It’s unfair to define Christian Mistress as a NWOFHM-revival band. While you can certainly hear their influences in the music, the Olympia, WA group’s mixture of classic and modern heavy rock is a refreshing change from what’s being released in today’s active rock scene. Christian Mistress first gained critical acclaim with 2010’s Agony & Opium. And on February 28, they’re guaranteed to blow away fans and critics alike even further with Possession, their sophomore album and first via Relapse Records.
With buzz already building around the album, drummer Reuben Storey took a moment to talk with Metal Insider. During our chat, he discussed the limitations of being defined by any genre label, the band’s relationship with Relapse Records, and why they make an effort to stay away from social media.
Christian Mistress’ sound has been highly noted for its strong New Wave Of British Heavy Metal influence. While it’s certainly a great compliment to be compared to such classic bands, do you feel that such a comparison can also be limiting?
Yeah, I mean it’s a little weird going to a show and seeing the flyer saying “Christan Mistress: Female Fronted New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.” It’s like “Hey, hold on a second!” First off, we’re an American band, and that era was 79-82! [laughs]
Then you guys look great for your age then [laughs].
Oh yeah, I know right?! [laughs] But yeah, it’s kind of annoying because we all consider ourselves as a very modern band. We feel like we’re making viable new music. We’re just a band playing rock tunes! [laughs] Everyone’s like, no matter what kind of argument we make, you’re a product of your influence and experience. And while some of our influence definitely comes from bands like Diamond Head or Angel Witch, though not being our sole influences, it’s also our experience that influences the music and the tunes. So yeah, putting a label like New Wave Of British Heavy Metal on it is only speaking of like 10% of what’s actually going on.
Well then what are some musical influences that might surprise Christian Mistress fans?
ZZ Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Danzig. Just rock music from the late 60s to now. [laughs]But we definitely consider ourselves an American rock band who’s into heavy metal. [laughs]
The band’s sophomore album Possession is also your first album via Relapse Records. What were some of the deciding factors toward signing with Relapse?
Well, we knew that they had larger distribution than 20 Buck Spin, who we were working with before. The goal was to play in Europe, and since Relapse has a European office, it’s like “ok, cool!” [laughs] Also, we wanted to record with a higher budget than before, and Relapse afforded us the opportunity to do all of those things. So it seemed like a natural choice for us to go with them. And for me personally, I discovered a lot of music through them when I was just formulating my tastes or whatever. Bands like Exit-13 and Deceased are still to this day my favorites, and they were heavy parts of the early Relapse roster. So the logo is very familiar. [laughs]
You mention about Relapse providing a bigger budget for recording, but were you ever afraid that signing with a larger label might force the band to sacrifice the stripped down production that’s helped make the band so highly acclaimed?
Well their level of involvement, as far as choosing a studio or anything, is not very high. [laughs] We still have control over where we were going to record and when we were recording how it was going to sound. So that didn’t really bring any concern or anything because in the end we still have control over how the record sounds.
I’m sure you probably get dozens of questions regarding frontwoman Christine Davis and “women in rock.” Lately, though, there’s been an outpour of newer “occult” metal bands with female vocalists like The Devil’s Blood and Blood Ceremony. Do you think that the band has been lumped into this new sub-genre of sorts, or do you feel that your sound separates you from the pack?
I mean, we don’t really deal too much with the “occult” leanings at all. So that separates us. And it’s not like we’re a manufactured band, it’s not like “Ok, this band needs a female voice.” We were just looking for a good voice, and Christine was a good friend. So we were like “Hey! Good voice, good friend! Let’s make music together!” Our choices as far as players and who we make music with has no regards to gender or sex. We’re just interested in making good music. And as far as being lumped in with other bands with formations, I guess everyone’s just got to be able to “define” something these days, like put three extra words onto a genre to make it make sense or whatever. That’s just how the modern climate is, and it’s just how it goes.
So I don’t let it bug me too much, but it is kind of a drag for sure. Like why can’t we just be a band? It’s funny, reading reviews sometimes, definitely of our last record [2010’s Agony & Opium], with all of these words about a “female fronted doom band.” And it’s like “Whoa man! What does that even mean?! All of our songs on that record are pretty fast!” [laughs] So it’s like “Oh, I guess these people didn’t even listen to it at all!” Well, that’s just how it goes. I try not to let any of it get under my skin or anything.
I’ve read in previous interviews with your band mates how reluctant you are to even have a website. Still to this day, Christian Mistress has a very limited online presence. With so many bands (both up and coming and elder groups) relying so heavily on the internet and social media for promotion, have you found it difficult to promote the band without a strong Web 2.0 presence?
No, not really. It hasn’t really affected us personally. I mean, when we first put out the demo cassette, it sold 300 copies just through the mail, and that was definitely using the internet still, but just not, internet message boards and stuff like that. We didn’t even have any tunes up [streaming online] or anything. We just put an ad with a photograph of the demo, and just with that alone we managed to sell a bunch. There seems to be so many different ways to be able to sell music, and it seems like everyone’s automatically, when you’re getting a band going, goes “Ok, we got to have these websites or whatever.” And it’s so unnecessary! Bands have been making music for so many years that haven’t had the internet tools. So if anybody else could’ve done it 15 years ago, then we could do it the same way. It hasn’t changed that much.
I just never wanted this band have an internet trading card or something like that on a Facebook/MySpace type thing. Like “Ok, seek out the stats!” [laughs]. I don’t want statistics and somebody to just be able to pick up our “card” and say that they’re a fan. I want people to listen to the music, read the lyrics, and dive into the experience, not just listen to a track on some streaming player with weird commercial buttons and thumbnails of corporate advertisements. That has nothing to do with us. [laughs]
That’s cool that you’re able to keep that stance intact, and it also kind of adds to the band’s “mystique”.
Oh yeah, totally. Which is cool, that’s not very intentional, but if it helps sell a couple of more records then sure I’ll take it. [laughs]
What does the band have coming up? The album comes out on February 28, any touring?
Yeah, we’re doing a couple of dates in the Northwest in February with Black Breath and Green & Wood. And we’re doing a record release show on March 2 in our hometown [Olympia, WA]. It’s with a local art magazine publication which will have a Christian Mistress poster in it. We’re playing a release party for that, which will also be our record release party, and we’re the only band playing. I think there’s going to be a DJ there or something. I’m really excited about that because we get to control entire aesthetic of the show and just play a really long set. And March right now is a little up in the air, and then in April we’re going to Europe where we’ll be playing the Roadburn Festival. We’re really stoked because this year Voivod is also playing, and they’ll be playing Dimension Hatröss. Giving me the chance to be a total fan boy for a second. [laughs]
Speaking of being a fan boy, is there anyone you’d love to tour with? Maybe a “dream come true” type of tour you’d love to be on?
You know, it’s cool because a couple of bands that we’ve really wanted to tour with, we have done short little engagements with. Like Slough Feg and Hammers Of Misfortune, we’ve done little Northwest stuff with them. I think the plan right now is to do a week of dates with Hammers Of Misfortune in Europe. So that will be really cool. Other than that, nothing’s coming to mind right now, but I’m sure there’s a huge list of bands that I would love to tour with. I don’t know, I like playing shows with bands we get along with. We also went on a tour with Thrones [bassist Joe Preston’s solo group], and we’ve been good friends for a really long time. That was really cool, I love touring with him. Yeah [laughs]. We’d love to do a tour with Ghost. Opus Eponymous was so cool.
Well, I bet once you get off the phone you’ll end up thinking of more bands you’d like to tour with and will be saying “Oh Crap, That Band!”
Oh yeah, of course [Laughs].