Interview: Make’s Scott Endres and Spencer Lee on “The Golden Veil” and atmospheric doom

Make
Photo Credit: Matthew Brantley

North Carolina trio Make recently dropped their second full-length, The Golden Veil. The sound’s tough to properly classify, but take a doomy core and add in some atmospherics and you get an idea of what they’re working with. With a range of EPs, full-lengths and one terrific Velvet Underground cover to their name since 2010, the band has carved a niche that they truly can call their own. I recently got the chance to ask the band about the new album, the appeal of atmospheric elements in doom metal, and a few other things that were burning in my mind. Here’s what they had to say: 

You guys have come a long way as a band, all the while staying in the same framework with each release. The Golden Veil, at least to me, has this huge feeling of expanse buried within. What was the mindset going into the album, particularly with the long break between releases?

Scott Endres (vocals/guitar): We really wanted it to come out more organically this time around. We purposefully went into the studio without anything completely written in stone, in order to help let the album write itself. I feel like we’ve always had a collective identity — albeit one that is always maturing — but this is the first time we really took our hands off the wheel and let our subconscious minds do the work. Another aspect of this mindset was “How do we make sure we’re not signing off before we’re really sure the album is done?” and the answer ended up being scheduling multiple sessions with plenty of time in-between left for contemplation and hindsight. And it ended up being the case that, with all this in mind, by the time the last scheduled session rolled around…we knew it was the final one.

The opening track “I Was Sitting Quietly, Peeling Back My Skin” really sets the tone of the album, and feels like it was done on a front porch in the midst of a rainstorm. Is that a close assumption? Also, what inspired the title?

SE: The title is just a poetic way of talking about self-contemplation — growing intellectually and digging through the mess of your mind to get to the core of what really matters and who you are on the deepest level. The sound you hear at the very beginning isn’t rain actually; it’s a tree, covered in dead leaves, in the middle of the winter, rattling in the wind. It was just this really striking image…all of these brown, curled up leaves, still attached to the tree, rattling like an instrument. It was such a remarkable scene and the ambient noise it was creating was something I wished I could bottle up and consume. I’ve always been into field recording and thankfully with our place in time we have the ability to pull out our phones and capture something like that. And you’re right, the song is basically a collage that is meant to evoke the imagery of the title…and, philosophically, it absolutely sets the stage for the rest of the album.

There are many great moments on the album, but “The Architect” hit me like YOB tends to at times — emotionally, with the long quiet build then finishing heavy. What goes into the writing process on a track such as this?

Spencer Lee (vocals/bass): Wow, with YOB being one of our collective favorites that’s a really flattering comparison! Thanks, man! We really let this song write itself, like we do with pretty much everything we write. This one in particular is a mutated form of something we initially wrote for the last show before our hiatus, opening for Junius and Caspian. When we got back together, we launched right back into writing, but this song was something we really wanted to flesh out as well. For some reason it took much longer for everything to come together with that song, but I couldn’t be happier with how it ended up.

SE: This song almost didn’t happen! It just kept stalling and we knew it was almost there but we just couldn’t figure out how to get it to 100%. We were definitely small Mario on this track for at least a year before we found the goddamn mushroom.

In listening through both the new album and your back catalog, it seems like some of your influences are worn on the cuff while others aren’t as immediately apparent. What are some of your biggest influences, and furthermore, what got you into music in the first place?

SL: Speaking personally, my biggest overall influences are probably Sunn O))), Earth, Swans, YOB, Sleep, Spacemen 3, Lungfish (thanks, Scott!) and Wolves in the Throne Room. In terms of what drew me to music: I’ve been obsessed with it since I was an infant. I’ve always had an innate drive to completely immerse myself in music. I guess what made me start thinking about playing more seriously was getting into punk rock as a teenager. It presented an avenue for me to treat music as my lifestyle, even though I was (and still am, in many ways) FAR from being a “professional” musician.

