Interview by Dark Starr

 South Bend, Indiana’s Escherbach is a group that creates modern sounding progressive rock that’s instrumental in nature. These guys cover a lot of music territory with their sound and recently played Kryptonite in Rockford opening for Clark Plays Guitar. I got the chance to pose some questions to the whole band about a whole host of stuff and here’s that interview.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Can you catch the readers up on your history – both personally and in terms of your various bands?

MINKIS: Lots of working, listening to music, reading various types of books, pondering life and myself, and trying to keep things moving with Escherbach.

NEIL CARMICHAEL: I attended, and even graduated, the University of Notre Dame. I worked in the mental health field for 5 years and within the last year have been teaching guitar for a living. I have been playing in bands since about 16. I have played in blues bands, pop-rock bands, a hard-core gangster rap band, and an alt-rock band. Escherbach is a departure from anything I have been a part of in the past. This is the best group I have ever played with.

SEAN NORRIS: Escherbach was formed in early 2006 from a local cover band called “Eargazm.” The three of us, Minkis, Neil, and I decided to get out of the “cover band” idea and focus on something unique, new and different…just instrumental. I’m not sure if that was really a decision that was made or more of a theme that was kinda fallen into. Either way, the trio performs various, complex-progressive-ish rock style music. I always tell people Rush meets Pink Floyd. I heard that somewhere and can’t really remember who said it!

As far as myself, I have been playing drums for, what I would say, 20 years or so. I have actually had a kit since I was three but I really didn’t have an idea about drums or music until about seven years of age. My father was in a group and I would watch the drummer and learn from him. I now have his kit! I really got hooked on Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chilli Peppers at about 10 years old and went from there to bands like Dave Matthews, Metallica, Rush, GnR, Umphrey’s (later on), etc. Some of my favorite drummers are Dave Weckyl, Carter Beauford, Neil Peart, Kris Myers, Chad Smith, Jack Irons, and many, many others. I have played in various mixed rock-blues bands around South Bend, Indiana for a couple of years before I met the dudes from E-Bach!! We actually met in an open-jam!! Funny how those work!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I know artists are not crazy about having their music pigeon-holed, but how would you describe your sound?

M: I would say that our sound at the current moment is a little heavier than before and a little darker as well. The newer material focuses a little more on emotion, space, and placement of parts as opposed to a free-for-all. It’s a little cleaner and more refined but still very raw. I think that as a band, Escherbach is starting to find its unique voice among the sea of music available these days. I can hear and picture the new music together on a cohesive album this time around and that’s really exciting to look forward to.

NC: We get Rush meets Pink Floyd frequently. This may describe sounds from our first album, Cycles, but our newer material has a darker and moodier feel with more depth and feeling. We focus more on creative orchestrations and try to look at the music from the perspective of someone listening to it. Currently, our music runs the gambit from crescendo-core to heavy prog.

SN: I would describe our sound as a huge sphere where no sides touch but it is whole. Everything seems relevant, yet different from each individual song. I’m not sure if that makes any sense to you, but it does to me. For short, I would say our music’s facets interlace prog with hard rock-fusion, spacey ambiance, and even jazz sounds.

WC: Who do you see as your influences – both personally and in terms of the band?

M: I’m very influenced by the music I listen to, just as much as everyone else. More recently I’ve been influenced by things I read or my own thought processes and how they may be translated into music, instrumental music at that. I’m working on a few things that I feel will be pretty interesting as far as song writing, although it is taking some time.

I think that the three of us also influence each other and it helps to bounce ideas off of each other. Our newest tune titled “Fibonacci Hooks A Colossal Squid” is a perfect example of this. There was an idea brought forth by me for a middle section of the song to which Neil later added a more elaborate idea. I then went off the deep-end with the new idea and then we worked out the kinks by bouncing ideas off of each other throughout many practices. I inspired Neil, then he further inspired me and it just kept going till the current incarnation.

NC: Personally: Clapton, Trey Anastasio, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Hendrix and Herring, Eric Johnson, the Flaming Lips, Radiohead…the list goes on and on. I like many different artists that bring something new and unique to the world.

SN: See Question 1.

WC: What’s ahead for you?

M: Hopefully some touring, a new album, meeting more people who get excited about seeing Escherbach.

NC: We are preparing for our first tour in late August and completing material for our second album.

SN: Who knows what is ahead for Escherbach? It seems like every day we hear more and more good things. I think our counts are up and our crows have been really digging our sound. We seem to be getting more gigs now than ever and different places than our own town. I think we are progressive pretty well.

WC: Are there musicians you’d like to play with in the future?

M: Not anyone specifically, just whomever I meet that ends up wanting to play together.

NC: See answer to question 3, minus those that have fallen

SN: I wouldn’t mind playing with “guests” to the band, in the future, but as far as another project, I don’t think any of us has time for that!! Some of those guests would vary, I guess. Who knows who we will run into down the road. I wouldn’t mind opening for Umphrey’s Mcgee, DMB, or a big name! (Just for starters!)

WC: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It’s been said by the major labels that it’s essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales – would you agree?

M: I think it is a huge help for smaller bands. I can see it helping Escherbach in the near future. As far as bigger bands go, they are finding ways to continue to make money by taking chances on pre-orders and limited items and such instead of relying only on album sales. The ones that get inventive for their fans will succeed and I imagine the others will continue to whine about not getting paid enough to do the thing that they love to do (or perhaps, don’t love?).

