10 Apr

It wasn’t too long ago that we declared our allegiance to The Saint James Society – and more directly, allegiance to the spectacular, heavy-head-trip of a debut EP that bears the band’s name.

Given that short period of time, our faith in the gospel of Saint James hasn’t withered at all – our faith has perhaps strengthened, perhaps deepened, and perhaps most notable, led us to remind ourselves of the importance of thinking about things in new ways always, while recognizing the impossibility of ignoring the past.

Then again, it may just be that The Saint James Society sounds as good as any band on the planet at full volume, escaping out the windows of your vehicle as it’s piloted down a forgotten road after sundown.

But it’s not the words of a James (saintly or otherwise) that we reflect on most when listening to the band – rather it’s the words of a Thomas:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”  

We feel fortunate that the members of The Saint James Society have brought forth what is within them and shared it with us – and when you finish the interview below with bassist/vocalist Brandon Burkart, you may be surprised to learn who is included in this Society’s membership. Enjoy.

(We also feel fortunate for those who will be in Austin, TX, three days prior to Austin Psych Fest 2012, as your weekend admission to the festival will also gain you entrance to see The Saint James Society, Sleepy Sun and White Hills at The Mohawk on Tuesday, April 24.)

What do you believe is the single most transformative experience of your life from a spiritual (for lack of a better term) perspective? What was it about that experience that made such an impact on you? Do you feel you have sought out transformative experiences in your life, from an early age? How, if at all, do you balance the drive for spiritual metamorphoses with an ego that allows you to be proud of the person you are today?

Everyday is transformative. I feel distinctly that I’ve been through several rebirths as an individual in this life. I stop regularly and say to myself, “I Love Right Now,” and then feel out whether I actually mean it. If I don’t mean it, I ask myself what’s amiss, address it, and if I can’t figure it out, I usually find that I’ve been talking to myself out loud like an idiot on the street for ten minutes and start laughing. All of a sudden … I love right now. Balancing spiritual metamorphoses and ego is an automatic process, I think. As one shifts, the other responds, and if you can just remain self aware, then it’s a pretty natural road to navigate. *coughs* LSD, DMT, psilocybin, mescaline.

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What do you believe is the single most transformative experience of your life from a strictly musical perspective? What is it about that experience – or series of experiences – that made such an impact on you? Who are the people that you hold responsible for expanding your own musical horizons – older brothers, uncles, creepy neighbors, etc.? In what ways do you think you experience music differently today than you did as an adolescent?

I have personal transformative experiences of course, but the important thing is knowing that this band came together as a collective means to express our own history in a group. A society. This band is an environment more than anything. We contribute our abilities as musicians, sure, but ultimately, we hang out together anyway, go out together, on tour we travel in peace and wild, at home we write, create, get strange, read, and plan. Musicians like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, The Stones, Iggy, Roky Erikson – those guys were all inspired by others to do it on their own, but not to simply repeat the steps and imitate. They all made it their own. Experiencing music now verses as an adolescent seems, at first, as though there is less magic in it. But that’s false. There is more. As you start to recognize who your own influences were inspired by and trace the history, you start seeing the tricks used to pull off the grandiose accomplishments they have made and you can twist, mold, and reshape those methods yourself until you’re left with something new but still familiar. That’s the alchemy side. The real guts of the thing.

How did your past experiences playing in bands or writing music influence the formation of The Saint James Society? Was there a perspective that you wished to express within The Saint James Society that you were unable to express previously? How have your ambitions for the music of The Saint James Society evolved since the earliest days of the band?

Having personally been in bands for fifteen years, writing, recording, playing, and touring, I started noticing patterns in my approach. With The Saint James Society, I decided to break all patterns and habits. Do everything backwards. As we evolve, it’s important to each of us to always be asking ourselves individually, “What can I do?” We all contribute, we all show up, and we all throw ideas around. We try to find a backdoor and get settled before anyone knows we’re in the room.

From our limited and perhaps lunatic perspective, The Saint James Society sprang out of thin air to deliver us four songs of utterly dirty, heartfelt mystical and musical reality that we’ve yet to stop listening to … but we’re sure there was no magick wand used in the creation of this great Society*. How would you characterize the evolution of the songs we hear on your debut EP? How do you feel about this recording now that you’ve lived among these songs for some time and they’ve been loosed upon the world?

