Seattle trio Helms Alee have spent the past six years writing and recording abrasively beautiful and avant-garde sounds that have been labeled with phrases such as “experimental metal” and “art rock,” although they would seem far more comfortable with their sound, inspired by the outermost fringes of ‘80s and ‘90s “popular” music (think all of the brilliantly heavy sounds of Lollapalooza rolled into one) being referred to as simply “rock.” It’s certainly a long-way from any traditional “rock” sounds of the ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s, but they don’t seem to be a fan of arbitrarily and pretentiously named sub-genres. The band’s three members, Ben Verellen, Dana James, and Hozoji Matheson-margullis all contribute to Helms Alee equally and all refuse to be linked to or regarded as an homage to any particular scene in recent musical history. December 30th and 31st they will be playing Denver, Colorado’s Bluebird Theater with The Sword and February 11th of 2014 will see the release of their third LP, Sleepwalking Sailors, on Sargent House. I recently got a chance to chat with guitarist Ben Verellen about the band’s past, present, and future.
Izzy Cihak: You’re about to release your third album, Sleepwalking Sailors. How do you feel as though the album compares to previous releases?
Ben Verellen: It’s a little more aggressive sounding than both Weatherhead and Night Terror to my ears. Lots of epic vibes and the record has a natural flow to it that feels cohesive to me. We wrote it over about three years and we’re still mixing it up between the three of us, as far as who’s writing riffs, melodies, and words. So all that probably helped to keep the record diverse. We’re still a mixed bag.
IC: So it’s pretty well known that you avoid being taken in by any present-day trends, so I have to ask, what are currently your most significant influences and inspirations, whether musical or just aspects of life and creating art?
BV: I feel like we’re surrounded by inspired musicians and artists, so it’s easy to stay excited about music for me. I realize how hippy it sounds to say, but northwest living can definitely paint a mood sometimes. Right now it’s settling into wintertime here, so it’s time to hole up and make songs.
IC: What do you feel is most important for fans and potential fans to know about Helms Alee?
BV: Helms Alee is important to me and I can get excited about the idea of other people listening to our songs and deciding there’s something meaningful or important to them in there, but I don’t really know how to explain what about it is important. By the time these songs come out, it feels like someone else might as well have written them.
IC: You’re signed to Sargent House, of which I’m quite a fan. What are your thoughts on the label? Any particular favorite label peers? I’m really into Bosnian Rainbows, Chelsea Wolfe, and Marriages.
BV: It’s rad to be in the mix of such an eclectic bunch of artists. I like that the only real common thread between bands is that none of them fall too comfortably into a specific genre, but it’s a talented lot for sure. Feels right.
IC: You’re going to be playing a few shows with The Sword later this month in Denver. What can be expected of the live experience?
BV: A bunch of sweaty, loud, and weird. Excited to come back to Denver. We usually have a real good time there.
IC: In addition to the release of your latest album, what are you most excited about in 2014? What does Helms Alee have in the works?
BV: We have some tour plans scattered throughout the year. There will also be a couple of releases close on the heels of Sleepwalking Sailors. We also have a growing mass of new material beyond that. Pushing forward.