After the success of the last two Doomed & Stoned Festivals, Indianapolis is putting on several metal festivals this year, including Metalhead Production’s Indiana Metal Fest and the 3rd annual Doomed & Stoned Festival. It’s an exciting time for the Indianapolis scene and a big step in showing the rest of country that Indiana can support these types of events.
The one we’re focused on today is the upcoming FireBreather festival. Taking place at Indiana City Beer on April 14th, eleven of the best bands in the stoner genre are bringing the riffs, Black Metal Barbecue is bringing the grub, and Indiana City Beer is supplying the brews. Riffs, ribs, and beer. Do I need to say more? I mean two out of three of these are enough to get my old ass out. No? Alright…if that doesn’t get you to immediately buy your tickets, I’ll let festival organizer Drew Smith sell it to you in our interview below.
As a bonus, I also managed to get an update from Drew on his band Archarus. They recently went through some line-up changes, but despite the shake-up they’ve received a lot of attention lately thanks to a split that they released with Bloomington natives Thorr-Axe and a now infamous gig at a Waffle House.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey Drew, thanks for agreeing to chat with us again. I’d like to start by talking about the upcoming FireBreather festival that you’re putting together. Can you tell us a bit about the fest? What made you decide to put it on?
Drew Smith: Always great to chat Bryan, and really appreciate the opportunity to talk your ear off again. I’ve simply adored working with Jordan & Melissa on the Doomed & Stoned Fest each Fall. I’m a weirdo who loves event organization and all the pain in the ass stuff people complain about, so I felt like doing my own because I love the organization and logistics involved. I’ve always had a lean towards the fuzz and stoner rock side of our underground community and since D&S is already perfect, I wanted to zoom in on a specific avenue. Indy really relishes in the heavy and the dark, and they do it well in a thousand different ways, but I’m a child of the sun and I’m ready for some heat.
IMV: The name Indiana City Beer is becoming synonymous with Indy’s metal fests. They’re hosting this year’s Doomed & Stoned Festival for the second year in a row as well as Metalhead Productions upcoming Indiana Metal Fest. And personally, I’m a big fan of their beers, since I have yet to try one that I didn’t like (I think I got through most of them at last year’s D&S fest). I assume that was a big factor in choosing them, but were there any other reasons?
DS: Indiana City Brew seemed to be the first brewery around that didn’t brew 37 flavors of IPA, so naturally they became my favorite. In regards to shows, I’ve been working with them for a few years now and everyone has always been so fantastic and I’ve made some great friends working with them. Archarus released both Render Unto Archarus and The Hobbit split there and was always fantastic. When the 5th Quarter shut down, there were a ton of venues that sounded cool for last year’s fest, but ICB’s space was so ideal for what we were trying to do. Nicole, the event coordinator, and Ryan were so accommodating, helpful, and proactive last October that I actually pitched my skeleton idea to Nicole before we were done cleaning up. She was already onboard.
IMV: Also, I understand the metal loving pit masters in Black Metal BBQ are catering the event. I can’t imagine a better combination than riffs and ribs and I’m really stoked that they’re involved with the fest. How did you get hooked up with them?
DS: I met Chris and TJ a few years ago when we were fortunate enough to play with the legendary Bulletwolf. I love to support local business and all my friends’ entrepreneurial endeavors, so when I created FireBreather, I wanted it to be themed around some sort of summer/spring kick off block party concept with local business vendors in attendance as well. Backyard BBQ and summer time are synonymous, so who else would be better than fellow metal heads & spit masters, Black Metal BBQ to come cover you rock and rollers in sweet and spicy BBQ?
In addition to these fellas, I’ve partnered with Kuma’s Corner, Indy String Theory, Eleven Productions, here in town, as well as Doomed & Stoned, Riff Relevant, you fine Indy Metal Vault folk, and even Blackseed Records out of Pittsburgh. I wanted to build a strong core out of our community network, both local to Indy as well as some really respectable counterparts from other folk, organizations, festivals, et al. that we have met on the road. If anyone else is interested in being involved, I’m very easy to get a hold of!
IMV: You’ve picked eleven bands in the stoner genre for the festival. Can you briefly talk us through the lineup? I’m sure you received a lot of submissions. How did you settle on the ones you picked?
DS: To be honest with you, I sort of had a vision. Indy has always been such a resounding home for the traditional doom scene, and for good reason. Coupling with my need to have a project, and that I was already involved with D&S, it would be dumb to just be redundant and do another open genre show. So I took a focus on the stoner side, and more specifically, the bands that in my opinion just spit fire. Some edge, some attitude, some post, some prog, some thrash. More Zeppelin, more Pink Floyd, less Black Sabbath. Sorry; there’s Maryland Doom in June, Descendants of Crom in Sept, and if you want to stand in the exact same place, Doomed & Stoned will be on the same stage in October. I’ve always celebrated Festivus anyway. Fear not; there’s plenty of Sabbath worship to be had.
