks with this label the band decided maybe it was time to step up.

Orchid 3With Capricorn being released in 2011 and then shortly after this, Orchid sign a contract with Nuclear Blast, the label started to ask the band for something to release in 2012.  Nickel’s response when asked about why an album wasn’t the first thing they released, was one of surprise.  The band hadn’t really stumbled across an opportunity to amass the quantity or the quality to fulfil obligations of what an album constitutes.  “So it was really them going hey maybe you guys could do another E.P. then?”

“I think we all kind of liked the idea you know, like with Falling Away for instance, to do something where we could really go off the track that people kind of expect from us as it is an E.P., and it’s sort of like you know, like a b side to a single the way where band’s would make the b sides really, really different and really sort of esoteric and unique to what the band is sort of creating as an identity.”  The inner working of Orchid’s thinking process behind the release of their Heretic E.P.

After realising the Heretic E.P., Orchid set about getting the creative gears grinding away for their next studio album.  The Mouths of Madness you would think by this stage in comparison to their previous output was an easier album to assemble, due to the familiarity of all aspects of the band and their respective environments.  Alas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  “Capricorn came out and I think it was better than any of us really anticipated or expected and it was better received than any of us, sort of expected or anticipated.  I think all of us were really, really nervous about our ability to make a record that would hold up to Capricorn.”

Despite the hardship in making The Mouths of Madness, the results speak for themselves.  An excellent album containing such highlights as Wizard of War, Leaving It All Behind and the title track.

Orchid 4Establishing the personal challenge and turmoil with which each member of the band tried to reach their zenith of ability and performance on this latest album, expresses clearly their intense ideals and high benchmarks of quality they wished to ascertain.  With Nickels confirming that work was already underway for their next album, and three songs met with their dignity and approval, it was interesting to know if these disciplined philosophers of their art were going through the intense process of self-analysis and tackling the many pressures bestowed upon them once more, and what fallout might be awaiting them?

“I think there’s, as we, y’know, those bonds between us become stronger it actually gives us the ability to sort of go into that lunatic fringe a little bit farther which I think is part of what makes great rock n’roll, is there’s a bit of insanity to it.  To the lifestyle; to the being on the road; anyone who’s gone on tour with a rock n’roll band knows that this is, it’s very artificial and sort of abnormal.  But then it also touches on a sense of like deeper reality or something in some way, where you’re like I’m really living now!  So it’s these dichotomies and these oxymoron’s that erm, I don’t know, I think this is where greatness is born personally in art.”

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