SE: My personal biggest influences are Lungfish, Godflesh, Spacemen 3, The Verve and Neu! just to name a very small few. So far there’s only been one review that got close to getting at the heart of our influences and it was still a bit of a head-scratcher at that. Most of the time it’s a list of bands I’ve either never heard of or just don’t really identify with. Ha! And if anything got me into music that wasn’t some innate and unexplainable phenomenon; it was my father. He’s always been a superfan with a vast record collection. I’ve also been playing music since 3rd grade so getting into rock n’ roll seemed pretty natural.

Doom, as with any other genre, has seen many branches outward over the years. More recently, the atmospheric tag has been scratching its way to the surface more and more. Why do you think it’s starting to resonating with more and more listeners?

SL: Well, there are a number of reasons that come to mind. I guess the first one is that it’s more accessible than a lot of doom metal is. I think a lot of people coming from outside of the metal world have a much easier time identifying with a focus on atmosphere that incorporates riffs than identifying with the riff as a central part of the music, like so much doom metal does. I also think that atmospheric music, when done well, incorporates melody, dynamics, and composition more than a lot of other doom subgenres do, and those are reference points that are far more universal in music than tone and riff worship. That’s not by any means to say that I think atmospheric doom is necessarily better than any other subtype — I am a huge doom fan — but I think those things make the appeal more universal.

SE: I’d love to think, also, that we created something a little different here. Maybe it’s just off a little bit in every direction from what was expected from us that it’s hitting home simply from that angle? Who knows, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Make
Photo Credit: Matthew Brantley

North Carolina has always been a hotbed for all sorts of music, and metal is no exception. I’ve visited many times over the years and have always noticed that locals are extremely supportive of their local scenes. How is the scene in your hometown of Chapel Hill? Have you seen huge support locally?

SL: That’s a huge yes and no for us. This scene is absolutely rabid about the bands and record labels that make their homes here, and I admire that quite a bit. There have been a number of people who have provided immeasurable help and resources to us in all kinds of ways, and we really can’t thank them enough.

SE: That said, this doesn’t always necessary apply to every band, and sometimes it can feel a little bit like you’re just floating in space waving your arms to no effect.

Drummer Matt Stevenson is credited on The Golden Veil, but has since left the band. I’ve yet to get the chance to see you guys live, so I have to ask: how has it been with new drummer Luke Herbst?

SE: Matt was a good horse.

SL: As sad as it was to see Matt go, we’re absolutely stoked to have Luke on board. He’s been doing a really killer job, both live and with the writing we’ve been doing again over the last month or so. Plus, Scott and I are playing with Matt in another project now, so we still get our Matt fix.

I came across your reimagining of the Velvet Underground classic “Venus in Furs,” which took me by surprise. The song has always had a creepy vibe to it and your version, while being heavily doom influenced, keeps that vibe fully intact. What made you decide to cover this particular track?

SL: Thanks a ton, man! We hold The Velvet Underground in extremely high regard so even being able to keep that atmosphere is really an honor. That track came from some extra time we had in the studio during the Trephine sessions, trying to think of something extra we could do. I’d had a doomy version of this song stuck in my head for some time. I think I just woke up thinking about it one day and really wanted to make it happen somehow. Right then we just happened to have the perfect opportunity, so we figured we’d have some fun with it.

Can you fill us in on Make’s immediate plans for the future? I know the new album was just released and this is extremely premature, but any ideas floating around for the next album?

SE: Nothing concrete yet, but we’ve already begun writing for it!

SL: Yeah. The way we write, that basically means we’ve been recording jam sessions to see what we can glean from them, but in the last month-ish of doing that, we’ve gotten some foundations down that feel really exciting to us. We’re hoping to be back in the studio by the end of the year. As far as other immediate plans, we’ll be playing a few shows coming up, but our primary focus is writing new material.

Many thanks to Scott and Spencer for their time.


The Golden Veil is available now via Bandcamp. For more information on Make, visit the band’s Facebook page.

 

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