*We are actually NOT sure that y’all don’t have a magick wand or twelve.

Like I said, everything in reverse: We had the name before we were a band, had a show booked before we had songs, had a recording date scheduled before we had our shit together. We all work really well under deadlines and that’s how that EP came to be. I made notes in December 2010, two weeks before my 30th birthday, explicitly detailing what would happen in the coming year. It was a lengthy document, but buried in there in the music goals portion, I wrote “Do EVERYTHING ourselves. Booking, PR, production, web, no labels … unless Tee Pee calls.” No shit. Randomly, they did. Magic wand was a pen.

As far as how we feel about the recording, after touring these songs every night for a month, we’re now smack in the middle of SXSW playing 6 shows in 5 days and honestly, the songs from the EP still feel fresh loose. The recording simply captured that moment that we were in that studio at that time. A photograph of the songs from that specific performance. It’s a pretty rad photo, I think. The songs are not fixed. They shift according to the atmosphere at every show. The EP is flexible.

We could single out any element of your sound for praise – the vocals from Brandon and the Saint James Rebel Queen Alliance, the beat, the lyrics – but would like to hear your thoughts on the interplay between the bass and guitar in your songs. While we have the musical sophistication of an ape, it would seem that there’s fullness to the sound of The Saint James Society that can come only from a concrete effort to make the riffs brain-busting and trance-inducing. Did the members of the band play in any bands together previously?

This is our first band together and it’s the first band where any of us have felt this free. Dahveed, TJ, and I have been doing this long enough in other outfits to know when to lay back or just let loose, but this is the first band that the girls have ever been in. It’s refreshing to have that dynamic. Takes everyone out of the “Know How” mentality and into the realm of “Let’s just see what happens.” I tend to write outlines on an acoustic bass, ripped, raw, and simple while Dahveed comes through and paints layers of golden glory across the face of the thing. Melodically, the girls and I just feel it out and go while TJ puts his head down and makes shaman beats. It’s a really natural process with us. A necessary one.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite T. Rex song of all time?

T. Rex always. Raw Ramp and The Slider will always be in the top ten. On this last tour we listened to The Seeds, The Growlers, and Tex & The Horseheads daily. That sprinkled with Eddie Money, Hall & Oates, and Heart. Yeah, man. We’re not above good party jams.

While researching the cosmic impact of The Saint James Society on a world that seems relatively unaware of it, we came across this song called “Riverland Blues” by The Saint James Group, coming out of Arkansas, circa 1968. Will you please listen to this song and give us your thoughts? Please feel free to have a drink or two beforehand, in order to make limber your artistic sensibilities.

I think I’m gonna listen to this all day.

What can you tell us about the recording of your debut LP? What is your sense of the songs that will be included at this early juncture? Is there an overall mission statement or overview that ties the songs together, either sonically or through lyrical connection? Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that the cover art will feature actor John Amos in a halo and wings, reprising his role as James Evans, Sr., on “Good Times,” posing as “Saint James”?

Many of the songs that are going to be on the next LP were already written by the time we did the EP so the vibe is pretty similar, but dynamically, we have room to take this much further. You can navigate more terrain over the course of 13 songs than you can in 4. Longer journey, this one. The engineer that did the EP, Erik Wofford, is going to be on board again to help us sail these weird seas. As for the cover art, Johns Amos agreed and signed the model release just this morning.

Oscar Wilde – famously persecuted for his homosexuality and the utter lack of Black Sabbath albums in his collection – once said the following:

“I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!”

Your thoughts?

He also said, “Work is the scourge of the drinking class.” We honored that, then we chose. You’ll hear all about it on this next record.

What’s next for The Saint James Society?

Aside from recording and planning this next tour, we want to include everyone that’s included us. Connecting with everyone we meet on this journey and building a network of artists, writers, musicians, film makers, photographers, junkies, creeps, and thieves. You’re part of it. Welcome to the Society, sir, there’s someone I want you to meet.

The Saint James Society




  1. DREAMTIME | Revolt of the Apes - April 21, 2013

    […] graciously agreed to answer our ridiculous questions – bands like Ttotals, bands like The Saint James Society – will have a place on the Austin Psych Fest stage this year. And we don’t feel so lonely […]

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