It’s not Metal, but it’s Heavy. An interview with BlackWater HolyLight’s Sunny

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Back in October of 2017, I was covering LOSE YR MIND fest when I discovered BlackWater HolyLight. It sounded as if Ty Segall and Black Sabbath had a baby, a really pretty, well dressed, shredding baby. Fast forward a few months and I’m sitting at the bar at Creepy’s and low and behold the front women (Allison Faris, better known as Sunny) from BlackWater HolyLight is bartending. We bonded over our love of the band Wand, my obsession with Mikal Cronin, the fact that we’ve both been mansplained to and our collective love of the Portland music scene. I sat down with Sunny and discussed the making of BlackWater HolyLight’s new, self titled album and what it’s like to be in such a male dominated genre.

Rose Blanton: I know you were in Grandparents before, and now you’re in an all girl metal band. Can you share what it’s like being an all girl band that’s in a heavily male dominated genre

Sunny (Allison Faris): I know our music is heavy and going into it I wanted it to be metal but I didn’t really know how to do that and I now know the term metal needs to be used delicately because metalheads are sensitive to that. I think that our music is heavy and I would love to bring it in the direction of metal but it’s more heavy psych.

RB: Do you think men in the metal and psych arena find you and your band threatening?

S: Metal is a challenging genre to be apart of and it’s hard to listen to sometimes. You have to have a really specific place in your heart for it. I can’t speak for everyone but in my experience metalheads are sensitive about it because they’ve committed so much of their time diving into and understanding the genre and their catalog is large. I just think that if anything they don’t want people in the genre who don’t deserve it, it’s simultaneously bullshit, but I also understand. It’s also more than music, it’s a lifestyle and and an emotion and they are committed to it. It’s a really beautiful genre, I think. It’s super mathy and delicate. In terms of differences of being a woman in an all male band and a woman in all girl band it’s completely different. It’s light years apart. It wasn’t until we were really rolling that I saw it.

RB: Do you feel like working with women is a more collaborative, inclusive atmosphere?

S: Oh my god yeah, absolutely! It’s vastly different but I don’t claim to speak for everyone

RB: So with this new album your sound is so strong and powerful and I love seeing more and more women in the heavier genres. When I saw at Lose Yr Mind, I lost it. I’ve been wanting heavier female fronted bands

S: That’s so great to hear, thank you. You know, even though it’s 2018 and we are seeing more than ever women coming together and supporting each other, there’s still women who don’t support each other. I like being in this genre and still having the ability of being feminine in this band, I’ll wear beautiful, flowing dresses. I try and do my best to be supportive of the art that females are doing. If it feels good to you, do it. I might not have a personal taste for what you’re doing but it’s so vulnerable, so more power to them!

RB: What’s the creative process like for BlackWater HolyLight?

S:  This is how it works for the most part: I write the songs on bass or guitar. So I’ll have the bassline and vocal parts and I’ll show it to the girls and then they get to create their own parts and after we jam it for a while, suggestions and collaborations start flowing. I like to say I plant the seed but we all water it and make it what it is together. We end up teaching each other and learning together.

RB: How did the band form?

S: I worked with Sarah (Mckenna) at Bunk Bar and we talked a lot about music. And then Cat (Catherine Hoch) and Laura (Hopkins) I met years ago and knew they were musicians. I had this idea for a band and I knew that the girls would be good picks so I just sent them a text one day sharing my ideas for the bands and asked them if they wanted to get together. In the beginning, it was just me, Cat and Laura but eventually Sarah came in. It was really slow at first but we eventually realized we all really liked it. It was a long time before we booked our own show. We sold out that first one though, it was at the Liquor Store.

RB: How did you personally first get into music?

S: When I first moved here, I was singing for this dude in my dorm who had this little project and of my old bandmates were recording it and then I moved out of the dorms and started living with the dudes from Grandparents and they asked me to sing some songs with them. I was singing and playing tambourine with them and then the bass player quit and they kind of just handed me the bass and were like “oh we’ll teach you how to play.” This all happened back in 2012.I can’t remember the exact timeline. I was really afraid at first and it was a slow start. It took me a while and it wasn’t until Grandparents broke up that I was really determined.

RB: BlackWater HolyLight is signed to Ridingeasy records, how did that happen?

S: We had recorded a 4 song EP in the summer of 2016. So while we were still forming as a band, the guy who recorded us, Cameron (Spies) he asked us if he could shop it around. I had discovered Ridingeasy due to listening to Monolord. So I mentioned Ridingeasy and thought “might as well try.” So I said, send it to them and he shot it over and the next day I was on the phone with Daniel Haul and they signed us a few weeks later. They told us though, they don’t do EPs and that we had to write a record so I was just like, OK.It was crazy, and fantastic, and a blur. I feel super fortunate.

RB: What you are doing is such a breath of fresh air, it’s so great that he saw that and decided to give you a chance

S: My intention was just to be heavy and honest and reflect how crazy that last few years of my life had been. Now that the whole process of the first album is over and I’ve listened to it a 1000 times I have such a clear vision of where I want to go with the second one. It really took making the first one to know what heavy felt like to me, what I wanted to sound like and where I wanted to go. It took some threading for me to know that I have a much clearer vision and I’m really excited. I want it to be way heavier and I know how to do that know. I want to keep recording and release another album as soon as we can.

 

RB: What’s your view or opinion of the Portland music scene?

S: I think Portland music scene is an extremely special and unique thing. Most cities have separation of genres. In most cities, it’s impossible to have everyone in the music scene enjoy music collectively. The community I have been apart of has been really supportive and given off family vibes. Everyone helps each other and does art for each other. I think it’s as diverse as you make it to be. You can be apart of a big or small community. My experience has been inviting and supportive. I don’t think it’s really like this in every city. I feel like I can say I have 200 friends and I want the best for all of them. I even want my closest enemy to succeed and to take their art as far as they can take it.

BlackWater HolyLight’s new self titled album comes out April 12th. You can catch them life at their release party on 4/12 at Mississippi Studios.