Across the pond
Reno metal band Weight of the Tide just traveled to the UK for a handful of shows—including the prestigious Bloodstock festival
Reno heavy metal band Weight of the Tide recently returned from playing the overseas Bloodstock Open Air Festival, offering their heavy, melancholic sound alongside some of the biggest names in metal. To listen to Jestin Phipps, Mark Moots, Jason Thomas and Marcus Mayhall’s music, one might think that these veteran metal heads carry their heavy vibes with them on and offstage. A cursory look at Phipps’ home recording studio, though, with its colorful framed art, numerous superhero action figures and robust DVD collection, will reveal a simple truth: Weight of the Tide has no shortage of joy in what they do.
“We’re happy dudes playing sad music,” said Phipps, guitarist and co-vocalist. “I tell my wife this all the time: I’ve never tried less and gotten more in music. And it’s not that we’re lazy—we’re in this like weird twilight version of heavy metal where we all have kids and now things are happening. We’re all like, ’Where was this 20 years ago?’”
Moots, guitarist and vocalist; and Thomas, drummer, founded Weight of the Tide five years ago. Both have played heavy music in Reno for decades. In the late ’90s, they spent years touring and recording with their band December, whose sound incorporated the brutal vocals that would become commonplace in metal and its associated genres throughout the next decade.
“What happened was, in 1996, Jason and I started a band called December, and I didn’t sing. I screamed my fucking head off, and I did that for a good long time,” Moots said. “At the time, we were pretty unique, because there were hardcore bands, but they were barking, you know, that super kind of Hatebreed-esque, tough guy thing.”
After December’s dissolution, Moots and Thomas pivoted to a more groove-centric project called the Swamp Donkey, which ventured into stoner rock. In its wake, Moots approached long-time friends Phipps to play guitar and Mayhall to play bass in a new metal band—but the emphasis on musicality remained.
“We’re melody based,” Phipps said. “Everything we do is based around guitar melodies and vocal melodies. I appreciate global dynamics in a band. I like a band that can make me go, ’Oh, my god, I’m going to shit myself it’s so heavy, but, also, holy shit, that dude really means what he’s singing about.’”
Weight of the Tide released its debut EP Epilogue in 2015, borrowing both songs and vibes from the remnants of the Swamp Donkey. In 2017, the bandmates followed it with their first official album, All Told, and solidified their new sound as a combination of both salient band chemistry and changing melodic tastes.
“I’ve graduated musically to the point where I appreciate a good singer over a good screamer,” Phipps said. “Our music doesn’t lend itself to screaming. The tunes, in my opinion, they’re very heavy, they’re very thick, but they’re very melancholy. There’s a gloom over the drive, I guess.”
That’s not to say the band’s gone soft. Tracks like “Architect” and the titular “All Told” emphasize both pounding drum fills and droning, hardcore-esque breakdowns, while Phipps’ and Moots’ harmonizing vocals and guitars soar against the cavernous reverb.
“The lovely thing about metal in particular is there’s so many subgenres and tags that you can throw at it,” Moots said. “There’s elements of a lot of it. I think we’re a very heavy metal band that leans into sludge and doom and probably some weird grunge-ism here and there.”
However, age and introspection also played a role in the sonic shift away from the extreme end of the metal spectrum, they said.
“You grow up a little bit,” Moots said. “Not that I feel like extreme music’s immature, because I fucking love Cannibal Corpse—but that’s not me. I got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore, because I realized I’m not really angry, and I felt like I was lying. I felt like I was selling something I wasn’t invested in.”
Show your metal
Keeping true to their new sound paid off unexpectedly earlier this year when the band’s independent UK label approached them on Facebook about playing a few shows overseas, culminating at the annual Bloodstock Open Air Festival, which has taken place in England every August since 2005.
With headliners like Judas Priest, Gojira and Nightwish, Weight of the Tide jumped at the chance. But whereas in years past the musicians might have considered such an opportunity an exciting obligation, their outlook now allows for a certain amount of stoicism.
“Ten or 15 years ago, this would have been like, ’We have to do this because I don’t know anything else besides music—I have to make this work,’” Phipps said “Now we have this life safety net where if nothing comes of this, cool. I’m still going to come home to my wife and kid. I’m still going to go to work, and I’m still going to play music. That feels better.”
While the band members are all familiar with grueling extended tour schedules, the week-long trip to England saw them and their family members put up in proper lodgings, with food and sightseeing occupying their free time in lieu of endless hours in a tour van. The changes, they said, were welcome, and to play to a receptive crowd of over 1,000 at Bloodstock was nothing short of momentous.
“It’s incredibly gratifying and validating in a lot of ways,” Moots said. “I think all of us have been playing in bands and doing music for most of our lives, and this was sort of like the crowning achievement. It was the kind of thing, if we never did anything again, I’d be like, ’Well, that was the best show we ever played.’”
Weight of the Tide does plan to play again, however. With recognition from their performance spilling over to their online presence, the bandmates returned to Reno with plans to arrange touring dates in the Bay Area with other regional acts. They also plan to start pre-production on a new album.
“We found that even before we returned, all of a sudden there’s a bit of momentum behind us, which seems to count a lot,” Moots said. “It matters more than I wish that it did, but it does—’book-face’ and Instagram and all that—and we’re gaining some serious momentum there so we want to keep it going.”
The band’s next home show will be at The Saint on Sunday, Sept. 23 alongside This Patch of Sky and Seas & Centuries.
Regardless of what Weight of the Tide’s next step will look like, its members are looking forward with the kind of level heads that only come from experience.
“I don’t know how to not do this, so no matter what level it gets me to, I’m going to play heavy music with my friends,” Moots said. “There could be massive opportunities that could come about because of this. There could be nothing that comes about other than this great experience. But you know what? Both of those are fucking cool.”