Abracastabya's Heart of Darkness

On a scale of doom to gloom, this band is absolutely stabulous.

When Abracastabya first formed in 2004, guitarist Geoff Brent and vocalist/pianist Willow Welter never intended to perform live. Before long, though, the two realized that their collaboration had evolved, and they enlisted cellist Lauren Langley and drummer David Grimm to round out the lineup. Last year the band entered the studio with veteran engineer Bill Douglass, who's best known for his Grammy-nominated work with such artists as Smashing Pumpkins, R. Kelly, Bauhaus and Christina Aguilera during his time as an engineer at the Chicago Recording Company.

We recently caught up with Brent and Welter to discuss Knees Together Ankles Crossed, their bracing debut. The act's distinctively eclectic style nods to Helium, with layers of textured electronic and acoustic sounds, and stark yet emotionally rich lyrics delivered by Welter, whose vocals are tinged with the same type of defiant vulnerability Tori Amos displayed on Little Earthquakes.

Love at first stab: David Grimm (from left), Willow Welter, Geoff Brent and Lauren Langley.
Love at first stab: David Grimm (from left), Willow Welter, Geoff Brent and Lauren Langley.

Westword: What prompted you to take your music from your home to public stages?

Geoff Brent: After a couple of weeks, we thought, "This is really good. Maybe we need to rethink our plan."

Willow Welter: I had ideas and music in my head, but I never thought it could be turned into a band, because I thought everyone would think it was just too weird. Geoff actually liked my songs, and we were able to come up with complementary parts immediately.

Was the diversity in your music a conscious choice?

WW: In every other band I've tried to play with, I felt like most people got together and they had an idea of what they wanted to sound like — a band they admired, or a genre — and they wanted to fit in there. I could never fit inside any box. With Abracastabya, we could all just be creative and not worry about genre.

What was it like to work with Bill Douglass?

WW: He was brilliant, but also the nicest guy in the whole world.

GB: He was excited about us and told people outside our scene about our recordings, so of course we told everyone about him.

What's this I've heard about your band's name appearing in strange places?

GB: For some reason, people like to use our name for other purposes. There's a Colorado College girls' volleyball team...

WW: For some reason, people like to use our name after they hear us for their fantasy role-playing games. Apparently, we lend ourselves well to RPGs.

Your name and your song titles read a bit like surrealist poetry. Does this reflect the nature of your music?

GB: Our songs in general and the nature of Willow's lyrics are so serious, we counterbalance that with our band name and song titles. We're not really trying to bum you out; we're not depressed or goths or anything. We listen to bands other than the Cure on occasion.

WW: I try to break out and listen to Joy Division.

GB: We try to maintain a playfulness because we enjoy being alive. We're not just trying to make everyone sad all the time.

 
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