Quite literally blazing the trail of stoner metal bands since 2003, The Sword have been at the forefront of pioneering the genre into the mainstream clutches of heavy metal. Preparing to release their fifth full-length, ‘High Country’, this month, Killyourstereo.com had the opportunity to chat with JD Cronise, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, to catch up on all things band related.
Hey there JD, Johnny from KYS, how’s your day been?
Yeah, its been pretty good, man.
I’ve heard a couple of the new tracks from High Country, how would you say the reception to it has been so far? It’s a little different to some of the stuff you’ve released before, a little more mellow.
Yeah, you know the tracks we’ve released have gotten a better reception than we thought, to be honest. It’s all been really positive and even from the album reviews, [they’re] all really positive, and the fan reaction as well, there are some negative things you see on twitter [though], it’s almost like a sad thing, like a frown face and, “Oh, I miss the heavy Sword”.
And it hasn’t been so in your face?
It was kind of gradual, I mean on this album it’s a little more obvious.
I actually heard a few comparisons drawn to a “stoner Thin Lizzy”. I’m sure that’s an honour seeing as you obviously draw influence from many of the 70’s hard rock scene?
Yeah, of course, we’ve been hearing Black Sabbath [comparisons] for years and now it’s nice to get something a little different.
Any stories behind the recording of the album?
Well, we recorded in Austin in this kind of restored church, owned by an Australian guy with an engineer, Stuart Sikes, who doesn’t strike you as an intimidating man but then you see his resume and the bands and albums he’s worked with and it kind of gets a little intimidating. We also had a producer, Adrian Quesada, so it was good to just have this collaborative team whom we could bounce ideas off of.
And it comes at a time when many of the contemporaries in your genre are either becoming more experimental or more heavy as we saw with Mastodon’s ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ and High On Fire’s ‘Luminiferous’ respectively. Would you say the change of pace in the scene had any influence on you at all?
I guess this was kind of our own thing; I haven’t really heard the new High On Fire album, just one track, which I liked. This album was maybe more the need to distinguish ourselves from the scene a little bit; there are so many stoner rock/metal bands now that they can kind of satisfy our fans needs. We wanted to just be a bit more unique.
The artwork of the album is a lot more simple, and atmospheric than previous albums, any reason for this?
Yeah, the artist who did it is called Jetter Green and I found his work in a shop one day and I asked the person at the store who it was and looked him up; really nice guy and once I saw his other works I knew that these could make some really cool album artworks. That one is actually a shot of a mountain in New Zealand.
I’ve heard you’re planning on releasing a special ‘weed’ edition of the album. How did you get the idea for something like that?
(laughs) Well, I don’t really have a list of contents on me, but I know it comes in a nice, wooden hinged box with the album artwork engraved into it. The box is probably the nicest bit, then some rolling papers and I think a grinder. Our guitarist Kyle and the guys at Indie Merch thought of that, really.
As a guitarist and vocalist who would you note as some of your modern influences?
That’s a good question… there’s this band from Columbus, Ohio called Mount Carmel and they’re a trio and I see them and what they’re doing and you kind of get that feeling like, “What am I doing?” On a larger scale, I guess Josh Homme, I really dig what he does and his sound. Also, James Hetfield, I know vocally he isn’t the best, but when we were on tour with Metallica, we had the opportunity to jam in their practice room, and I hit the first muted note on his amp and it was really just fucking perfect, that sound that they can achieve.
Yeah, Metallica really are, for lack of a better word, the masters of the scene.
Any plans to do any more splits like the one you guys released back in 07’ with Witchcraft? I’m sure there are some bands you’re eager to collaborate with.
Look, not really, we’d love to and we’d be open to it, its always nice to see when bands do that kinda thing.
As far as I know, you’ve been pretty quiet on the gigging scene lately, what’s the touring schedule looking like for the future, with the release of the album?
Well, the album gets released on this August, and from there we commence the touring and we head off to Europe to do some shows and hopefully we’re looking to see if we can get to Australia sometime next year, hopefully early next year.
Speaking of touring, what is one of the strangest places you’ve had to stay for a show, or during a tour?
Well, I do remember a time when we stayed at a sort of dutch pirate boat…
How did you sort that out?
We were on tour in the Netherlands, and the driver of the tour had these buddies, I use the term ‘pirate’ pretty loosely, but it was like a pirate boat and they had cool dogs. I guess that was one of the weirder accommodations we’ve had.
Lastly, what do you miss while you’re on tour; and what do you bring with you?
Honestly, I miss my girlfriend, and my dog. I usually always bring a book or like an iPad, all the electronic gadgets to spend away the hours spent on the road.
I imagine it would be a bit stressful, all the constant time on the road.
Not so much stressful, you spend 1.5 hours of the day playing music and the rest is travelling.
All right thanks JD, it’s been great chatting with you. I hope you have a great album launch and touring cycle, and I hope you have a good day.
Thanks, you too, man.
‘High Country’ is out August 21 via Razor & Tie / Cooking Vinyl Australia. You can pre-order the album via iTunes.