Interview: Will Allard of Xerxes


It is impossible to listen to Xerxes’ Our Home Is A Deathbed and not recognize the inspiration the post hardcore quintet has taken from their hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, a locale with a rich legacy of powerhouse hardcore and emo bands. Having enlisted Kevin Ratterman (Young Widows, Coliseum) for the outing, the record is an intense and haunting collection of songs that are every bit as melodic as they are angry.
Ghettoblaster caught up with bassist Will Allard between the band’s aggressive tour schedule to talk about the record, their hometown, and their new label home at No Sleep. Here’s what he had to say…
Ghettoblaster: Louisville has quite a legacy related to hardcore, punk and emo.  Did you all grow up there? How has being in that environment influenced you as people, as a band, and your outlook on how to pursue music?
Will Allard: We all grew up in Louisville listening to bands like Kodan Armada, Elliott, By The Grace of God, Coliseum, Young Widows, Black Cross, Mountain Asleep, Lords, etc. Louisville doesn’t really have a sound like the coasts do. It’s kind of just a melting pot of sounds and influences. You are constantly being hit with a little bit of everything from all different directions. Trends come and go and there really aren’t a lot of bands playing the same stuff in town. If you were to go to a show in Louisville you could very easily see a hardcore band playing with an electronic space band. There are not a lot of bands and it’s a lot of the same people but with just different combinations of members. Bands playing to other bands, etc. It sucks sometimes and it’s easy to get down on your town, but Louisville is my favorite city and I love pretty much everything about it.
Ghettoblaster: I have to say that recording Our Home Is A Deathbed with Kevin Ratterman who has experience with Coliseum and My Morning Jacket seems like it was an incredibly smart move for Xerxes.  Because while some of your output relies on speed and ferocity, other songs are slow builds with deliberate attention to dynamics.  How did teaming with him challenge or change the songs that you took to the studio?
Will Allard: Kevin was good to work with. He has a beautiful studio and knows a fuck load. He just let us do our thing and pressed some buttons.
Ghettoblaster: I also read that Evan used a violin bow on his cymbals for parts on the record.  Is experimenting with instruments and sound that way a modus operandi that is typical to Xerxes?
Will Allard: Me and Evan went to a nerd youth performing arts high school and that was one of the things we picked up while we were there. We like the sound and we wanted to put it on the record. We’re not the most experimental of bands, but every once in a while we like to step out of our comfort level and try something new.
Ghettoblaster: You are recently finished a run with Pianos Become The Teeth, which seemed like a natural pairing.  How were those guys?  Are you tight bros now?
Will Allard: That is one of our favorite bands right now. They put out my favorite record of 2011 and it was such an experience getting to see them every night. They are also extremely nice people. Great music / great people. Love them.
Ghettoblaster: Your work with No Sleep and access to larger tours has likely benefited the band financially, at least enough that you can realistically pay your bills and continue to be on the road, correct?  How important is that aspect to Xerxes longevity?
Will Allard: There is no money in music. Doesn’t matter what label you’re on or how big you are. We are a small punk band from Kentucky. Every day is a struggle, but this is our favorite thing to do. We sacrifice our personal lives, our futures, and our financial means to be in this band. If it were about money, we would have been out a long time ago. We just love getting in the van and doing what we do.
Ghettoblaster: How long will you continue this tour cycle before returning home and starting to write again?
Will Allard: We plan on being out the rest of 2012. We will get home around the holidays and start working on our next LP in January and hopefully be recording it by the spring. We already started tossing around a few ideas.
Ghettoblaster: What are your current tour plans looking like?
Will Allard: We will be gone the rest of the year. A Midwest/south tour, an east coast run, a full US, a full Canada, Europe, and more.
Ghettoblaster: Are Xerxes politically active at all?  What causes are nearest and dearest to your hearts?
Will Allard: We each have our own thoughts. We keep them out of the band. We are not a political band.
Ghettoblaster: Have you had interactions with people while on tour that have challenged or inspired the way you see music or the world around you?
Will Allard: One of the best parts about touring is meeting all the people in each city and seeing how they live. There are so many wonderful people out there.
Ghettoblaster: I actually have a couple acquaintances/friends in Louisville too.  Do you know Sean Cannon or Mark Kramer?
Will Allard: Mark Kramer used to work at Ear X-tacy and we have a couple mutual friends, but I don’t really know him that well and I do not know Sean Cannon.