Texas and the West coast always seem to have a great run of stoner-oriented fests and I’ve always gravitated West, if you will. I’m just shooting for something different. All of the bands on the bill, I reached out to personally. Every single band on the bill, I’ve personally seen live, I follow them on social media, and I’ve had personal interaction with. They are all still “flying under the radar” in a way and all of these bands have put on multiple successful tours, so that’s who I wanted to work with. Greenbeard is probably the least known but have toured up and down the west coast and Texas. Telekinetic Yeti is the most popular and rightfully so as they’ve seen the entire continent and Tonesmith already had them here at Kuma’s Corner. Horseburner has been hard touring the Eastern half of the states for the better part of a decade, and Void King went to Europe for Christ sakes. Heavy Temple, Toke, Howling Giant, Super Moon, Stonecutters, all of which I met here on an Indy tour stop. And the Mound Builders are as old as the Wabash. It’s only sad we couldn’t have more. There’s several bands from the same cloth of which we couldn’t work out schedules. I could easily do two days, but why oversaturate? A fire needs to breathe. It’s not really a fest, just a big pre-summer BBQ party. No more than booking any touring band for a local show, I just decided to combine them all at once to see what kind of mess we can get into. Hope y’all enjoy it!
IMV: Your band Archarus is also playing the festival. The group has gone through some significant line-up changes since its inception. Who do you have onboard with you now? What do the new members bring to the table and how have they affected your sound so far
DS: GOOD question. Well, it’s noon on Friday, so as of now… No, I’ll be serious.
Despite being on IR for the summer, Dre has been an integral and permanent member since early April ’17. Aside from Dre having a firm grasp on thrash and heavy music, his love of beautiful sounding doom and stoner music, is borderline unmatched. Even though he doesn’t write any melodies, he has an aura, silent and sentinel, that helps bring me back out of the forest to see the trees, if you will. We just officially brought Ty Winslow (of Battersea and formerly Occult Deceiver) in to play bass. He’s still tidying up existing material as of yet, but his enthusiasm, professionalism, and familiarity with Dre make him incredibly valuable. Even more so, his penchant for all things “weird” makes him a perfect piece for the direction Archarus swimming.
IMV: I imagine that with being the last original member, that it’s been a struggle to keep Archarus going. What’s motivated you to continue pushing this project instead of scrapping it all together and/or starting a new one? And don’t get me wrong, I really admire how driven you are and I’d be pretty bummed if Archarus called it quits.
DS: Another good question. It’s sort of just become my shtick now? Hasn’t it? My greatest weakness has turned out to be my greatest strength: a stubborn neurosis, I suppose. After Matt left, I shifted more into the leadership role. Then after Tristan left to pursue his art, John and I amicably split after recognizing our subjective differences, leaving me as the sole member period. To be completely honest Bryan, I was actively making peace with the end of Archarus.
But the one thing I learned in 2017 was how important it is to have friends. I was already elbow deep in the The Hobbit recording process, so my engineer, Niko Albanese (Cristine Nicole, Lawbringer) told me that if I didn’t quit, he’d drum on it for me and keep me afloat until Spring. After finishing up the split, we asked my close friend Mike Naish (Apostle of Solitude, Astral Mass, Shroud of Vulture) to help out on bass for the release tour with Thorr-Axe. I actually think Mike was in a fourth band at the time as well, which just goes to show you how much more impressive and graceful his time was. After that all settled, I had always been good buddies with Dre Duarte (Occult Deceiver, Killzone). And since he and I had thought about jamming on some projects together in the past, I offered him the spot have not regretted it in the slightest. We happily brought in Xander Farrington (Catalytic, KillZone) to permanently play bass. We were really excited and moving well, then Dre injured his foot nine days before our first leg of our ‘17 tour schedule. More dark times. But somehow, someway (mostly due to his immense bank of talent), my good buddy and fellow fest runner, Jordan Smith (Drude, Potslammer), learned 5 songs in 8 days. So Jordan filled bass and Xander moved over to Dre’s seat (temporarily). Long story short, Dre got healthy, Xander decided to leave to pursue his schooling, so Jordan filled in for about 13 road dates this past year and was very very much responsible for the success we had.
So to answer the initial question, I very much almost called it quits. Multiple times this past year in fact. But the only thing you can do when it gets dark is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and rely on your friends to help bring you back to the light. It always seemed like the end of the world, and it would have been if not for these heroes, but here we are, better off than ever. The sun will rise, with or without you. Just get up and make some tea.
IMV: Despite the shake ups, you’ve done a fair amount of touring with the band. What were some of you favorite spots that you hit during your travels?
