Local metal underlords HABITS’ music is best described by lead vocalist Joe Talbot’s credo for the band: “This is music for losers. Bang your worthless heads.” Listening to their new album Wolf Island, it’s almost impossible not to. From the very beginning, the album takes the listener to a world that is terrifying, hopeless, and a little too close to home. If you’re not ready for the ride, strap in and put your diapers on. It’s going to get rough.
HABITS music is hard to pin down to one genre, which is appreciated. Each song soars from grindcore, to sludge, to death metal, never stagnating long enough for the listener to compare it to anything else. Wolf Island’s opening track, “If These Walls Could Talk, There Would be Hell to Pay,” highlights drummer Logan McDonald’s abilities to go from bone clattering blast beats to sludgy stoner rhythms, never losing cohesion within the span of a two-minute song. Talbot’s gravelly vocal screams go from guttural to nearly jumping out of his throat. “We are worthless as we rust,” he yells over a broken tremolo effect.
Track four, “Little Sheep for the Feast,” begins with a time signature that will leave you woozy. Bassist Garreth Welker keeps the song moving while dual guitarists David Timberman and Rusty Powers smear sludge all over the walls with pinch harmonics and down-tuned brutality. Talbot calms down his growl for a moment to ask the listener, “Who will hear your screams if no one cares to listen?”
Wolf Island concludes with an uncharacteristic but much appreciated break from the speed of the record. “Dead Air” has a happy-but-don’t-get-your-
The beauty of HABITS music, and Wolf Island in particular, is how terrifyingly gorgeous the instrumentation is. Dual guitarists Timberman and Powers are shredding at volume levels that your mother would disagree with. But it takes a certain type of artist to actually be sonically pleasing at those levels. The album is never drowned out by one instrument or another, and although the overall tone is insane, the end product sounds sane. I got a chance to ask Joe Talbot a few questions about HABITS music and the band themselves.
RCR: How long has HABITS been a band? How did you guys get together?
Joe Talbot: HABITS has been a band for almost two years. I struggled with addiction for a long time and as a result of it, almost lost my friends and family. This band saved my life. David and I had attended a Worthless Eaters show and after their set was done we both looked at each other and said, “Damn it, we should be playing music right now.” We met up a few days later and started writing song ideas and out of that came two songs. Garreth and David were in my previous band, PROFITS. Rusty was in the Hedonist, who we played with a couple times. We finally convinced Logan to come jam with us, and we recorded our first EP November Lust shortly thereafter as a four piece, with Rusty on bass (who learned all the songs in just one night). Later, we mutually decided to have Rusty on second guitar and invite Garreth to come play bass.
RCR: Why the name HABITS?
JT: My friend Zach Lowden from Worthless Eaters, used the word “habits” in a conversation one day in describing his morning ritual of coffee and a cigarette before he can function. It caused a spark in my head, and I knew right then and there that HABITS would be the name of this band. The name HABITS ultimately explains my view on the world. You are defined by your habits.
RCR: How would you describe HABITS’ sound?
JT: Our answer to living under the dark, foreboding rain cloud known as the Pacific Northwest. Sonic landscapes composed of sheer annoyance and disdain in the presence of the capitalist regime.
RCR: You are by far one of the scarier live bands I’ve seen. What do you want the audience to take away from your shows?
JT: My personal hope that one can gain from attending our live set is a feeling of freedom. Maybe for the duration of our set they don’t have to feel oppressed in this confined space called “life”.
RCR: Any last words? Recommendations? Advice? Prayers?
JT: I advise against prayer.
In case you were wondering how freedom feels, go get Wolf Island, available through HABITS bandcamp page on June 1st. Catch their show on June 10 (for only $5!) at the Know with Full of Hell, Worthless Eaters and Seven Sisters of Sleep.