Interview & Album Stream: King Witch – “Under the Mountain”

Scotland’s King Witch released their debut album, Under the Mountain, on March 16. Brimming with an invitingly famliar, retro sound that pays tribute to Candlemass and Led Zeppelin as much as it pushes new ideas, Under the Mountain is a stellar debut from the UK quartet. Decibel spoke with vocalist Laura Donnelly about the album and what comes next for King Witch.

Under the Mountain was recorded by Jamie Gilchrist at his home studio. Did this allow for a more natural writing and recording process?
Jamie actually recorded the album in our practice space which is in an old vault below a church. Pretty spooky, especially at night! The album took a bit longer to complete than we had hoped due to the band gigging a lot and a couple of member changes but we’re all happy with the end product and in the end it gave us a bit more time to experiment with sounds. There is definitely a lot less pressure and stress when you don’t have a strict timeline.

The songs on Under the Mountain seem to have been written almost as individual stories or epics. How important is the storytelling in your music?
I think it’s important for lyrics to have some meaning – shows a bit of thought has went into the songwriting and you hope people will be able to relate in one way or another. I didn’t set out to have particular “stories” or themes for the tracks – I just write lyrics based on how the music makes me feel at the time.

Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
I draw inspiration from life, music, books, film, etc. but I tend to write about the darker side of humanity or the strange and occult, which you’ll hear throughout the album. I find human behavior really interesting and I’m a massive fan of occult horror and anything out of the ordinary – for instance “Carnal Sacrifice” is loosely based on the Hammer House of Horror film, “To The Devil a Daughter” which I love and “Hunger” is based on man’s incessant need to destroy. I also draw ideas from nature. Jamie and I often travel to the North of Scotland where you get a real sense of awe from the mountainous landscape. Scotland is steeped in history and mythology. It’s spooky, beautiful and treacherous! Fantastic place for musical inspiration!

King Witch draws a lot of inspiration from old school heavy metal and 70’s hard rock. When writing, do you make a conscious effort to keep your sound modern as well or do you write without that in mind?
We don’t have any rules, really. We play music we enjoy. It just so happens we are all massive fans of bands like Sabbath, Led Zep, High On Fire, Trouble and of course the mighty Candlemass! I think it’s inevitable that our influences will shine through but I like to think we have our own unique sound and that just comes down to us as individual musicians.

Does the name of the album, Under the Mountain, hold any particular significance or symbolize anything? As I mentioned earlier, Jamie and I love heading to the North of Scotland to escape and come up with ideas. The landscape is very mountainous and mysterious, so with that in mind we wrote “Ancients” and “Under The Mountain.” We thought it was a cool title for the album and I had already been dabbling with mountainous ideas for the cover so it stuck.

Shoulders of Giants was your debut EP in 2015. How would you say that King Witch has evolved since then? I think we’re definitely nailing down our own sound. We know what we like and how we want it to sound but I don’t really think we have changed that much. The tracks on Under The Mountain were a natural progression from our EP. We still have that big, expansive sound we love and, if anything, it’s only going to get bigger. I think our live set has definitely evolved as we are all really familiar and comfortable with the tracks.

Laura, your art has been on the cover of both Shoulders of Giants and Under the Mountain. How do you go through the process of creating art that you and the rest of King Witch feel represents the band and the record it accompanies?
[laughs] Well, it’s very expensive getting custom art done and as skint musicians, we try and do as much as possible within that band, i.e. recording and artwork. This may change in the future but for our EP and debut album, that’s how we rolled.

I’ll generally come up with a few ideas – usually based on recurring themes throughout the album or even just how it makes me feel when listening. For this album, I always had mountains in mind. I wanted the artwork to resemble old classics from the 70’s [and] 80’s. As soon as I had the bare bones, I showed the guys and they all loved it.

Under the Mountain is now available worldwide through Listenable Records.