Ancient Warfare's singer and guitarist Echo Wilcox evokes a dark and haunting dreamscape relayed through hushed vocals murmuring ominous tales of love, life and the demise of both in the band's new album, The Pale Horse.
The striking tones of Ancient Warfare multi-instrumentalist Emily Hagihara, violinist Rachael Yanarella and bassist Derek Rhineheimer provide an enveloping undercurrent to the sounds on the album.
The songs on The Pale Horse, which dropped earlier this month, existed in some form since 2010. Since then Ancient Warfare toured with high-profile bands including The Raveonettes, The War on Drugs, Chelsea Wolfe and Lucius.
Just this week, the album was reviewed by the influential music site Pitchfork, which said, in part, "Ancient Warfare have hit upon a singular lonesome-highway energy, the kind that you can study but cannot fake."
We caught up with Wilcox to talk about Ancient Warfare's origins, the new album and the band's future plans.
Weekender: When did the band originally form, and how has it evolved up to this point?
Echo Wilcox: The band has had a few lineups since the start. In late 2009, the band originated as a raw two-piece with myself and Azniv Korkejian on drums, while attending SCAD in Savannah, Ga. After finishing school, we went our separate ways and I moved back home to Kentucky.
At this point I approached Emily about playing drums. Her and I clicked right off the bat and began playing around town some. We played a show at a little dive bar where Rachael approached us about playing violin with the band. Without hesitation we took her up on the offer. Having the violin added a whole new dimension and really glued everything together. We did some regional shows as a three piece but shortly realized we needed to add some low end to the mix and that is when Reva Russell-English was added on bass. Ancient Warfare really seemed to flesh out at this point.
We wrote, played and toured as this lineup for a little over a year all while finishing up the record. Shortly thereafter, Reva found out she was having a baby. With the upcoming LP soon to be released and touring ahead, we had to sadly part ways with Reva. Luckily, we were able to bring Derek Rhineheimer on board which made for a very seamless transition because he had previously filled in on bass on a few occasions. We are now writing new material as this lineup and really excited to be adding these to the set.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
A: It's always tough describing our sound. In short, I'd say we lean in a south-gothic-grunge direction with textured fluid and dark psychedelia undertones.
Q: What are some themes in your music on this new album and what inspired these?
A: There is a cyclical life-death-life theme that seems to resonate throughout The Pale Horse with certain subjects like resurrection, revelations and the inescapable apocalypses we all face — both intimately and at large.
The majority of this record was made during a pretty emotional and heavy period in my life. For me, this record in a sense was an outlet or release for what otherwise would have been bottled up inside.
Q: What are some of your influences (other musicians, experiences, etc.)?
A: It's all encompassing. Take love and loss, our past histories revealing themselves or any situation that triggers sensation or a memory. It's hard to pinpoint any one particular influence. It is more or less like a catalogue of experiences where some things stand out more than others and depends on that particular day. It's our associations to things that stick and how we keep our thoughts and memories intact that influence the music we write.
Q: When did you begin to get into music and how did your develop your own unique sound?
A: I grew up surrounded by music. Both of my parents have their own passions invested in music. So there's always been instruments around and I would tinker with the guitar as a kid. Starting out like many singer-songwriters playing open-mics around town until I could get a bit more comfortable with the stage and the vulnerability of it. It wasn't 'til college that I started performing with others. AW began during this time. Right off the bat we played together pretty seamlessly. playing off of each other's ideas and feel.
Q: What can listeners expect to hear and feel when listening to your new album?
A: The album is rich texturally, forming a sort of visual background for the vocal story to reveal itself. It engenders feelings of memory — of love, loss, hope — translated through undulating washes of melody, shadowy vocals and pulsing rhythms.