Seeing as how the inaugural Crushing Sound festival is about a month away (get your tickets here), we thought now would be an excellent opportunity to acquaint you with some of the bands playing the fest – starting with St. Louis depressive doom metal outfit Kodiac.
The duo made up of Alex Bredall on Guitar and Matthew Washausen on vocals, have released two EPs and an album since 2015. While early releases were more rooted in raw sludge, their latest EP, Formless and Void is made up of two massive tracks of atmospheric doom making them a standout act in the doom/stoner scene. We got the chance to chat with the guys about how they got their start and what the future holds for the Midwest pair. Scroll down and give it a read.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, thanks for agreeing to chat. To start things off can you tell us how you guys got together? Were you in other bands prior to Kodiac? And it’s just two of you in the band, right? Why is that?
Matt Washausen: It’s really funny, but Alex and I have known each other since Kindergarten. We always have gone to all the same schools up until college. Our families also went to the same church a good chunk of our lives. We started our first band Days Made Visible at the end of our Freshmen year in high school and have been best friends ever since. Alex left the band after several years, and I stuck around shortly after until the band dissolved. We were kids, and the band went nowhere, but it was our first attempt at a band.
Throughout this band and into Kodiac, we always had trouble finding committed members to perform with us. We’ve had and recorded with people, but the genre of music we play isn’t incredibly popular at all within St. Louis. After playing with people and then searching for members for months, we realized that if we wanted to play shows again as Kodiac, we had to find a way to make it work with just the two of us. There’s been a lot of trial and error since then, but I think within this past year we’ve finally gotten things down with how we want to sound and be seen live.
IMV: Alex plays guitars, drums, and bass on your releases. What his instrument of choice and which did he pick up and learn first?
Alex Dickmann: I’ve actually only tracked guitar and bass on our releases. Up until this point, I’ve only written the drums parts, while our patient engineer and I work together to remap MIDI tracks from EZDrummer into a more robust drum sampling application. I hardly even play drums, but I suppose I know enough to write them. We’re pushing hard to switch to live drums on our next release, but it’s equally as dependent on the many other variables left to determine before the studio.
As far my interests go, I’m definitely more into guitar, but mainly because I grew up playing guitar off and on since I was 14 and guitar gear was far more available to me. I love playing a thick fuzzy bass tone, but ultimately, I prefer the flexibility guitar offers – I can play nasty chords and also super clean atmospheric stuff.
IMV: How does being a duo with one person playing all the instruments affect your songwriting process? Does Alex bring fully formed songs to Matt, and then Matt works on the lyrics, or is it more collaborative?
AD: Given the fact that Matt doesn’t play an instrument, everything we’ve released has been minimally collaborative, unfortunately. I write all the music, but I’ll send Matt updates periodically, asking for suggestions. Matt will write all our lyrics while I begin to demo, and as I send him updates, I’ll suggest which passages should be vocal or instrumental. Phrasing vocals is our only true collaborative effort in writing, and arguably the most enjoyable. Matt will give me detailed updates to lyrics along the way, but we usually end up reworking those into a different part or song than intended.
IMV: Going back to 80 Years without Slumber, Kodiac’s sound was raw and abrasive, but subsequent releases have introduced more melody and atmospheric elements to your music. Was the change in sound intentional or more of a natural evolution? I know interviewers always ask the influence question but have there been any notable influences that impacted your music since Kodiac formed?
AD: Our change in sound has been a natural evolution for sure. 80 Years was influenced by bands like Cult Leader/Gaza, Code Orange Kids, and Seeker, while anything new draws influence from bands like Cult of Luna, Amenra, Sannhet, and Jakob. I can’t say what caused the change but would guess that we simply grew out of playing angry music all the time. Now it’s like 10% anger 90% depression, and new material will certainly continue this trend – it’s more cathartic than ever before. It’s all dark and somber, just more focused – less doom, more melody, and post-metal ambient goodness. Just know that when the emotional parts hit, they’ll hit hard.
