September 30, 2013 Interview – John Strickland of Lullwater
The 1990’s was a special time in rock n roll history. The era gave birth to grunge rock which, in turn, spawned memorable bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, among others. As the grunge era came to a close, so did the soulful quality the music of the era possessed. Raised on a steady diet of classic rock and grunge rock, Athens, Georgia’s Lullwater was born 2 decades later. The band has been turning heads with their stray from the trend rock n roll style. Recently, we sat down with Vocalist/guitarist John Strickland about the inspiration behind Lullwater, the making of their debut album Lullwater, and so much more.
Crypticrock.com – Lullwater has been together now since 2007. You guys have been playing shows and making a name for yourselves with rock fans. Tell me how those which have not heard of Lullwater before respond to the band?
John Strickland – We have had a really positive response from new fans. It’s been very exciting in the last few months to see that grow our fan base. I think especially the rock fans that are looking for new original music, those are really the ones who seem to like our music the most. The Zeppelin fans, the older rock fans, they will come to us at a show and say they love the original song. That is what’s really encouraging for us, it’s exciting to get new fans too, not just dig the music but really getting what your about. That’s what’s fun for us, to be connected with those people.
Crypticrock.com – The band has a clear, distinct, and raw rock n roll sound. We are living in a time where so many bands sound similar and everything we hear is over produced. When you started Lullwater was that the goal, to create something different from what is the norm in 2013?
John Strickland – When the band started it was really about just playing the music that we wanted to make. It wasn’t necessarily popular, wasn’t something that everyone was all about all of sudden. It wasn’t this type of buzz music that we created that instantly everyone got on board with, it’s taken us 6-7 years to find that sound. The journey we’ve taken since 2007 has been crazy. It’s kind of also done a 180 since we started. We’ve had a lot of member changes since 2007, I think that had a lot to do with it. Now we found the band and we are a cohesive unit at this point. This is the band that Lullwater was suppose to be in my mind. I think because of that we found the sound that we ultimately were after. Going out to Seattle really solidified it. That whole experience was exhilarating for me personally. I think as a band we got focused, we found the sound we always wanted, and that’s the sweet spot.
Crypticrock.com – It’s important to do what you want to do in your creative vision. As you said you had some member changes in the beginning of the band. Sometimes it’s difficult to find people in any walk of life that are on the same page as you creatively. Now that you found the niche you found, do you guys have the chemistry you want?
John Strickland – Yes, absolutely. Brad, Joe, and Ray, we all have a certain dynamic. We all bring a certain this and that to the table so to speak. That makes it unique for us. We are very open to ideas. We all have the same goal as far as what we are going for. Sometimes it just comes out creatively when we’re jamming. We might have a song that sounds one way that sounds way different 2 months from now once we get everything together and play it live. That’s the beauty of this band, we can take an idea and expand on it and turn it into what we are proud of. That being said with the member changes, our drummer Joe added the dynamic that he can take a 3 minute 20 seconds rock song and jam it for 6-7 minutes. That’s what’s really fun, that we have the ability to read each other on stage. We have the ability to read where we want to go with a song and then just take off running. It’s really fun to be in a band with these musicians.
Crypticrock.com – Sounds like a very exciting time for the band that everything is clicking now. The band released their self titled debut album on September 17th. The album is a strong rock record. What was the writing and recording process like for this record?
John Strickland – The writing and recording process was kind of crazy. We had some new songs, we wanted to get back in the studio, and for us it was kind of a leap of faith to go into Seattle. I really wanted to push that home and say this is where we need to get that sound. I am a fan of and love the 90’s rock era. I think that was really the best original raw sound that rock has had. I don’t think there has been a lot of that since the 90’s. As a band we wanted to get back to basics. We recorded on analog tape. We did it in London Bridge Studio that had Pearl Jam Ten hanging on the wall, Alice In Chains Dirt and Jar Of Flies, Blind Melon, and all these great bands that came from that 90’s era. I think we brought our own sound to Seattle. I think the mixture of the sound from Seattle and London Bridge Studios, combined with our Athens GA southern feel, I think that is what made it work. For the writing process on this record I’d have a song and some pieces of a song, Bret would have some pieces of a song, we’d come together, and it would just work itself out. That is the beauty of this band when we come together. I might write a song and play it all the way through and our bass player Ray may say “ok let’s change this, what about this, what about that? or Joe might come in with a different idea. It’s really a fun process.
Crypticrock.com – It sounds like it’s really a collaborative effort. As you stated the band relocated out to the Northwest Seattle Washington area in late 2011 to work on this record. How difficult was that for the band to leave the comfortable confines of home in Athens Georgia to make your dreams a reality?
