Neolithic tradition, haunted tombs, and Vikings antagonized by ghosts. In under eight minutes, New Jersey sludge rockers Clamfight tell an epic tale of one location’s historical and supernatural transformation in “Echoes in Stone.” After uneasy ambience and ominous noise contributions from Eric Kaplan of Thunderbird Divine, Clamfight drop the hammer a minute into the middle track off their third record (appropriately titled III). When Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine of Floridian doom cult Shroud Eater join the fray, the song unfolds like a riff-driven flashback. Once the momentum explodes at 5:19, Clamfight pair their crushing heaviness with theramin freakouts, soulful solos, and morose melody. Clamfight pack thousands of years into their amplified fuzz, and the weight of that history permeates every riff from guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris.
Below, Clamfight vocalist/drummer Andy Martin discusses his Sunshine State collaborators and the location that inspired this track. But first, get ready to “face the dead eye to eye” and press play on “Echoes in Stone” before III is released from Argonauta Records on January 19th.
What’s the lyrical theme of “Echoes in Stone,” and how does it relate to the record as a whole?
Andy Martin: I’m an archaeologist by trade, and I’ve been part of a research excavation in [the Scottish archipelago] Orkney for the last 6 or 7 years, and Orkney’s landscape and history and folklore are all over [III]; “Echoes in Stone” is no exception. Lyrically, I’m looking at Orkney’s prehistoric tombs and stone circles and with each verse I’m coming at them from a different time period and perspective. The first verse looks at their construction in the Neolithic as a way of people connecting themselves to the landscape. Jump a few thousand years ahead and Jean [Saiz]’s part looks at people reusing those stone circles and tombs during the Iron Age. Then my final verse jumps another thousand years ahead and talks about Vikings sheltering in a tomb and being driven insane by ghosts.
These specific ideas come from a variety of places: from things I’ve read, drunken pub chatter with other archaeologists, and stories I’ve picked up while being over there. I feel the need to add that any mangling of the theories of my fellow archaeologists or bullshit ideas about ghosts are solely my own.
Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine from Shroud Eater appear on this track, as does Erik Caplan from Thunderbird Divine. How did you recruit them for this song, and how important is a tight-knit musical community to Clamfight?
AM: Really, it’s the same philosophy that guides us working with Erik as with Jean and Jan – they’re people who we love that are also incredibly talented at what they do. We’ve known Erik for at least 10 years, and we got really tight with the Shrouds when they crashed with us after their van broke down on tour in Philly in 2013. Besides being good friends with them, we’re all giant fans of Shroud Eater, and we’ve been conspiring to get them on a record for years.
As for “Echoes,” it works so well because it’s an an eerie song but my vocals on the song are anything but. I felt like the song really needed something more ethereal and disturbing to balance against my bellowing. I figured Jean and Jan could pull that off, and they crushed it. I was away at a conference when they sent their tracks up, and I remember jamming them in my hotel room and getting chills. I couldn’t be happier with the way it came out.
As for a tight-knit community, at this point I think it’s everything to us. We really don’t make money off being in a band, so instead, sometimes I feel like we’re being paid in meeting people like Jan and Jean and Davin [Sosa of Shroud Eater] and Erik. Fellow weirdos who get in a van to play aggressive music that a handful of people care about, and may not be able to remember their checking account numbers but have an encyclopedic knowledge of shitty horror movies. It’s those relationships which make ever giving up this music stuff so impossible.
Any New Year resolutions for 2018?
AM: To get back down to Florida and play “Echoes” live with Jean and Jan, and generally make some trouble with our homies in Hollow Leg and Holly Hunt while we’re at it. Beyond that, I’d love to be lining up the West Coast for next winter.