Interview With Pallbearer Bassist Joseph Rowland

Interview by Avinash Mittur

Little Rock, AR based doom metal quarter Pallbearer started out in 2008, and their debut full-length album ‘Sorrow And Extinction’ was released in early 2012. It garnered appreciation from fans of the genre, and Pallbearer started doing short tours on a more regular basis, playing headline shows as well as support runs. They were included in the Scion A/V Profound Lore showcase, and subsequently Scion also released the Pallbearer Live EP recently. Right now, the band is on a North American tour with Enslaved, Royal Thunder and Ancient VVisdom, and this tour made a stop at the Troubadour in Los Angeles last Friday February 8th 2013. Our man Avinash Mittur was there, and caught up with bassist Joseph Rowland for a chat. Read it below, check out his review of the gig, watch a Pallbearer YouTube clip, and visit the band online using the links at the bottom.

To get started, this Winter Rite tour is Pallbearer’s biggest tour yet from what I understand.

Yeah, from what I noticed it’s only marginally bigger than the tour we did with Royal Thunder last year. Definitely bigger clubs- it seems like the turnouts are bigger by about fifty or sixty more people. It’s definitely the biggest tour we’ve done so far.

I read in an interview you did with The Obelisk where you said that some members of Pallbearer had college and family commitments that prevented the band from touring. Is that still the case?

That’s not applicable anymore. Pretty much our biggest obstacle when it came to touring was our former drummer Chuck [Schaaf] who left the band. We have a new drummer and he’s been in the band for almost eight months now. We’re able to tour a lot more now.

I’m sorry to repeat The Obelisk‘s question here, but do you see Pallbearer becoming a full time touring band now?

We’re never gonna be doing three month grinds you know? We’ll do something like two or three week runs a few times a year and do festivals. We’ve got two sets of European dates coming up- we’re doing a European tour around Roadburn in April and doing another European tour around Hellfest. So yeah, we’re going to be halfway working musicians I guess.

Moving off the topic of touring really quick, before Sorrow and Extinction was released there was a huge amount of hype thanks to the demo you guys released. Did that cause any pressure on you guys at all when you went in to record the album?

Not really. We weren’t really looking to accomplish anything other than make something with lasting value for ourselves and that other people may be interested in. We never really figured that there would be a lot of interest in it.

How did you all feel about the reaction to the album’s release? It made the top of a ton of year-end lists from 2012.

Yeah, it was pretty surprising I guess.

So has work started on the second album?

We’re in the midst of writing for the second album now. We’re not too sure when we’ll move forward with the production process just yet, but hopefully we’ll see something by the end of this year.

I read somewhere that Billy Anderson might be involved, is that true?

Yeah! Unless something changes between now and then, we’re definitely planning on working with him.

You guys are signed with Profound Lore, a label known for having a ton of unique metal acts. Were you a fan of any of those acts in particular before signing to the label?

Oh yeah dude, Asunder! They’re one of my favorite bands ever. I’m a huge fan of YOB. I know Brett and Devin are huge Agalloch fans. I like Agalloch, but I don’t know if I’d consider myself a follower of the band or anything. I know that even before I met Brett years ago, he was interested in Agalloch- he’s a lot more dedicated to those guys than I am!

Unlike many doom metal bands, Pallbearer has two guitarists. As the bass player, does that make it difficult for you to write parts that allow your playing to be picked out live or on record?

No, actually the majority of the material is written by either me or Brett. I usually write the leads and let Brett augment them. I’m not a terrific lead player, but I’m capable enough to demo them out and show them to everyone else.

So what is the writing process like for you exactly? How do you go from nothing to a ten minute long song?

Length-wise, that just happens to be the way we write. We write until we feel that everything that needs to be encapsulated is encapsulated, and that usually results in the song being ten minutes long. Writing-wise, it kind of consists of Brett working on his own and myself working on my own- a lot of times I’ll just turn on GarageBand and play. I’ll start working on riffs and then start putting a full piece together. Once I’ve got it worked out to a certain point, I usually present it to the band and then we start working on it as a group.

Though you guys a doom metal band, your music is actually pretty uplifting in a way.

Yeah, our music is meant to be reflective of life’s peaks and valleys. It’s not always gonna be super downtrodden. There’s always going to be some high points in life.

That’s what I like about Pallbearer, the songs represent the full spectrum of emotions unlike some of the older doom bands that were downcast all the time.

Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. We’re not completely downcast.

To finish things off, Pallbearer are from Little Rock, AR- did your location make it difficult at all for the band when you were starting out?

No man, I try to bring this to light as much as I can, Little Rock has a really killer underground metal scene. I’m sure you’re familiar with Rwake on Relapse, other bands like Deadbird on Earache- there’s definitely a legacy of awesome forward thinking bands from Little Rock.