Interview: Woe at Shadow Woods Metal Festival

Photo: Gene Smirnov

Camp Hidden Valley in White Hall, MD, played host to this year’s Shadow Woods Metal Festival where hundreds of fans convened for three days of music and camping. Among the bands in attendance were a rare performance from Panopticon and Brooklyn black metal practitioners WoeDecibel met up with vocalist/guitarist Chris Grigg and bassist Grzesiek Czapla to talk about the quartet’s latest album, Hope Attrition, the future of the band and playing at “sleepaway camp for metalheads.”

How have things changed how you write music now that you have a full band and you’ve had a couple albums to develop that?
CG: The writing process hasn’t changed all that much. It started with me sititng on the floor with my guitar and the computer, just arranging and playing riffs. Now, I do the exact same thing and I send these guys demo after demo after demo. Starting out, I wouldn’t use programmed drums but now I just program the drums and I’m like “Alright, here’s a complete song; does this suck?”

The songwriting process hasn’t changed so much, but the editing and refining process has. The guys, mostly Grzesiek will give me round of feedback after round of feedback and just hone in on “How can we make this suck less?” It’s helpful to make things suck less. When you’re deciding for yourself, it’s on your concept of what sucks, it’s all on you. Which I think is fun and doable, but it’s good to have more people helping you suck less.

You put out Hope Attrition earlier this year. What’s the reception for it been like so far? Good? Bad?
CG: Really good. I had to take a break from it. It was released in April, we recorded it in November, we finished writing it in probably July or August.

GC: That one is a lot older.

CG: And some of those songs are nine months older than that. And by the time it came out, I was like “I can only listen to this so much more. I am really ready to never play most of these songs again.” As much as I like it, I’m over it.

Does that mean mean you go right into the next album because you’ve spent so much time with these songs?
CG: Not usually. Usually I take a bit of a break, but I already have stuff. We already have stuff, we’re determined to not go many years, like that long gap.

GC: That’s usually the case.

CG: That’s usually the case, and a big part of that is because I’m slow and there’s a lot going on. It’s hard to stay focused and after you get finished with  the album release – because we don’t do Woe full time – it’s nice to have a little downtime to catch your breath and come back to it and reevaluate, but we’re still going hard.

Does the stuff you’re working on or writing now have a different sound because it’s been so long or does it still have a similar sound to what you put out in the past?
CG: I don’t think there will be any surprises. Like, no one’s gonna hear it and be like “What band is this?” It’s still pretty identifiable I think, but there’s one – we’re hoping to record some stuff soon – the most complete one is like…

GC: Best shit we’ve ever written.

CG: It’s a little different. I’m challenging myself to… it’s hard for me to say, because I don’t want to get into hyperbole and over promise, but the new stuff, it sounds like Woe. It sounds like Woe. I don’t know, it’s good.

As for how the last album was received, I’ll say this: I had very specific goals in mind for this album, just personal goals: Here’s what I want it to sound like. Here’s the response I want it to get. To be successful so far as I’m concerned, you don’t need to have all positive responses. There were a couple reviews where people essentially took points away because they were like “It’s too intense, it never lets up” and it’s like, that’s the point. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win. So many of the things I really wanted to convey, were conveyed. So in that sense, it was a total success. We wanted a more brutal album, more aggressive, and it’s what we got. We’re gonna keep pushing it in those directions. It feels the most right to us.

What’s the coolest thing about playing Shadow Woods or being at Shadow Woods? Have you played a lot of outdoor festivals?
CG: We’ve never played outdoors. I think this is our first show in 10 years that’s outdoors.

Are you excited about playing outdoors?
CG: I don’t think everybody’s ever really excited about playing outside, but the sound on that stage is fuckin’ awesome. Very surprising.

GC: I think it’s cool.

CG: This fest is really really fuckin’ cool.

GC: This fest is really awesome. We haven’t played yet, we’re gonna play later, but this fest is so sick and everybody’s cool.

CG: It is. It’s really nice. The whole setup is just fucking cool. The vibe is awesome.

GC: Every band I saw yesterday was fucking awesome.

CG: Did you see Human Bodies?

GC: The best band I’ve ever seen in my life.

CG: What the fuck, dude! I want that on record: Human Bodies were the shit.

GC: Human Bodies is the best band I’ve ever seen in my life. I know about shit and Human Bodies is awesome.