Proving yet again that point of origin should never be an issue Lancaster, England’s Wytch Hazel defy any category typically associated with like-minded acts from the U.K.. Whether you’re a fan of the 70’s rock resurgence, NWOBHM fare or just like well-orchestrated rock and roll, this able group deliver and then some. Fueled by a reverence for the best moments of such disparate acts as Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple and even Jethro Tull, this is one act with an ability to deliver heady folk rock fare without sounding dated nor derivative. From well-placed guitar leads to a rock-solid rhythm section, these lads are wholly deserving of the next Opeth, Ian Anderson or Steve Hackett (former guitarist for Genesis) solo tour. Metal Insider caught up with singer/guitarist Colin Hendra and smoked a virtual fat one learning about a trio who everyone needs to hear.
You’re now signed to Bad Omen records. How did that come about?
One of our first gigs was in a venue called The Old Blue Last in London. I seem to remember Pagan Altar were meant to be headlining and it was a birthday show for our friend Dave. Will Palmer (of Bad Omen Records and formerly of Rise Above) was in attendance, plus Ed Turner (formerly of PURSON, who ended up producing the album) was there too. The story goes: Ed said to Will “so when are going to sign them then?” (talking about Wytch Hazel) “I’ll do the album.” This was back in 2011, not long after starting the band, so it took us about three years to get to a place where we had enough songs/song ideas for an album and where we were ready to sign when asked by Will in 2014. We were originally asked to sign to a label in 2012, but I wasn’t ready to commit to a label that early on as I felt we had only just begun! It turns out it was the right decision and everything happened at the right time for us as a band. We’re more established now and our songs are tighter. Plus, Bad Omen as a label is totally our vibe.
You have a brand new album available on 4/22. How long did it take to write the material?
I was thinking about the album about three years ago and had started work on most of the songs that ended up on the record too. Some songs can take a couple of days and not change much at all, but some songs hang around for years and take a long time to finish. There’s always the idea that you can never really ‘finish’ a song. I’ve reinvented the song “Surrender” a lot; I really enjoy playing a piano version of it actually.
How do you think the new record came out? Anything you would have done different in studio? Any unreleased takes that will be available as bonus tracks or b-sides?
I’m really happy with the record, it sounds far superior to anything I could have recorded – very hi-fi for us! I think the album sounds coherent, yet varied and I’m really happy it turned out that way as this was a goal for the album. We re-recorded “Surrender” as a bonus track, so we’ll have to wait and see if that ends up on a particular release.
What about your other band members. What are they like?
Neil Corkery (bass) is definitely a free spirit: I wouldn’t describe him as a ‘planner’ which is good as I think it makes life more spontaneous! He just goes with the flow (and is) very laid back and fun. Jack Spencer (drums) is a fun guy and an odd ball but we all love him! He’s also a talented multi-instrumentalist. If I were to describe myself I’d say I’m probably a bit more serious, fairly laid back (but not as much as Neil) though a bit of an obsessive personality maybe! As a whole, we’re just a chilled bunch of lads who are passionate about music.
Your influences scream classic rock bands of yore. Was that intentional or more in tribute to those acts?
I suppose the goal is hard rock and to generally ‘go for’ hard rock,’ but I don’t want to be limited to that either. I think your music is a sum of what you listen to unless you try and go down a specific path. For example, you might write for film or pop music or write a song in the style of AC/DC. I like to do things my own way, so on the whole, I try not to sit down and write in the style of anything else. My songs regularly don’t end up as Wytch Hazel songs in the end anyway. I might use them as solo acoustic folk songs or instrumental piano music.
Are you still playing songs from previous records EP, split, and compilations live? Any you particularly love or hate?
We haven’t played a couple of tracks from our debut EP for a long time now and I’m missing them so we’re going to bring them out again soon. We do, however, play the songs “Wytch Hazel” and “Surrender” off our first demo plus “Fight” (off the EP) which ended up on the album, so we play that too. I enjoy playing all of our songs, surprisingly though I find “Surrender” one of the most difficult songs to play and sing at the same time – I have to concentrate!
Are you familiar with the fabulous Beardfish who sound much like early Genesis? They would be right up your alley. As would early prog years of Kansas.
Holy cow! Why have I not heard this band before? I’ve just checked them out and they’re great. I hear a bit of Jethro Tull influence in there too. I’m a fan now yes! Kansas are really great. I saw them at Sweden Rock one year and they were amazing.
What are the band’s plans for 2016 / 2017? Full US tour? Full UK tour?
We’ve got a handful of UK gigs so far and plenty unconfirmed, including European dates. We plan to play as much as we can and it’s always cool to go to places we’ve never been before. We just went to Glasgow which I’ve never visited, so that was really great. We’re also working on new material and bringing out some old songs too, so it’s a pretty exciting time for us as a band.
Prelude will be released tomorrow on Bad Omen Records. It can be preordered here.