IMV: There was a two-year gap between Being and Nothingness and Formless and Void. Why did it take so long between releases to put out new material and are there any plans to release new music this year?
AD: Most of our two-year gap before the release of Formless and Void was a result of the trial and error involved in refining our set without our drummer or bassist. There was some time spent trying out new members, but we were unable to find anyone interested enough, so we decided to push Kodiac as a live band before we either converted to a studio project or tried our hand at members again.
This meant finding a way for Matt to keep active on stage. At first, this meant using a floor tom accent, then a ride, then we traded the tom for a sampler, which opened the door to MIDI control of our DAW, lights, and fog. This also meant creating a full monitor mix for us, learning lighting and programming our set via DAW automation, building lightboxes, trying (and failing) projectors, figuring out which parts I should play, which pedal combos are possible, and building our stems and routing them the way we like them.
In general, I think we were confused and overwhelmed by our newfound musical freedom, and we needed some time to wade through the many thoughts and ideas we were having. Writing will always be slow with two people, but as we continue to refine our live performance, we grow more efficient and can get to writing sooner after each release. A lot of the time after recording will now be spent organizing/routing stems and programming lights so people will have to wait until well after our next release to see if perform it live.
Not that we’ve totally ruled out finding members, but given our history of members, the chances of us finding three interested members as dedicated and as close and musically aligned as Matt and I is slim to none. We figured we would get more shows, material, and exposure behind us and revisit the idea down the line. We’ve spent so much time perfecting the two of us; we’re apprehensive about stopping and starting over so early.
IMV: What’s the scene like in St. Louis? What are some popular venues that play metal music, and what are some underground bands from the St. Louis scene that you feel could use some recognition?
MW: St. Louis is a city where the metal bands that have made a name for themselves stand out as leaders to the rest of the local music scene. The scene here is always changing, and there are a few select bands that stand out as being well established in our genre. Some of these bands include Fister, The Lion’s Daughter, Coffin Fit, Path of Might, Chalked Up, and Slow Damage. Some of the most popular venues where metal can be found include The Sinkhole, Fubar, and on occasion The Ready Room and Foam. All great spots to get your metal fix in St. Louis.
IMV: You guys are playing the Crushing Sound festival coming up in September. How did you get hooked up with the fest, and what can attendees expect from your performance?
MW: So yes, we are very excited and proud to be playing Crushing Sound this fall. As a band, we made it our goal in the previous year to finally be a part of a great festival, and this one is that. We got hooked up with the fest through Ty Winslow from local Indy band Battersea. We played with them around a year ago at State Street Pub and loved what they were doing, their sound, and them as people. Ty contacted us about playing the fest, and we were immediately thrilled to be a part of it. Big shout out to Battersea for everything.
I think attendees can expect to see a performance unlike any other (yes, we know all bands say this) but since it is just the two of us we have done our best to still showcase our experience through lights, fog, and engaging performance. We don’t have a drummer, so I use a sample pad and a ride cymbal on my end. We do our best to still sound like a full band as just the two of us. We try to make it a work of contemporary art that entices the viewer/listener to zone out and let the sound take over while providing the visuals to back it up.
IMV: I’ll let you have the last word. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MW: It’s been an incredible past few years when it comes to the momentum and drive, we have behind working on Kodiac as more than a passion project. We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make things work live with the two of us and giving our listeners the best live experience possible, and we’re trying super hard to get out on the road as much as possible in the next year or two. Fortunately, as a two-piece, a minivan is all we need to travel.
Finally, know that If you or your band are struggling to find members, it is possible to make anything work if you put the effort in. Don’t let other people be the reason you slow down on your drive with music. We are currently working on a full-length album and hope that it opens doors to new listeners and makes our veteran listeners proud. This will be our biggest and most important release to date. We released our two-song EP Formless and Void just a year ago but it being two songs was meant to be more of a teaser of what you can expect on the full length. We have a lot of exciting things planned, and this material is currently our magnum-opus for sure. If you like what you hear, then this is only the beginning.