As you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s not all blast beats, death grunts and sweep picking here at Decibel HQ. We also enjoy the death rock and dark pop stylings of bands like Grave Pleasures, Soft Kill and Ritual Howls. As it turns out, many of the musicians we cover feel the same way. Take Phoenix black n’ rollers Take Over And Destroy, for example. Guitarist Alex Bank Rollins and vocalist Andrew Leemont (who also plays bass here) recently started a side project called US Grave, in which they conjure the ghosts of The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division alongside drummer/producer Bob Hoag and guitarist Pete Porter. Check out “Stumble Off The Earth” from their forthcoming EP, Voice Of An Idiot Ghost (out digitally August 10th, with a physical 7-inch to follow) and read a short interview with Rollins and Leemont below.
US Grave is heavily influenced by dark ’80s pop. What were your first experiences with that kind of music?
Andrew: I was primed almost at birth for dark ’80s pop by many seminal American depressors like Roy Orbison, Bruce Springsteen and The Ramones, who I personally found to be infinitely tragic. So I couldn’t be more ready for hearing “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in Donnie Darko, or catching a VH1 broadcasting of The Cure playing the Hard Rock in ’99. I was probably 11 or 12. That gave way to skate videos, punk rock, and The Misfits, which led to my brother turning me onto AFI’s Black Sails in the Sunset. Through reading interviews with Davey [Havok] I learned about Death In June, Rudimentary Peni, The Smiths… it’s been my whole life. When I found out Jim Steinman of Meat Loaf produced “Lucretia [My Reflection]” from The Sisters of Mercy, the circle was complete.
I hear The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy / The Mission, Christian Death and maybe a little Echo & The Bunnymen in US Grave. Am I close? If so, what do you think attracts you to those types of bands?
Andrew: Definitely. Those groups and many more are like black candy. You get a craving and a need for that sugar. Maybe it’s not natural; it’s chemical, but it’s reacting in your body. It’s in your blood. You’ll devour all of it and still maintain a voracious appetite. Also throw 45 Grave up there, and I probably don’t need to mention The Ramones again.
What’s the story behind the EP’s title, Voice Of An Idiot Ghost?
Andrew: It’s a line from Stephen King’s short story “Dolan’s Cadillac,” in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, which sums up our band and the EP pretty well: “A high wind in the desert makes a peculiarly unpleasant sound — a long, steady drone that simply goes on and on. It is like the voice of an idiot ghost.”
What can you tell us about “Stumble Off The Earth”?
Alex: This song sort of appeared out of thin air. Andrew and I were at our practice space working on material before our studio session and I just started playing it on guitar and each part led into the next. Andrew was on the drums. We recorded a demo version that night and recorded it properly in the studio a couple weeks later.
You and Andrew also play in Take Over And Destroy. What do you get out of US Grave that you don’t get out of TOAD, and vice versa?
Alex: In Take Over And Destroy, we feel free to incorporate different styles of music, which is a big part of who we are as a band. We’ve always had elements of death rock in TOAD, but since the inception of US Grave both bands have strengthened their sound and narrowed in a more pronounced identity.
With US Grave we wanted to explore something different with dark, dreamy pop songs that you can sing along to. That still gives us a broad template to work within, so there are a lot of possibilities. It’s definitely had a positive impact on TOAD. Take Over And Destroy is currently writing a new album that is our heaviest, and strongest to date—and I’m not just saying that. US Grave has new recruits joining the band and more material on the way. Be ready for live performances and new music in the imminent future.