?You’re gonna feel it when it hits,? and damn, if that isn’t the truth. That line comes from ?Beware,? the Zeppelin-sized, Southern-fried, ’70s arena-rock stomp that introduces The Willowz?s latest album, Chautauqua, the follow-up to 2005’s critically acclaimed Talk In Circles. Trading off between huge metal riffs, mind-bending psychedelia, traditional country and folk, the Willowz are a grander, more fully realized version of the White Stripes’ sepia-toned dream and in 2005, the world took notice.
Rolling Stone magazine named Talk in Circles one of its “Top 50 Albums of 2005” and Willowz music horned its way on to the soundtrack for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” thanks to famed filmmaker and video visionary Michel Gondry.
It was Gondry who directed the band’s “I Wonder” video and two Willowz tracks are included on “The Science of Sleep” ? another Gondry movie ? soundtrack.
Bearing the mark of the Rolling Stones’ devilish sinister blues drawl, with heaping helpings of “rawk” guitar crunch, Southern gothic imagery, Black Sabbath doom-and-gloom and punk sneers (see “Evil Son” and “Siren Song”), the Willowz’ Chatauqua is quite simply a beast. Songs start in one place, but end up in others, unpredictably flying from alt-country trailer homes to dark mountains of rock, where they crash and burn. But the volume doesn’t drown out the band’s songcraft (see the lovely acoustic ballad “Once And A While”).
Recently, one of the band’s founders, guitarist/vocalist Richie James Follin, who formed Willowz with bassist/singer Jessica Reynoza in Anaheim, Calif., in 2002, took time out to talk to Goldmine about Chatauqua, “dumpster vinyl” and the group’s new lineup.
Goldmine: Talk In Circles was one of those albums that seemed to come out of nowhere to impress critics. What did you think when you heard Rolling Stone chose it as one its “Top 50 Albums of 2005?”
Richie James Follin: I was kinda shocked because all the other bands on the list were major-label bands and bands that had full page ads paid for in the magazine… so besides being happy about being on the list because of the music, I was happier that we were the only independent band on the list.
GM: Did you feel pressured to follow it up with something bigger and bolder?
RF: Maybe at first at the thought of making the third record, but once we got out to the country and started making it in that basement, we just kinda forgot about everything and everyone. It was more about just making something we were happy with and would have fun playing for a while on tour.
GM: What?s striking about Chautauqua is that it retains the kind of torn-and-frayed charm and energy of the first album, but it seems to have fatter grooves in the more rock-oriented tracks and a real attention to detail in ballads like ?Once And A While.? Was that simply a natural progression, a result of maturity?
RF: I think so. Plus we were playing with new members and had a lot of time to make the record. All the previous records had been rushed, and we were still new to making records, being the young lads we once were. You listen to more music, play hundreds of shows, make records, and you start understanding things you didn?t before. All of our records are different, and I think that is the best way for a band to grow into something worth existing
GM: Talk about how ?Evil Son? came together. With the string arrangements, it seems like a really ambitious piece for The Willowz, and yet it goes from down-home country to an ending that feels as heavy as Black Sabbath, ending up in places that the band seems really