May 7, 2019 Interview – Andrew J. Wetzel of Nine Shrines
Combining the most extreme elements of Active Rock and Metalcore with well-crafted, melodic songwriting, Nine Shrines know a little something about making a killer first impression. Their 2017 debut EP, Misery, along with its lead-off single/video for “King of Mercy,” helped the band to surpass one million Spotify streams, and also placed them into rotation on SiriusXM’s Octane. With hype building and fans hungry to witness the band’s live show, Nine Shrines was able to hit the road with the likes of Halestorm, Volbeat, Chimaira, Shinedown, All That Remains, and Nonpoint.
Now, Nine Shrines, who joined forces in 2014, has just released their full-length debut, the epic Retribution Therapy. Arriving on April 26th, the 12-song album combines a million facets of heavy music to author a sound that is fully unique to Nine Shrines, making it a truly impressive debut. Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Drummer Andrew J. Wetzel to pick his brain on all things Retribution Therapy, from songwriting and recording to how his past has affected his new band’s future.
Cryptic Rock – Okay, let’s start with a kind of obvious question: why call the band “Nine Shrines”?
Andrew J. Wetzel – I’d spent several months brainstorming ideas for names to be used with this project and Nine Shrines was one of the standouts from the roughly 75 names I had written down. When I brought it up to Baylis and Devon at the time, we all agreed that sounded like the right one.
Cryptic Rock – It’s catchy, it definitely works. Many of the members of the band come from ‘heavier’ projects, yourself included, and yet Nine Shrines is very catchy — still heavy but radio-friendly too. Was that a conscious decision or just something that happened organically?
Andrew J. Wetzel – A little bit of both, I think. We obviously want to write songs with lots of market appeal, but at the same time we still have a large penchant for heavy music. We knew we’d be able to find a way to do both to our satisfaction and I think we are all very happy with the finished product.
Cryptic Rock – As you should be, it’s an amazing debut and, in fact, Retribution Therapy was just released on April 26th. What has the reaction been, thus far?
Andrew J. Wetzel – The reaction has been fantastic. Every review we have gotten back has been so positive and we have been getting tons of support from SiriusXM Octane, Topsify, and Spotify that has really boosted us up into the public eye in a way we are very excited about.
Cryptic Rock – That’s wonderful, and the attention is definitely deserved. That said, what was it like in the studio and working with Dan Korneff?
Andrew J. Wetzel – Dan is a madman. Baylis and I have known Dan since around 2014, so going into the whole thing, we already knew what to expect and what we all wanted to accomplish. That being said, Dan really pulled out all the stops. The man literally hand-builds a ton of his gear, so there are a bunch of unique or one-of-a-kind pieces of gear featured on our record that really helped bring Retribution Therapy to life. I really can’t say enough good things about the man.
Cryptic Rock – The chemistry between Dan and the band really shows in the finished product. Speaking of which, let’s discuss some of the songs. “Ringworm” is an interesting one, in that, you take on religion — a polarizing topic for many and one that can easily ruffle feathers. Was there any hesitation in lyrically delving into the abuse of power within religious institutions?
Andrew J. Wetzel – Not at all. Chris and I had a lot to do with the concept for that song and we both drew heavily from our religious upbringings. It’s a topic worth discussing as well as exploring, and we wanted to do something a little different. A lot of bands, especially heavy bands, tend to take up very anti-religious positions and I think Chris and I both feel that has a lot to do with the people who are in positions of power in those religious institutions. To put it more simply, this song isn’t really about God; it’s about the fallibility and corruption of those who speak on His behalf.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. It’s a great song that is intelligently done and pulls no punches in saying what needs to be said. Now, to discuss a different track: the title “Happy Happy” feels a bit sarcastic. Lyrically, you’re exploring embracing your individuality and living for yourself. That’s something that a lot of bands are doing right now — crafting anthems for the outsiders. To play a bit of a devil’s advocate, what sets your track apart?
Andrew J. Wetzel – The title is definitely more than a little sarcastic, as are most things we say and do. I think the thing that really sets us apart is the fact that we are all certainly outsiders in more than a couple ways. The story “Happy Happy,” from our perspective, has a lot to do with how painful and difficult it can be to pursue a career like ours.