DS: Man, we had such a fun time this year. I think we hit over ten states or so. We played with FireBreather fest band Super Moon in Lincoln along with High Ruler (Dre’s favorite) and Rift. Played a spot called Backspace in Fayetteville that was probably the coolest show all year. It was a doublewide-converted-DIY space in a glen outside of U of A with Mud Lung. A no AC, swampy Arkansas summer day. Dre kicked Xander off the throne and played the last half of the set unexpectedly. I’ve never seen such an animal that night. We were lucky enough to cross paths with Howling Giant in Charlotte on their own tour.
Finally getting out to the DMV was eye opening; that community is something else. We were very fortunate to play back to back nights with Foghound, as the recent news of Rev Jim Forrestor passing hit Dre and I very hard. Between them, Thonian Horde, and the countless orderings of doom enthusiasts out that way were all insurmountably welcoming to us and the other touring band, Red Beard Wall. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t talk about how incredible the inaugural Descendents of Crom went. I got to see Horseburner for the 37th time, Midnight Ghost Train wrecked me, Clouds Taste Satanic was ever a treat. Shy Kennedy (Horehound, Blackseed Records) is Warden of the East as far as I’m concerned. Jordan and I both took notes to bring back home for DSF and FireBreather. Bless her and all those like her simply trying to help.
IMV: And speaking of touring, I’ve got to mention the Waffle House show. For our Vault Hunters that might not have picked up on the Metal Sucks article, can you talk us through this impromptu gig? What kind of response did you get from the article? Did Waffle House ever comment on it? Will we see a Lizardfish omelet on their menu anytime soon?
DS: Oh boy. We decided to stop for breakfast after leaving our hotel in Clarksville, AR. On tour? Need breakfast? Waffle House, obviously. So we get the regular “are you in a band?” questions followed by the obligatory refusal to play since their take on guitar is probably not our take on guitar. But they were oddly persistent, much attributed to Jordan egging on the wait staff to let us. He eventually talked our server into asking the manager and he nervously let us. So, I backed the trailer up, handed Dre upwards of four phones, and told him to live record this. We managed to play out a passable “Lizardfish” on skeleton gear, but the videos took off on their own. It was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Not the records, or the Sword show, or the tour itself. We received a measurable boost on Facebook and produced some fun shirts by request of all you fine breakfast fans. Waffle House made no mention of it as far as I know. We’ll probably see a cease & desist before we see any menu items. Though I might put a lobster tail on a burger and pitch it to Luke & Kuma’s. Haha.
IMV: What are your goals for Archarus in 2018? Where would you like to see the bands by the end of the year? Are you releasing any new material or any more Hobbit themed splits?
DS: We’ll be omnipresent locally as well as on the road, but for the most part, I’m going to let things come to us this year. Last year was a massive success, but it took an unbelievable amount of luck, friend favor, and luck. I’m incredibly mentally and socially fatigued, but it couldn’t come at a better time with Dre & I becoming more cohesive and getting Ty up to speed. We’re doing a lot of writing and even retooling some older songs so they fit all three of us better than was originally intended on Render. More on that later, most likely.
We would love to do more Tolkein material, but as a devout disciple, anything new we do will carry his spirit regardless. If I learned anything in 2017, any forecast of 2018 would be definitively in vain. Less fighting the river and more riding it. More music is flowing from the mountain tops and we are collecting it until we can make sense of what it is and where it’s heading. I can assure you that you will hear it live, but if you’re lucky you’ll hear it on CD in 2018, and if we’re lucky you’ll hear it on vinyl.
IMV: And speaking of The Hobbit, seeing as how you’re a big Tolkien fan, what do you think about the Amazon Lord of the Rings TV show that’s in the works? I’m planning on giving it a shot, but I’ll watch just about anything. Are you cautiously optimistic or are you going to skip it all together?
DS: Film adaptations are so tricky. LOTR is a flawless piece of cinema (all due respect Mr. Bombadil) and The Hobbit is so abhorrent that two bands wrote a concept split album in attempt just to remedy it. Hollywood can do so much damage to a film with incredible source material, and watching Game of Thrones pass the ASOIAF tomes only corroborates how vapidity increases when source material is ill defined. That being said, it still always comes down to how much spirit a story teller can capture and recount. Peter Jackson knocked LOTR out of the park, studio execs got a hold of The Hobbit and, well… I’m not sure there’s a word for what they did. My favorite track on the split is “Whispers in the Dark” simply because of how Thorr-Axe used music to capture the repetitive gloom, the incessant darkness, the neurosis of time, and the mass of evil that the aforementioned items are wont to forge. Story telling is a lost art. Can Amazon recount it? I don’t know but at the end of the day, nothing can take away that John Ronald Reuel already did.
IMV: I’ll let you have the last word. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
DS: Sail swifly.