We suppose it’s not been that long since we bestowed the dubious honor of “Band of the Week” upon the Michigan mystics we know only as Haunted Leather, at least depending on your perception of the passage of time. But it feels like it’s been long enough that the band falls on these ears less as a mystery and more as the presence of a very familiar stranger.
Such is the strength of the band’s amplified hypnosis that some call rock and roll. Such is the strength of the afore-praised “Red Road” and its grit-and-glimmer, faithfully flowing follow-up, “In Her Golden Room,” and EP as surly and satisfying as any full-length album you’ll hear this year (at least depending on your perception of the passage of time, as we said long ago).
They make their noise, they say. We agree. Come and join us, they say. We will.
Familiar and strange, that Haunted Leather. What more could you want? We’re more than pleased to some of these haunted few answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What does the word “haunted” mean to you? Does it express something emotional or something realistic in your mind – or perhaps both? Is there anything in particular that you feel haunted by, and if so, do you think it directly impacts the music you make?
Jack: It seems like the idea of somethin’ being haunted brings reality together with the unreal. The natural and esoteric coexist within the word – it’s enticing. There may be a beat down drugstore someplace with wood in the windows that you couldn’t give a shit about, but as soon as somebody tells you it’s haunted, you want to get in and have a look around.
How do you think music has impacted your overall outlook on life – beyond simply the enjoyment of or involvement with? Can you think of a specific song or a specific band that has affected you in such a way that you truly believe you would be a different person if you had never encountered that music? What was it about that music that you found so compelling?
Jack: After I heard “White Light White Heat,” everything changed. I wanted to be Lou in NYC, fucking around with The Factory folks. I was a kid that found somethin’ finally that I liked. It was a childish, a real kid-ish love in the way that I just wanted to be them.
Dusty: Hearin’ some of the blues shit I heard, John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic guitar work where there a lot of the words were in the fingers that spoke instead. I wouldn’t have wanted to be alive without that music.
Ross: Everything revolves around music. What was that Velvet Underground comp? “Another VU”? At 15 I heard that; then at 21, Neil Young’s “Bottom Line ’74,” with almost all of “On the Beach” live. Between ‘n from those two I found it all: kraut/afrobeat/the meaning ‘n way of life and beyond … etc. etc. etc.
Can you think of one key element or emotion that you desired to be expressed by Haunted Leather upon your initial formation? Was this something you had tried to express in previous musical adventures, without satisfaction? How do you think that desire has shifted or evolved since you began Haunted Leather?
Jack: Dusty and I (Jack) would run around to bars getting fucked up when we could afford it. There wasn’t much here that we liked, but really there just wasn’t much from here that we’d even heard. But that didn’t matter. We wanted to be on the dark side of things, the niche, the weird shit – the opposite that we understood to be happening here. We’d been playing some bluesy garage shit for a while and knew that we wanted somethin’ different. Our second show like that was at a dry venue and a bunch of people left and thought it was loud and shitty and wondered why we were gettin’ drunk in the back. It seemed like people wouldn’t be on our side either way, so we might as well get louder and darker. We weren’t sure that people were against our stuff, but it helped to imagine it that way; to have somethin’ to oppose, to be contradictory to. Since then it’s changed some. All of our friends that hung, we’d just invite them to join the band. We still like the other side, the unexamined side, but now, more or less, instead of being against everybody, without them, we’d rather to be with ‘em. Fuck it. We’re all makin’ music, and need each other.
Our introduction to the band was through the “Red Road” album, which to these ears, seemed to come out of nowhere to express a ghostly charm. What can you tell us about how this album came together? What are your thoughts on it with some distance from its initial release?
Jack: We’d started playin’ songs that’d be on Red Road during an art instillation called “Fortified” or somethin’ like it. Each piece invited was to set up a space and create a vibe for it, and live in it for the time you could. We set up an opium den. Dusty told me about the time his mother had been instructed by her brother’s clan chief to relay a message to him. In this meeting she was to convey that, upon death, he should take the red road. Death was the red road, the one to travel in between. We wanted to take the idea of the in-between, and mess around with it some through music. Our friends all joined us and seemed to want to do the same thing. In retrospect we did on “Red Road” what we do now. We made an album that we wanted to listen to.
How – if at all – do you think the band’s geographic home of Michigan has contributed to the sound of Haunted Leather? How do you think the band might sound different if you were from a different part of the country, or a different country entirely?
Jack: In a way, what we do, it sounds like the bands we love, because we love them. But really, what we make couldn’t really sound different from what it does; we’re just stuck here with what’s here and we make some shit up that sounds good to us. It’s the seasons, especially the hard ones, the tough winter and tough summer, too. They’ve got an extra say in our sound, and it couldn’t sound different, I guess.
Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that we are attempting to start right now – that there is a Haunted Leather tribute band playing bars and basements around the country, under the name “Spooky Pleather”?
Jack: It’s tough, man. From what we understand, they rule shit when they play. They’ve got good grass, and we think they’re another group called “The Plantains,” or “The Omecs,” or somethin’ like that.
Your latest release is the fully enveloping “In Her Golden Room.” How do you think the band approached this recording in a way that’s different from “Red Road”? What can you tell us about the title, “In Her Golden Room”? Is it coincidence or by design that your previous two records have colors in the title? What does the opening invitation/invocation “Come and Join Us” mean to you?
Jack: We were just feelin’ off of “Red Road.” We were making an extension of that album; stopping off at other places, and finding some other sounds; we were checkin’ out another scenery. The colors are maybe just a coincidence. The albums sounded visceral to us, and so, they took on visceral names. The colors are abstractions and they help you to see where you are. “Come and Join Us” is a track that pleads just that. It offers a suggestion, and is a hopeful sonic transmission to reach other heads.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite song by The Velvet Underground and why?
Jack: VU’s always around here, but other that that we’ve been into …
Spectrum – “Highs, Lows and Heavenly Blows”
Harmonia – “Live ’74”
Bad Indians – “Are the Chocolate Factory”
The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Psychocandy”
Henry Miller – a huge Velvet Underground fan in his own right, we’re sure – once wrote the following:
“Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such”
Jack: Hell, we agree with Miller. He said it just fine.
What’s next for Haunted Leather?
We’re just about to record a full-length that we’re in love with. It’s not the same as we’ve done, and it feels good to play this new shit. After that, a tour in spring ’14.