It has been a while since Mastodon have updated fans on the progress of their upcoming new album. That changed Tuesday (26) when guitarist Bill Kelliher appeared on the latest episode of the RocknRoll Beer Guy podcast, where, among other points of conversation, he talked about the recording process for the album, as well as exciting news about a new song the band is working on for the upcoming Bill & Ted film.
“We were kind of right in the middle of it [writing a new album] and we had about, I don’t know, 20 rough songs recorded right before this [the COVID-19 pandemic] hit. And it just totally put the brakes on it…,” Kelliher told the show (as transcribed by The PRP).
After the minor snag, Kelliher says the group is ready to start up again this week.
“I’m actually leaving tomorrow for Atlanta, we’re gonna get back together and have our first kinda… try to get back into finishing a few things that we started and seeing where we get.”
Kelliher got into what the writing process has been like for the album as well, telling the podcast that the themes of the songs are “all relative to who’s writing.” He then compares it to their 2017 album, Emperor Of Sand, saying:
“With “Emperor Of Sand“—my mom was really sick with brain cancer and tragically passed away from that right when I was in the heart of writing that. And I was getting a lot of my demons and riffs out for that record in particular. I really helped write that a lot. And with this new record, it’s kind of the same.”
“I’ve definitely been writing like a madman, like crazy. It’s different than “Emperor Of Sand“, but it’s definitely a vibe going on. I don’t know how to describe it.”
He continued on talking about the rest of the band’s contributions and the sound the album has been taking on:
“The new record, the stuff I’ve written is not quite as notey as that [“Emperor Of Sand“]. It’s definitely got a more like Neurosis heaviness. Like simplified guitar parts and Brann has been doing a lot of… He also demos most of the vocal ideas because he always has melodies and stuff like that and he’s been singing on a lot of it—at least for the demo purposes.”
“The vocals are kind of like an “Asleep In The Deep” style, kind of Radiohead-ish almost, real melodic. Just a lot of vocal harmonies. When I think back about it, even though we’ve got like 20-25 songs, we still don’t have all of Brent‘s songs in there yet. And there’s still a lot of time for that stuff to change and to morph into other stuff.”
“There’s a couple of old riffs—cause I’m constantly writing… I may write a hundred riffs a week but only one of them is any good… I wrote some stuff years ago that I sent to Troy and he took it upon himself to throw down some vocals on it and spun it back to me the other day and I was very surprised. It was a pleasant surprise. I was like wow man, this sounds really eerie. Like really dark and eerie and cool. Like I never expected [him] to do anything with it…”
“So Troy‘s trying to be more involved. Everybody has their place, their part in the band. I don’t know, every record is just a little bit different on how it gets written or who writes the majority or whose songs make it on the record or what not.”
Mastodon have been working on new music since at least 2018, though the band has been “sifting through ideas” in earnest since November. It will be the band’s eighth studio effort, following Emperor Of Sand and EP Cold Dark Place, also released in 2017.
Further along in the interview, Kelliher reveals that the band has been working on a song for the upcoming Bill & Ted film. “We got asked, like a couple months ago, to be a part of the new ‘Bill & Ted‘ movie, to put a song in there. So we wrote a song to be in that movie which we’re kinda of wrapping up now. It’s pretty fun.” The song will be featured in the film briefly, as Kelliher also says that there were some creative differences between the band and the director’s visions.
The full interview, in which Kelliher also talks about his political opinions regarding the president, the recession and COVID-19, can be heard below: