Beating the Darkness Down: An Interview With Walking Bicycles

walking biycles_xray-1Walking Bicycles‘ music is dark and angry. Yet there is also groove and melody throughout. Some references are Sonic Youth and Siouxsie & The Banshees. The Bicycles mix in heavy tom work, jazzy basslines, a dancey beat, searing guitars and Jocelyn’s sometimes icey sometimes sexy vocals to create something like a force of nature. To Him That Wills The Way offers power and excellent musicianship in ten songs and just 29 very noisy and catchy minutes. Walking Bicycles are Julius Moriarty (guitars), Jocelyn Summers (vocals), Jason Leather (bass) and Deric Criss (drums).

Impending Doom is the aptly titled opening song on your new album. Was there a plan when writing the song that you wanted to sound like a doom metal band or so scary? The higher vocal touches are quite effective and the bass at the end adds an arty feel.

Julius Moriarty: We needed a heavy, doomy track to start the album off. That initial feeling was critical to the concept of LP. When the song was first played we knew it was the opener immediately. Jocelyn put words to the music that emotionally conveyed the concept of awaiting an “impending doom” matching the intensity of the musical composition; setting the stage for a narrative about love and loss, incarceration and freedom.

Deric: We fucking smashed that song out in practice. It was dirty. We all agreed that this was a song we needed to keep.  The first version was probably 20 minutes long. We pared it down to the bare essentials, which I think enabled it to be as good as it is.

Jason: Impending Doom came out of a spontaneous jam that we liked so much, we decided to recreate. The guitars and drums reminded me of Black Sabbath or Monster Magnet, so I responded accordingly.

So is also angry with those distorted guitars, tom patterns and growling bass. Jocelyn’s measured vocals play off the cacophony, holding her own. Is it cathartic to play these songs, especially when you’re all in one room or on stage?

Julius: It is very cathartic. Venting tragedy while creating art is a therapeutic process.

Deric: We don’t want to play any song that isn’t at least mildly a catharsis. God forbid we end up a band that is just fingering well-taught chords and singing nice little songs. In a room or on a stage, we play this song the same.

Eyesore, while noisy as hell is also very catchy. I think this is one of the strongest songs you’ve ever written. Is this a song fans dance to when you play it live?

Deric: Every member of Walking Bicycles loved Eyesore when we came up with the central riff. Our fans may or may not dance, depending on their level of alcohol consumption or their age.

Jocelyn: Thanks, yeah, it seems to be a favorite. I think it’s pretty classic Bicycles, heavy but dancey. Deric caught a coworker whistling it recently.

Are there checks and balances in the band where if the song is too noisy someone suggests a catchy or dancey element?

Julius: We have always tried to walk the line between weird and catchy. If both exist within a track then there can’t be too much of either.

Deric: Good question. I think checks and balances about too noisy peels back the onion a little too much for me to answer. We all have different thresholds for cacophony and noise. The record you’re listening to is the perfect distillation of our approach.

Faster than Light is yet another song full of unease that still makes you want to dance. Jason’s bass is all over the song with his grooves. His playing is quite jazzy. What is his training and influences?

Jason: I first started teaching myself bass by listening to records.  Early on my inspirations were old funk and soul bass players like Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, and Larry Graham; as well as modern players like Flea, Les Claypool, and Joe Lally.  Then I got into jazz players like Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Scott Lafaro, Red Mitchel, Charlie Haden, Ron Carter; which led me to seek out a formal education.

While your songs might be a little dark and bleak, your band shots show a sense of humor. Are you all positive people? Where does the Walking Bicycles darkness come from?

walking bicycles Photos by Cassandra BialekDeric: Man. Life isn’t all a barrel of laughs. Nobody knows that more than the couple in the band.

Julius: The darkness on this album comes from a very personal place. I was incarcerated for three years on a marijuana charge. This album recounts my 3-year incarceration and my separation from Jocelyn. The narrative is not all dark and bleak. To me the album expresses the struggles, failures and sometimes unforgiving nature of life but this darkness is nestled within glimpses of acceptance, understanding, peace and redemption. As for the band shots… We do have a sense of humor and try to maintain a positive outlook on life. You can’t let the darkness beat you down.

Jocelyn: Personally, I think we’re hilarious. I also think that some of the darkest people are some of the funniest so I don’t think dark/bleak and funny are mutually exclusive.

The album sound is better than you’ve ever come across in the production and mixing. How did the people behind the scenes contribute to the sound of the album?
WB_To Him That Wills The WayWB_To Him That Wills The Way

Julius: Each song was first recorded onto 2″ tape at Electrical Audio studios. John San Paolo engineered these sessions with a focus on a big drum sound while grabbing solid attack and ambient sounds from both bass and guitar. We then bumped the tape into Pro-Tools and went to Soma studios to add any overdubs we thought were needed – we also did a majority of the vocals on the record at Soma. Neil Strauch engineered these sessions, having worked with Jocelyn on previous releases, they communicate well and Neil has a firm understanding of Jocelyn’s process. Then we tirelessly went over the mix, working on it for a couple months with Sanford Parker. Once we felt we had accomplished our goal we had a long talk with our mastering engineer and lacquer cutter to make sure we maintained the dynamic and frequency range we worked so hard to capture. We had to sacrifice some volume to achieve this but feel it’s worth it.

How have you and the other members grown as people and musicians since the last album?

Deric: All of the members of the band continue to grow as musicians because we are all obsessed with music over any other thing. Jason recently got a degree in music.  

Jocelyn: I wrote songs that were vocally out of my comfort zone on a lot of the record. I have these ideas that are often greater than my range but in the studio I was able to get performances that I was happy with. I trust my writing and I’m proud of my lyrics this time around.

How was the record release party?

Deric: Stellar.

Jocelyn: Great bands, great crowd, couldn’t have gone better.

What is happening at Highwheel Records you’d like us to know about?

Julius: We are proud of the releases we’ve recently put out. Unicycle Loves You The Dead Age and My Gold Mask Leave Me Midnight are both great albums. The immediate future though is focused on some well-deserved attention to Walking Bicycles.

Will we see the band on tour in Los Angeles any time soon?

Julius: I will officially be allowed to leave the state in December. Until then we are writing new material for our next release.

Deric: God willing.

Walking Bicycles membership:
Jocelyn Summers (vocals)
Julius Moriarty (guitar) 
Jason Leather (bass) 
Deric Criss (drums)

Highwheel Records


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