An Interview with Chris Bentley of Night Goat
By Andrew Daly
The term “sludge metal” gets thrown around quite a bit, but not too many really understand what it means. If you’re still searching in the dark, I’d direct you to exhibit A: Night Goat.
Devoid of typical worship of past heroes, Night Goat has blazed their path to metal infamy in the modern era. As one might surmise, the members of Night Goat are indeed Melvins fans, but don’t call them copycats. No, Night Goat’s fresh yet grinding sound plays as nothing short of explosive bombast, and to that end, their latest record, Totem, is a shining example of such.
While much of the sludge world is full-on dense, sending listeners into a cataclysm of hedonistic yet surging soundscapes, Night Goat goes about things differently. Their music is bristling with unbridled reproach, blissfully engaging listeners with subtle punches to the gut via new musical muses.
Oozing with charisma and handily carrying the devil’s pitchfork, Night Goat should be seen as your one-stop shop for all things “sludge.” And so, now that we’ve got misconceptions and preconceived notions out of the way, here’s a great Q&A with Night Goats guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, and more Chris Bentley.
What can you tell me about your latest music?
I feel like our new album is the culmination of what we have been attempting to do for the past five years: combine the intense power of noise rock and punk rock with elements of Goth and doom. I think we finally pulled it off pretty well.
How has the band progressed from its last record? What does the current approach look like from a compositional standpoint?
The new album, Totem, is a step up in overall songwriting but, more importantly, in focus. We made a conscious effort to give the songs the weight and meaning of the words. The music carries the themes and ideas along the way and into the darkness. It’s a concept album, so it was a lot of work from every perspective.
What makes the current lineup so cohesive?
I really think our rhythm section is the driving force of the band. Dalin’s bass throbs and bounces across the pounding drums. The cohesiveness just comes naturally to us because we have all played in different bands with each other over the years, so we know how to read each other.
Even though Julia has less experience than us, she certainly brings a tremendous amount of glue to the band. Her vocals hold all the caterwauling noise together. As far as a division of labor, I pretty much write skeletal basic guitar parts and bring them to the band, and we beer them up and flush them out until we have something interesting that Julia can howl to.
Are you more comfortable in the studio or live?
Personally, I’m way more comfortable in a live setting, and I think everyone else will agree with me on that too. Our band is built to deliver an intense and shamanistic experience in a live setting, like an exorcism. The emotional levels we reach in a live show are very hard to recreate in the studio. So, we tend to be a bit more artistic in the studio as far as getting cool sounds and weird noises.
Some have said rock is dead. Where do you stand on that notion?
It’s definitely not dead. There are literally millions of bands out there releasing incredible music constantly. The problem, I think, lies in the general public. Is rock dead to them? Probably. Mainstream music just is of no interest to me, so I pay very little attention to it. I have no clue what’s popular, and I don’t really care, either. The best music happens when no one is looking for it or expecting it. It rages out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet. I believe rock and roll still have the ability to do that.
What are some things you know now that would have been helpful in the band’s earliest days?
I wish I’d spent more time learning how the music business works as far as PR and booking agents, etc. It’s a weird thing to learn on your own. I definitely wish we’d have gone on tour sooner than we did.
What are some of the hardest things about making new music for a low attention span world?
Figuring out how to spread the music to the masses and how to catch their eye. In this day and age, there is so much music released and available; you really have to try and visually appeal to people to catch their attention. We try to make all of our artwork and photos stand out and make people give them a look. Hopefully, that draws them in long enough to get them to listen to a song.
How has your overall approach evolved from your younger years? Do you have any cringe factor when listening to older work?
I would say we’ve evolved musically more than anything. I’m a big fan of what I call “caveman riffs,” just huge, simple, pulverizing power chords. I love that shit so much. But I also adore the chimey reverb and chorus-laden guitar of bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Cult.
So, as I’ve gotten older, I try to combine my two loves. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the sounds are fantastic. As far as cringe factor… there are a few things I’m not happy with on some earlier recordings. Mostly it was a result of rushing to get done in the studio and not a lack of ideas… just money [Laughs]. There’s just never enough time or money!
Chris Bentley of Night Goat: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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