In 2018, Melbourne’s Wither launched with a fully-loaded barrel. Armed with fiery debut single, ‘Nothing To No One‘, and with their volatile and brooding debut EP, the grim five tracks of ‘Rot and I’ landing in November 2018, this budding local “supergroup” wasted zero time getting things moving. Made up of vocalist David De La Hoz (Belle Haven), guitarists Liam Fowler (Pridelands) and Jamie Marinos (ex-Sentinel), drummer Luke Weber (Dream On Dreamer fill-in), and bassist Jeremy Hughes ( Sanctify The Serpent, Taurus), Wither are pure musical heaviness embodied. The diabolical ‘Marionette‘ is all the proof you need, in that respect.
Off the back of these strong, well-received releases, the quintet has added a couple live shows to their collective belts under the Wither name, and are now gearing up for a solid 2019 too. With much of the year to look forward to, and with no doubt more shows and on-goings getting tee’d up currently, I recently spoke with David about all things Wither-related. From the gory and not-so-fictional narrative that drove the bleak lyrical content of their EP and where he took inspiration for it, to how the band works together live and his thoughts on being labelled a super-group, among other matters, David was as forthcoming as ever. Read the full feature below!
David, knowing a bit about your own mental health struggles and your some of your past love life experiences, the Wither EP, even despite the added Tom/Rot narrative, felt so visceral and real. It was easy for me to connect the dots from the story to you as a person. Is that something you were hoping for out of listeners, or at least, that people who know you well would see past the story and find the real core of it all? How much do you attach and disassociate with the lyrical content?
Straight out of the gate with the big guns, Alex. I love that. I wouldn’t say that I was hopeful people would figure it out. Truthfully, I got so caught up in the story in the end I nearly forgot why I started writing it in the first place. I’m very attached to the lyrical content and story in general because I obviously know every single metaphor and what it all really means, you know?
I get you, man. With the EP’s narrative, I think a lot of people took the story at face-value and didn’t dig any deeper. On your’s and the band’s end, did you get the reaction you expected, or did you maybe not know what to expect from others once Roy and I landed?
None of us really knew what to expect, I don’t think. That’s been a pretty common theme within the band ever since announcing that we exist though, to be honest. Ultimately, I’m grateful so many people are into the story, despite not many people peering past the guise that it is.
Let’s hope that changes as time goes on for the EP and Wither alike. So, what inspired this Tom/Rot story – just a Jekyll & Hyde plot or something else? What other media inspired it to be how it is now?
The Jekyll and Hyde trope was probably in my mind a lot of the time I was writing it. But otherwise, the story-telling on The Devil Wears Prada’s ‘Zombie’ EP inspired me to write something that planted clear imagery in people’s minds as they listened to it.
Interesting! Decent EP, too. As for you personally, this is such an angry and confrontational EP. I get the vibe that there’s some things that came out of you emotionally from those vocal takes and lyricism that you maybe didn’t expect before starting the recordings. Was that the case by any chance?
Absolutely! The way I chose my words across the writing and recording process for this EP was very outside the norm for me, but it felt incredibly liberating. I feel freer and more at peace with my darkest thoughts with every new Wither song we write.
Do you feel that having Wither start out with a conceptual release will make people expert future narratives in newer releases? On that note, are there other ideas for plots that the music and lyrics can outline?
I don’t mind if people expect future narratives or not. I have some close friends who constantly tell me that we should continue the story, or that we should write a prelude. Who knows what the future holds?
Cool! Excited to see where it all goes. Now, while you wouldn’t call Belle Haven a “heavy” band, there are still heavy moments. But Wither is a huge difference for you musically, with you predominantly screaming and barely clean singing. That change must’ve been exciting but also challenging too. Was it freeing in some way to let loose vocally with this EP and what kinds of hurdles did you encounter in taking your voice down that path?
The way I use my voice in Wither is entirely different to Belle Haven, for sure. But it was ultimately just something that became very enjoyable for me. Writing a line and thinking, “This needs something… something I can’t do right now” and then teaching myself to make the sound I want to make, taking it to the studio, tracking it with Jamie and having him say “Dude, you sound like a pterodactyl.” Very rewarding.
Again on your voice, I know that you’ve been doing vocal coaching as well. How has that shaped your voice in turn and your technique? Would you feel that stepping into that teaching role to help others has made you a better vocalist?
I can not emphasise how much I’m constantly inspired by my students, so yes it has made me a better vocalist. But that’s less to do with me and more to do with the discipline and determination a lot of my students display. It encourages me to continue to challenge myself harder and harder.
In 2019, Belle Haven have a new album coming out and will no doubt tour more, as I assume Liam will be touring harder with Pridelands too. Does Wither being a side-project for now make it easier to manage with everyone’s work or is there some spinning multiples plates happening?
So far, everything has fallen nicely into place, for me anyway. But I’m certain that at some point there’ll be some sort of clash and someone may have to juggle a lot. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Fingers crossed it works out fine. I also get the vibe that while you all take Wither seriously, it’s also just a side outlet to use when the creative urge strikes. Is that actually the case? How have you five come to view the group as it’s gone on?
That’s not really the case, no. I did think it would be like that at first, though. But I think we’ve all become a lot more passionate about the project particularly over the past six months. The wheels are constantly in motion now, somewhat.
That’s great to hear! Now, Wither has played a couple shows so far. What’s the vibe like for the five of you internally within the band? Yourself and Liam play live often, but Luke and Jamie not so much. How has that dynamic been worked out and how have the shows been so far too?
Luke [Weber] plays a lot of shows with Dream on, Dreamer, but Jamie [Marinos] and Jez are definitely getting back into the swing of things now. The last show we played at PLASTIC in Melbourne, we all kind of walked off stage being like “There it is.” Everything is really falling into place for us on stage now. The gel is locking in and we feel we’re really figuring out how to put on the right Wither show.
That’s actually great to hear! So, how does the band take to the “supergroup” tag that Wither gets hit with due to who is in the band? Does it bother you guys at all and do you feel that Wither wouldn’t get off the ground as well without ‘the who’ behind the music?
Good question! I don’t think any of us really know how to respond when we get slapped with that tag because we don’t feel particularly ‘super’. We just love jamming together and some of us happen to come from other fairly established Australian alt bands. There’s no denying that there was some initial ‘hype’ around the band when we first announced because of the members involved, so it’s hard to know how the initial launch would have gone otherwise. But we’re grateful regardless.
For sure. Lastly, Wither feels very self sufficient. You’ve got different people with different skills taking on different roles, and with your other bands being popular, there’s already a name brewing for the band now. I take it you’re not only thankful for the early attention but also don’t take it for either granted; that you’re going to try and make it something special? It feels like 2019 will be a big year for you, man.
Absolutely! We are both grateful for the support we’ve received so far and eager to see what Wither evolves into in 2019. On a personal level, I’m very interested to see how I go balancing Belle Haven, Wither and teaching singing, but I’m determined to make it work and to also make the most of it.