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Listening to Danzig and talking dope with Wailin Storms 

Wailin Storms

Photo by Alex Boerner

Wailin Storms

In the realm of urgent punk and sinister metal, you can't assume any bandleader's name is real. Think Glenn Danzig or Jello Biafra, Ozzy Osbourne or Abbath. But in the case of singer Justin Storms, it was the band Wailin Storms that borrowed his name.

"In Texas people called me Stormy," says the Corpus Christi-raised Storms. After stints in Baltimore, Berlin, Switzerland and Brooklyn, where he began Wailin Storms in 2012, he landed in Durham in 2014 following a romance. Soon after, he founded the band's second iteration.

On an appropriately rainy November Monday, Storms and his bandmates settle into the living room of audiophile drummer Mark Oates. He sits closest to the sound system. Bassist Steve Stanczyk speaks cheerfully and frequently about punk and metal, while guitarist Todd Warner measures his words. Despite the fury of his performances and the bravado of his music, Storms is calm and good-natured, even a little soft-spoken.

A few weeks before the release of One Foot in the Flesh Grave via Magic Bullet Records, the members listened to and talked about their idols of guitar-driven rock.

SLEEP, "DOPESMOKER"

(Drop out of life with/an hour to spare—dang, what a/long, slow, stoner jam)

JUSTIN STORMS: People have definitely compared us to some stoner rock bands. I've gotten really high to this before. I love Sleep, a lot of stoner bands.

STEVE STANCZYK: The biggest thing with this kind of music is to be OK with playing one note. "Don't Forget the Sun" is basically, we're OK with playing four notes and letting it ring out. There is a lot of discipline that has to happen with just letting it vibrate your lungs.

NEUROSIS, "SOVEREIGN"

(The lords of patient/philosophical metal/Do they ever smile?)

SS: This is closer to my heart than Sleep. I just learned how to play "Enemy of the Sun." It's the same tuning we play. I've just been fiddling around with it. I can't tell you how many hours my roommate and I spent doing six-foot bongs listening to Enemy of the Sun in our dorm room. We had PA speakers. We blew one.

JS: I love Neurosis. I grew up on Godflesh, and this is definitely reminiscent of Godflesh to me.

DEAD KENNEDYS, "HOLIDAY IN CAMBODIA"

(These trebly, surfy/West Coast political punks/have weird-ass vocals)

SS: I'm surprised we don't get compared to Dead Kennedys more, with the reverb-y guitar.

JS: I grew up on Dead Kennedys and I played in a punk band, and they are hyper-influential to me.

SS: No one ever says, "This band sounds like Dead Kennedys." I think it's because Biafra's voice is so unique. Who sings like that?

Wailin Storms - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner
  • Wailin Storms

MISFITS, "WE ARE 138"

(This horror-punk act/(Danzig's voice, for sure) comes through/in Wailin Storms' sound)

JS: This is classic. When I was 15, my band back then, Fifth Column, a political punk band, we did Misfits tribute shows before the new Misfits came around. People liked the Misfits, but no one really liked punk back then. We brought punk to our city again, because punk had came and went.

MARK OATES: I wasn't really enthralled with them.

SS: You weren't a fiend?

MO: While you guys were doing that, I was listening to Agent Orange and Dead Kennedys and Agnostic Front. Misfits never fell into that category.

NIRVANA, "IN BLOOM"

(Seriously? You/need an introduction to/Nirvana? Nah, bud.)

MO: This video is probably one of my favorite videos of all time.

JS: It's good. I do like "Heart-Shaped Box," though. He used actual film and then he colored it. It was in black and white.

INDY: I feel like this band's cult overshadows how weird it was that a noisy band could be so popular.

JS: That was a strange phenomenon, but I guess it needed to happen. Music was so fucking horrible and shitty. I like Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. I love Bell Biv DeVoe. But you need punk rock. You need danger. You need something other than safe hair bands.

MO: I remember Nevermind knocking Michael Jackson off No. 1. And I was like, really? What the hell? I was lucky enough to hear Nirvana beforehand because of my brother.

TODD WARNER: I was really into music when I was a little kid, but by the late '80s, I was really sick of everything going on, the hair metal bands and all that late-'80s shit. It wasn't until Nirvana exploded that I realized that music doesn't suck.

TIMBER TIMBRE, "DEMON HOST"

(Todd, the odd man out/chose menacingly tender/Canadian folk)

TW: I love the simplicity of (the video). It's just a dude, and then these black-hooded figures come out holding mics in front of him. There's this sinister aspect.

JS: It's menacing when he sings.

TW: It revolved around this guy. This is actually the first song on their first record. A friend of mine, I played one of their records for him in the car, to explain how not all of their records were like this. His description was perfect: "It's like the Munsters meets doo-wop with John Waters on vocals."

CHELSEA WOLFE, "MAW"

(Steve picked a master/of brooding, spacious, folky/metal. We all cheered.)

SS: Before this album, I wasn't familiar with her. The thing I enjoy the most is her ability to take things and ramp them up, and then go really quiet, where it's haunting. Listen to the amount of space. Those two guitar tones have so much reverb. Obviously we don't get this electronic, but that haunting-ness is something that I feel is kindred to what we're doing.

TW: She played at Local 506 a couple of years ago, and she played a more stripped-down acoustic set. They had candles lit on stage and this acoustic trio. She can make anything work.

THE FLESH EATERS, "RIVER OF FEVER"

(No surprise, Justin/wanted to hear an all-star/LA punk outfit)

JS: This is members of The Gun Club, Divine Horsemen and X, I think. They're a big influence of mine, one of the early LA punk bands. They're talking about graveyards and dark shit, swamps. It's dark and cryptic, like my writing.

INDY: It's funny how inclusive "punk" can be—it's the attitude, not necessarily the sound.

JS: We're not this stripped down.

HOT SNAKES, "I HATE THE KIDS"

(Mark's pick, Hot Snakes, grooves/swings and drives—heavy hitters/but not ponderous)

JS: Mark knows so many bands.

SS: He's like the encyclopedia of bands.

MO: With our style of music, we have a groove and still maintain a punk aesthetic. When I think of bands like that, Hot Snakes pops in.

JS: I don't shy away from saying we're punk at all.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Strengthening system"


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