For me specifically, Attack Attack! (and all members personally) were ridiculed mercilessly for every single thing we did. When you’re 19 and you are reading hundreds, then thousands, of comments on the internet from people telling you that you’re a (insert homophobic slur), that you should die, that the art you create sounds like actual dog shit pouring from their speakers; it has a rough effect on you. Eventually, you have to decide if you’re actually going to let those assholes dictate when or if you’re allowed to be happy.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. You can’t give anyone that power over you and your mental health, but channeling that anger and frustration into the music is a positive way of handling the negative. On a totally unrelated note, in several instances throughout Retribution Therapy, there’s a use of nursery rhymes or children’s rhymes as lyrical devices. That’s something that Korn has done previously and it works so brilliantly in your songs. Where did that idea come from?
Andrew J. Wetzel – Chris was very adamant about finding ways to work nursery rhymes into our lyrics because he felt, and we agreed, that they definitely add a very creepy but memorable aspect to the lyrics.
Cryptic Rock – It works great and it gives the listener something familiar to latch on to right away. Continuing to delve into the songs, there’s a similar theme behind “Ghost,” ”Conjure,” and even “Counterfeit” — that of the struggles inherent in being a touring musician and pursuing your art. As a musician who has been busting his ass for over a decade now — first with Attack Attack! and now with Nine Shrines — what have your previous experiences taught you that you bring to the band, but also how do they taint you?
Andrew J. Wetzel – I have been ridiculed more than a little in my life and at this point, but I don’t feel as though I have been tainted in any way. I have definitely learned some really tough lessons, but ultimately, they have made me a much stronger and more resilient person. I am at my most comfortable when I am in the midst of chaos, which is good, because all of us in Nine Shrines are agents of absolute chaos.
Cryptic Rock – It’s wonderful that you are rising above and now embracing this new chaos with open arms. To get back to the record, do you have a personal favorite lyric on the album? Also, what songs are you most looking forward to playing live?
Andrew J. Wetzel – I really don’t think I could isolate one specific passage or lyric from the record. I speak for all of us when I say that we are all so very proud of what we have created, and seeing all the positive reviews and remarks from press and fans alike is the single most encouraging thing to probably happen to any of us in longer than we’d care to admit.
I’m really looking forward to playing “Ringworm” and “Retribution Therapy.” Those songs fucking bang live and the bridge for “Retribution Therapy,” specifically, makes me want to flip a table over, shotgun a beer, and then spin-kick the empty can across the room while I get escorted out of Dave & Buster’s by security.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) So that’s guaranteed to be great live! Speaking of which, you are slated to hit the road with the powerhouse lineup of P.O.D., Nonpoint, Hyro the Hero, and Islander in a few weeks. What should fans expect from the tour and Nine Shrines’ live shows?
Andrew J. Wetzel – You can expect to see us get up there and bring the house down. We have been chomping at the bit to get back out on the road and we have a lot of pent up rage to come dump out on stage. You will not want to miss it!
Cryptic Rock – Those shows are going to be great, no doubt. What does the second half of 2019 hold for Nine Shrines?
Andrew J. Wetzel – Our primary objective is to stay on tour for as many days as humanly possible.
Cryptic Rock – That should allow a chance for plenty of fans to get out there to see you! Now, without sounding like a cyber-stalker, you still list Attack Attack! on your personal Instagram and the band still has a strong following. Is there any chance that we’ll see new music or a tour in the future?
Andrew J. Wetzel – You know, anything is possible — but I would not hold my breath.
Cryptic Rock – Fair enough. Last question. Cryptic Rock covers music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. Are you a fan of either of these genres and, if so, do you have any favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Andrew J. Wetzel – I absolutely love Sci-Fi films. I’m a big Star Wars fan, but lately I have been really stoked about Altered Carbon on Netflix and Westworld on HBO. Both of those series are absolutely amazing. Altered Carbon, in particular, just has such an interesting universe and there are so many dimensions to that show. I think I’ve watched Altered Carbon three times now and I’m still discovering new things in the episodes. Top tier.