In the age of MP3s, streaming, and digital-only EPs (Yuck…), it’s especially nice when an artist will take their time working on a full-length… especially when they’re not yet the kind of wealthy, super-established marquee name that could really stop working forever and be better off than 99% of us… The Pale Horse, the debut album from Lexington, Kentucky’s Ancient Warfare has actually been in the works since 2010 and is just preparing to hit shelves August 11th, courtesy of Alias Records. The process began when lead vocalist/guitarist Echo Wilcox was a visual arts student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Wilcox brought a batch of demos to Duane Lundy of Shangri-La Productions and the two have been working on collecting, fleshing out, and polishing songs for a proper album ever since. In that time multi-instrumentalist Emily Hagihara, violinist Rachael Yanarella, and bassist Derek Rhineheimer have also joined the fold. The sounds found on The Pale Horse meld morose and dusty Americana with proto-punk psychedelic songwriting, and a touch of alt rock’s most balladic side. Tomorrow Ancient Warfare hit the road for a batch of dates that takes them through early September, including an August 15th [early] appearance at PhilaMOCA for Treat Y’rself Fest, where they’ll be performing alongside the likes of Mercury Girls, Leggy, Pretty Greens, Littler, and Myrrias, among others (in addition to a small plethora of food, record vendors, zines, and crafts). Earlier this week I got a chance to chat with Echo Wilcox about Ancient Warfare’s story.
Izzy Cihak: So Ancient Warfare has been around for a while now, but you’re just about to release your debut LP. What have been the highlights of the band so far? I understand you’ve played on a lot of really cool bills (I’m a big fan of Lucius, Mr. Gnome, and Chelsea Wolfe.)
Echo Wilcox: Yes, all of these artists are incredibly talented and electrifying to see. Sharing the stage with such greats has definitely been some of the highlights. We can remember playing one of our very first shows with Richard Buckner and, quite frankly, we were a little nervous about sharing the stage with him because we really admired his music. Immediately following our set, he approached us with unexpected complimentary and encouraging words, particularly regarding our stage presence and attention to tone. Hearing that from someone whose opinion we valued left an impression on us, especially as we were still trying to figure ourselves out as a band.
Recently we held a concert and silent auction to raise funds for the record and upcoming tour. We received a tremendous amount of support from our community and fans which was beyond gratifying. We are also very excited to finally release our debut, The Pale Horse. It’s been a long time coming, and after living with it for four years we can listen back to the album now and feel proud of our work, and that is hugely rewarding. We’ve been writing and developing new material – getting it worked into our sets and keeping things fresh and moving forward.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to your music?
Echo: Of course, it’s always a treat talking with the audience after we get done playing. Sometimes it’s tough going into a completely new city and not knowing how people are going to react. I remember us playing a show down in this underground basement type club. Nothing spectacular about the venue. Had a pretty mediocre PA and hardly even a stage for that matter. But none of this seemed to make a difference for this particular audience member who was literally brought to tears while watching our set. We are constantly faced with new and unexpected reactions from listeners. It’s what makes playing live so interesting. At times it can also be incredibly intimidating and nerve wracking. It’s this experience of someone connecting to our music on such a deep level that really makes what we do up there completely worth it.
Izzy: The Pale Horse hits shelves this August. What were the album’s most significant influences, whether musical or otherwise? I understand the notion of the apocalypse was a common theme throughout, which I find really cool.
Echo: There’s definitely an underlying cyclical life-death-life notion that is a huge presence behind the record. When writing The Pale Horse, any and all things had an influence, really. Where one thing passes, another is born and undoubtedly impacting each other.
Izzy: Keeping on that note, I’m also a big fan of the notion of an apocalypse, so I’m curious: Do you have any particular favorite works of art about the apocalypse (other than your own)? I’m a huge cinephile nerd, so a lot of my favorite works of art are films about the end times, from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Godard’s Weekend to Gregg Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy… which pretty much taught me what it is to be an alternative American nearly two decades ago…
Echo: Visually speaking, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” by Hieronymous Bosch is terrifically terrible and burned in my mind. “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” by Drurer is also a pretty amazing piece.
Izzy: (Okay, back to your music.) A lot of artists hate this question, but I can’t help myself: Do you currently have a favorite track off of The Pale Horse, whether one you’re most proud of, or just one that’s especially fun to play? I especially love “The Last Living Trial,” which sort of reminds me of being halfway between the Bad Seeds and Americana-influenced alt rock songwriters of the ‘90s.
Echo: Well I’ll be, thanks for the overly kind reference to the Bad Seeds. Definitely one of our fav’s! It’s really hard to pick one track over the others. When recording this record, there wasn’t any detail overlooked. So much time and energy was spent in order to really get the most out of each song. In fact for the sake of having The Pale Horse on vinyl, we had to pick the best songs to make the cut and, sadly, there were a couple that were left off because of the amount of music able to be put on vinyl. A couple songs that stand out most to me are “Wintertimes” and “Gunsmoke.” The latter is a favorite both on and off stage for us. What I love most about this one is how simplified the production is with an almost doo-wop vibe in contrast to the densely layered soundscape of “Wintertimes.” I see “Wintertimes” as the track that sets an overall mood for the record. There’s a lot going on with this one. Having been the very first one tracked, made for a bit more time and energy spent on it. There was also a lot of collaboration and involvement with other musicians, which I really love too. Recommend it with headphones on.
Izzy: Finally, I must admit that I know little-to-nothing about what it’s like to live in Lexington, KY (a common ailment of those of us who spend our lives in the mid-Atlantic). What’s it like being a band in Lexington? Is there a prominent music scene?
Echo: Lexington is filled with a lot of creative minds. The music community here is very supportive of one another and as a result, there is a crossover of musicians playing in various bands – not out of feelings of responsibility, but just genuinely wanting to make music together.