John Strickland – It was exhilarating (laughs). To be honest leading up to that plane ride to Seattle everyone was amped and we were all excited. The levity of the situation sunk in when we got to the studio when we saw all those records on the wall and the history of that place really sunk in. It was a little nerve racking and it was scary the first few days. We were kind of getting the nerves away and trying and reach down and work. It was 12-16 hour days that we were just in the studio cranking out this music. It was a little scary but I think for the most part it was really exhilarating to leave, to go across the country to a place you only thought and dreamt about since I was 12 years old. Seattle was this mythological place that didn’t really exist, the Chris Cornell’s, Eddie Vedder’s, they weren’t real (laughs). They were like leprechauns to us, but we actually got to go out to the place to see where it was created. That was huge for me and the rest of the band.
Crypticrock.com – That is awesome. As you said you recorded this album in London Bridge Studios. That is the same place where the classic Pearl Jam Ten was record and Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love were created. How awesome of an experience is that for you to know that you are creating music in the same place these amazing records were made?
John Strickland – It was crazy. When I walked in it was this overwhelming feeling of holy shit, look what we are about to fucking do (laughs). We were about to record in the same studio that made these records that influenced not just my childhood but the rest of my life. That was something that I couldn’t believe and imagine that we actually there. It is such a crazy thing when you walk in because it’s not like a flashy digital studio that I’d imagine would be in LA. It’s kind of back in the middle of nowhere in this little building out back. They had a basketball court where you can play hoops. It was in this gray building where there was nothing outrageous about this building, then bam you walk in and you get this crazy feeling of what are we doing here? It was awesome, overwhelming, and it was intimidating. We walked in, we had these songs together or we thought we did, then we worked with Jonathan Blum who is a total badass. He said alright let’s see what you got. The first few days were a struggle and we had to get ourselves together. Once we did it felt right.
Crypticrock.com – It came through on the record and sounds like a real growth period for the band. It appears to be a great leap forward. Can we expect to see a full length tour in support of the album in the near future?
John Strickland – As far as a national tour goes we are lining up all those details. Our booking agency and publicist are trying to make that happen. I think for this record we are going to try and tour the Midwest, east coast, and when the weather changes we are going to try to hit Florida. We love touring. A national tour is one of the greatest things, it’s also one the scariest and most awesome things ever. For us to get back out on a national tour, we can’t wait, we are really excited.
Crypticrock.com – Excellent. You touched on it a little bit but I’d like to know more of what are some of your musical influences are?
John Strickland – definitely the late 80’s and early 90’s, the “grunge” season. That was really big for me. That made a huge imprint on my life when I was growing up learning how to play guitar and learning how to sing. I would say a big influence for me would definitely be Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. All those band’s that came out of Seattle were a huge influence for me. I also grew up listening to a lot of classic rock. That to me was really important growing up. A lot of Lynard Skynard, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and all those icon rock bands that you can’t help but love. That is really what influenced me the most, a lot of the 70’s classic bands. Then I got into the 90’s rock movement.
Crypticrock.com – That is some great music. It was rock n roll that had a lot of passion and soul to it.
John Strickland – That is what we tried to do with this record. This record was done on analog tape. There are not a whole lot of frills and crazy effects. A lot of the record is from the epic drum rig they have at London Bridge Studios.
Crypticrock.com – My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
John Strickland – You know I really haven’t gotten into new horror movies. Alfred Hitchcock has really been my cake lately, I have really gotten into that. The films like The Birds and Psycho. Even without the crazy special effects of today with all the gore and crazy stuff, some of those old thrillers and horror movies back in the 60’s are still so frightening. Watching The Birds, who would have thought that movie would scare the hell out of you that every time you see a pelican or a pigeon. Something as harmless as a bird can turn you into mince meat. I really haven’t gotten into horror movies that much as other movies. I have been into the black and white Alfred Hitchcock stuff.
Crypticrock.com – I understand. In my opinion the horror peak was toward the end of the late 80’s into the 90’s. Between the 50’s and 90’s.
John Strickland – It’s cool to go back and watch those older horror /thriller movies. They were total storyline, all about the anticipation, how they work the scenarios so well, and they would make the audience just cringe. They would do it without having any blood or special effects. It was just a storyline that would keep you on the edge of your seat. That is what is beautiful to me about those old horror / thriller movies that they weren’t really relying on special effects and blood popping out everywhere to scary the shit out of you (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – You can actually relate that to music as well. What Lullwater is trying to do. You are not giving the audience any special effects with auto tuning and other nonsense. You are giving people the raw deal and that’s what it’s all about.
John Strickland – Hell yeah and that is what we were really trying to drive home with this record. Not that there is anything wrong with digitally produced music and a polished sound. There are some great bands out there that are really killing that sound. For us it’s really not about the frills, pushing play, and it sounds like a computer is playing music back to you. That is not what Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones did. That to me, the great iconic rock records when you have 4-6 guys in a room just playing their hearts out, that’s when you feel it most and what I think we tried to do. We wanted to be raw and upfront in your face rock music.
Be sure to check out Lullwater at www.lullwatermusic.com, on facebook, and twitter.