Many horror stories, with the exception of disaster and creature-features, have one common denominator: something looks human, but isn’t. It’s something else. This is no modern development, as the Native American legend of the skinwalker can attest. Humans fear that which takes the appearance of one of our own, but conceals a different creature underneath.
Nathan Lachner, songwriter for Reno indie band Skinwalkers, can relate to this fear. His song “Reptilian” was inspired by a period in which a family member began to follow the conspiracy theorist David Icke, infamous for touting his belief that many humans are disguised reptilian aliens. Lachner’s stepmother believed herself to be one of them. Lachner soon moved out, but the unsettled feeling followed him.
“I started thinking a lot about not being human, being detached from my own humanity,” said Lachner.
He found solace in hardcore music, and was soon invited to join a local band that included bassist Sean McMaster and drummer Nick Meza.
“We ended up forming a stronger bond with just the three of us than we did with the rest of the band,” said McMaster. “We started talking about how to form a more emotionally honest band.”
Before long, Skinwalkers was formed by the trio of Meza, McMaster, and Lachner, in search of a different sound. They sought a stronger form of expression, something bleeding, raw and personal. A trace of the members’ hardcore roots adds to the band’s energy, but their aim is to remove all emotional barriers between artist and audience.
“I use music to amplify my emotions,” said Meza. “If I’m feeling insecure, or anxious, I express that through my playing.”
“There’s definitely a primal feeling to our shows,” added McMaster. “We just have to hit stuff and scream to get it all out.”
“By the end of a song, I feel totally broken down as a human being,” said Lachner. “I lose my cool every time. I have to.”
Skinwalkers want none of the posturing and contrivance present in much of rock music, which Lachner considers disingenuous. McMasters and Meza agree that their music is at its best when they’re fully exposed and vulnerable.
Skinwalkers’ sound is most at home with early emo in the vein of MewithoutYou. The songs are dynamic, building crescendo over the course of the verses toward a climactic ending. Lachner’s voice grows from quiet, unintelligible growling to frustrated screams. Meza and McMaster play a sludgy, driving beat reminiscent of stoner and grunge music in the rhythm section. Mood and atmosphere are essential in recording as well as live performance. Often, to set the tone during shows, the band will kill all the lighting in the room and silhouette themselves with a blue lamp set up behind the stage.
Lachner considers his lyrics, which deal with alienation, detachment, frustration and paranoia, to be the driving element to Skinwalkers’ music. Although the words of the band’s EP, Invisible Twin, are written from the perspective of an invented character, the musicians feel that their own emotions are equally and honestly represented.
“Invisible Twin is all about isolation and irony,” said McMaster. “It takes expressing these feelings to see how absurd they can really be.”
Although Invisible Twin is fresh off the press, Skinwalkers are readying their next batch of songs for release in late June. Then they hit the road for a two-week long Northwest tour.
“Having new songs for people, and making them as good as possible, is our main goal,” said Lachner.