Howling out of Fayetteville, AR, Egyptr's first record (and self-titled) got some praise for us some weeks ago as a "Required Listen." So, to follow up on the band, we shot some emails over to guitarist Zack Wait who chatted us up about Fayetteville, women, and electric violins. Now I know how much you kids hate to read, so we'll put some videos of the band in action (at JR's Lightbulb Club) between the questions just to spice it up a bit.
WLFY: How'd Egyptr get its start?
Z: Technically Egyptr got its start when (drummer) Steve (Ragle) started working at the same restaurant I worked at. I'd been trying for a while to find someone who wanted to work out similar ideas and when it seemed like it wasn't ever going to happen Steve showed up. Everything about Egyptr starting was a massive struggle, everything that could have gotten in the way or fall apart did. The practices leading up to our first show were in freezing cold warehouses where we had to hook up to a gas powered generator, that kind of ridiculous shit. Bass player after bass player. Really cool bass players too, just stuff happened, jobs, dope, relationships, boredom, all the classic stuff. When Sam finally started playing with us it was like all the sudden there was an axle between Steve and I's two wheels. Our previous bass player before him was great, he was a black metal/prog kind of player and he wrote tons of cool material but never felt comfortable, Sam (King) kept the heaviness and brought his own deal, he's good at being really musical and jarring at the same time in a way I respond to. In a three piece there's tons of room for everybody and he just kind of clicked right in. Unlike me he and Steve are actual musicians and they'd played together before so bang there it was, a functioning rock band.
WLFY: What's playing/living/rocking in Fayetteville, AR like?
Z: I think Fayetteville is full of sweethearts. There's no signature sound in our musical corner of town, the people who show up to see you play may at the end of the day just be showing up to support you because they know you need some support. I wish more folks would start stuff up themselves but more and more are all the time. There've been some serious lags in activity here in the past, sometimes all the sudden there's just been nowhere to practice and nowhere to play if you're not playing some brand of roots/jam stuff. Right now there's as much stuff going on as there's ever been, seems like. It takes a lot of hard work and constant effort to keep things moving and fresh, we're in a little bit of an awkward place as far as tour stops go. We played with Normal Love the other night and it changed me a little inside, we were all moved. Maybe in a bigger spot we'd get to feel like that more often but maybe not, bands like Normal Love don't exactly grow on trees. We played with Dead Rider in Little Rock last year and it was the same deal, it was one of the best things I'd ever seen in my life and it felt like such an isolated spike. Little Rock is a great music town, for years it's been tightly bound with Fayetteville, Fort Smith too, Hot Springs too. The university here insures folks keep showing up and mixing in together. It's impossible to weigh Fayetteville without connecting it to the other musical scenes in Arkansas. I think Crisco Kids out of Little Rock are the best band in the state by a mile. Perpetual Werewolf, Thunderlizards, Color Club, Matt Demon, Brut Choir, all different, all great. And fucking Deadbird. There's something about Arkansas and quality metal, it's like Alaska and weed. Probably other folks might disagree about Fayetteville and sweethearts, maybe I just ignore all the folks who aren't. Small towns can be uncomfortably crowded, everyone's dated everyone else, stuff like that, but the uncomfortable upside is that if you want to hear a particular sound loud and live there's a good possibility you're just going to have to play it yourself and there's only so many places people can go to escape it. And that gets things moving.
WLFY: Each track on this album covers a lot of ground -- where do these tracks start from? How do you build them?
Z: There's no one way. I read a long time ago Ornette Coleman saying that a melodic line should be allowed to follow it's own logic instead of being jammed into a preordained time slot and I think that applies to rock and roll riffs just as much as it applies to jazz or anything else. You play something and it leads you forward to the next part or back to some other thing that should come before it. Sometimes it starts with lyrics or feelings. Sometimes chords and changes and notes can feel like characters to me and little psychodramas play out. Most of the time I wish these riffs were being played by six horns instead of six strings. There's a big band by way of no-wave type angle to a lot of our music I feel like. If Sam Rivers had arthritis and played electric guitar maybe something like this would come out. So far the song writing process is that I'll bring a song and then Sam and Steve treat it like it's their song and play whatever they want. I've got vague ideas and every once in a while a specific suggestion but their parts are better than anything I could've ever come up with. I'm no drummer, I'm no bassist. The next wave of songs are going to be more collaborative throughout which I'm looking forward to. I'm generally attracted to this loose-but-tight sound, I always say I want the sound a band has right when they're on the verge of falling apart. It's lot of hard work, for me at least. That all said, it's punk rock not rocket science.
WLFY: There's something delightfully throwback in a lot of these tunes like the use of the sax in "Bit Lip Red." What were you listening to when recording and writing this album?
Z: It's hard to say, the songs weren't all written right at once. I'll tell you that I haven't gone more than a week in I can't remember when without listening to one of the first three X records. US Maple, Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton, Coletrane, those crazy Gyorgi Lygeti organ pieces, Guided By Voices, Beefheart, Birthday Party, I was definitely listening to that stuff a lot. Spent a lot of time at my friend Jimmy Spice's house listening to Blank Dogs and Severed Heads and all this other clangy dark wave-y type stuff he was always playing and making. I'm sure it all seeped in somehow. As far as real influence who knows, I try and stay away from that stuff, you can't escape it so why run towards it. I'm going to go ahead and interpret 'throw-back' as 'classic', so cool, thanks. And as far as the sax goes we're all way into rock sax, James Chance, Essential Logic, Roxy Music, fucking Psychedelic Furs, E Street Band. Fucking Numbers Band. Every band should have at least one saxophone. We'd have two permanently in the band if the right folks came along and wanted to do it. Nate McCleod who played sax on our record is a real cool jazz player around town, he's busting ass all the time to make jazz happen around here, which isn't easy, folks are constantly trying to get you to play just so they can eat dinner and talk over it. Fuck, everybody.
WLFY: What're you saying about "Women in Arkansas?"
Z: I wanted the name of that song to be like the name of a monument or a novel. It's not about every woman in Arkansas or for that matter only women in Arkansas. A lot of the meaning of the song is in the form, it often skates the edge of falling apart but doesn't quite, things happen that sound like accidents except they end up being the path forward through to the next part. It's tuned so the resolution can't happen just harmonically, it has to happen some other way. It's a song about learning and specifically about learning with other people, which in my experience can be some of the most traumatic and special and fucked times you can have, anything's possible in that kind of space.
WLFY: What can we expect next?
Z: Touring, more songs, more instruments, more everything, I don't feel like we've even scratched the surface yet. Jessica Pavone in Normal Love pretty much sold me on amplified violin the other night and we happen to know a really dope violinist so that may happen. Some friends and I just did an X covers show not long ago and the idea of having a lady fill an Exene style second singer slot is something I've always wanted but none of us own a van right now so it's going to have to stay lean for now. That's fine really, anything that's possible in music I think is probably possible with a three piece rock band. Or that's what I'll keep saying until I don't have to.