‘Prehistoric fantasy thrash’
Shrooming with Seattle metalheads Lesbian
“Is 20 minutes cool? We’ll call after this song.”I received that message prior to my interview with psychedelic metal titans Lesbian, and it sums up their sound perfectly. The Seattle five-piece does things brazenly grandiose—over the course of three full-length records they’ve yet to write a song that clocks in at less than eight minutes.
Lesbian took it even further on their last album—2013’s Forestelevision—a sprawling 44-minute epic whose big concept is matched only by its big riffs, with the band traversing prog, thrash, doom and everything in between. All of it is tied together by the members’ proclivity for psychedelics (the title is, not surprisingly, taken from a line in Jeremy Narby’s 1998 mystical science novel The Cosmic Serpent about shamans using hallucinogenic brews to communicate with DNA).
“The concept for the album is going into the woods and shrooming,” explained guitarist Arran McInnis. “It’s essentially a sonic guide to a mushroom trip, and logistically we wanted the journey to be taken in all at once, with no outs.”
Forestelevision had many singing its praises for its boldness, while others thought perhaps Lesbian had lost the plot. The biggest question might be: Where do they go from here? Lesbian is set to record the follow-up, Hallucinegenesis, in July, and they’ve brought in singer Brad Mowen, whose vocal range they say will take the band’s disparate styles to new heights. Psychedelic mushrooms again play a central role in the new record’s concept, about a mushroom-covered meteor that falls to earth during prehistoric times.
The members aren’t shy about their relationships with shrooms (they also play in an improvisational side project called Fungal Abyss that relies heavily on psychedelics), and even talking to them about it is like being on a drug trip.
“It’s like a divining rod,” said bassist/vocalist Dorando Peter Hodous about his experience. “I believe music comes from beyond us—the music’s already there. I think [mushrooms and music] both open your mind.”
Lesbian began their trip in 2004, and released their debut, Power Hör, in 2007. That album displayed Lesbian’s virtuosity and hinted at their big ideas. They followed up with 2010’s Stratospheria Cubensis, their first stab at a druggy concept, which is typically borne out of weed-fueled practice sessions (the members also jokingly admit that many of these ideas, for good reason, never see the light of day).
They say the new record—due out later this year—is their most robust concept to date, which they’ve dubbed “prehistoric fantasy thrash” (the band will be playing the new material on the current tour). The four new songs are short by Lesbian standards—ranging from nine to 14 minutes in length—and the members say the music is more aggressive and more pounding than Forestelevision (new vocalist Mowen says it’s the most challenging work he’s ever done).
A lot has changed—especially in metal—since the band formed 11 years ago. The new material has given the members of Lesbian a chance to reflect on the mileage they’ve logged as a band. With the exception of Mowen, the lineup hasn’t changed since the beginning, so the band has been an avenue for musical and personal growth. Most importantly, the members continue to do things their way as they navigate through this long, strange trip.
“Ever since we started this band, it’s been a slow climb forward—in a good way,” said McInnis. “We’re older, so we make shit count. We make music that challenges us. We’ve grown together.”