NC: For a band of our stature, having our music available to as many people as possible is definitely good.

SN: Music shouldn’t be all about sales. Yeah, it would be nice to sit back and collect after you have performed or written a song because people buy music. But, let’s face it, not everyone is rich or goes out and buys albums of people they have never heard of before. So, downloading, although hurting “big timer” sales is helping out the little people with interest in finding different music and different genres. I believe that has helped Escherbach out immensely. I don’t believe I or we are hindered one bit from people being able to download our music!

WC: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

M: I say, “Have fun!”

NC: We encourage this!

SN: If a fan has the energy to record shows and then trade the shows, that is all fine and dandy with me. I hope they get a decent sound! I think of that as an honor! Give me a copy!

WC: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?

M: All the bands that are putting out covers as their radio hit instead of their own music. I think that’s pretty lame, and makes them look insecure for various reasons. There are some good bands that are commercial these days, and then there are some really, really bad ones. But there are people that want to hear that music so I guess someone has to make it. I wouldn’t consider those types of people any kind of artist though.

NC: Britney Spears: any performer who doesn’t compose or perform their own music. Lame!

SN: If I was “Drumamansaurus” and had to despise an enemy…I would despise Vanilla Ice and his evil twins Milli Vanilli! There is something totally wrong with copying other people and lip synching. If you can’t put any effort into writing catchy three chord songs, you probably should stick to the listening side. I wonder if their sales are hurting.

WC: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?

M: My ultimate bands are already put together; I just need to play in them. It would be either playing with Ryan Adams in any outfit he puts together, or playing the intense music with MONO.

NC: I’ll take the Flaming Lips live show and stack the band with Jimmy Herring, Victor Wooten, Neil Peart, and Frank Zappa.

SN: My band “Ultima” would consist of Eddie Vedder (lead vox), Carter B. (1st chair perc.), myself (backup perc. And drink fetcher for 1st chair), FLEA (obvious), and uh…not sure for guitar. There are so many great players out there that I don’t think I could pick. Maybe Jimi!

WC: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?

M: Oh man! It would have to be three days and would include (in no particular order): MONO, Ryan Adams, Russian Circles, Mastodon, Umphreys Mcgee, Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst, Pelican, Explosions in the Sky, The Mars Volta, Red Sparowes, Sigur Ros, Gojira, This Will Destroy You, Damien Rice, Cursive, Ben Folds, Tool, These Arms Are Snakes, Talking Heads Reunion, Whiskeytown Reunion, Rage Against The Machine, The Police, My Morning Jacket, Muse, Mogwai, Dub Trio, and Flight of the Conchords.

NC: The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Phish, Rush, My Morning Jacket, Gov’t Mule. Think Bonnaroo. In fact just go check out Bonnaroo.

SN: At NORSTOCK Music Festival I would feature AC/DC as the head liner! They can’t play any new stuff though! I would also include Dave Matthews, Umphrey’s McGee, RHCP, Pearl Jam, Ozzy, Rage, Rush, Russian Circles, Explosions in the Sky, I would definitely promote local good music from my area here in South Bend and some other bands that could fill a bill with Escherbach. I still have yet to see a two week long festival though.

WC: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?

M: Last album I bought was a box set of the new MONO Hymn To The Immortal Wind/One More Step And You Die/NY Soundtracks. It’s awesome. I’ve been listening to that a lot lately (though not on the vinyl I ordered it on), the new Mastodon, and the new Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band. Patiently waiting for the new Mars Volta.

NC: I tend to listen to a lot of talk radio on NPR. Also, I wander through myspace checking out bands.

SN: I can’t remember the last CD I bought. People influence my listening tastes. Minkis, for instance, listens to a very wide variety of music. If he desires, he tells me about new music of bands he is listening to or lets me borrow the albums to check them out. Since Escherbach records all of their rehearsals, I listen to those mainly (mental aspect and sound quality). Lately I have also been listening to NPR and late night jazz.

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

M: MONO in NYC for their 10th anniversary and first performance ever with a 23-piece orchestra backing them supporting Hymn To The Immortal Wind. Absolutely amazing and the best concert I’ve attended hands-down, and I’ve been to a lot.

NC: Pelican, Subterranean, Chicago

SN: Usually the only concert I purchased ticks for is Dave Matthews Band every summer in Indy. It has been a tradition for me ever since they started playing there! A pure enjoyment! Carter has been the biggest influence in my playing. See if you can tell!

WC: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

M: I plugged my power adaptor for my pedal board into the wall and it was a loose socket and the vibrations made the adaptor slowly fall out, thus rendering me silent for a few moments. This was at a competition too, and we still won. I guess they liked the music.

NC: Sometimes I watch Minkis and Sean and find myself thinking about how awesome they are and I forget a section or two. But I count this as a good thing!

SN: Biggest moment for me had to be back in Gazmic days when we were given the honor of hanging in the green room before our show at a dance hall called Fever in South Bend.

WC: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you’d like to get out there?

M: Just want to say thanks to everyone who listens, comes out to support us, and helps spread the word. And thanks to my band mates for putting up with me.

NC: I would like to thank everyone that supports our band by buying our music and coming to see our shows!

SN: I just want to thank the loyal listeners of Escherbach and listeners of bands like us! It takes you to really get us out there! Thank you.