With Circle Of Days now released, and receiving massive critical success, it seemed only fitting to nab an interview with any of the Hippie Death Cult outfit, so when said opportunity arose, it was grabbed with both hands, without hesitation. It turned out it was none other than HDC founder, and guitarist, Eddie Brnabic who took on the grilling, and what has come out is truly an interesting little read indeed. So, if you’re ready, sit back, and enjoy this little Q and A, it’s a real eye opener into the lives, and workings, of the Hippie Death Cult.
So, the opener is probably one you’ve been asked loads, but… Hippie Death Cult, where did the name originate from?
To be perfectly honest, I’d have to credit my good buddy and former bandmate Luciano Ferrea for that. It was a band name he had mentioned he was thinking of using for a project that we had initially started together a while back. I ended up moving from LA to Oregon, so I was no longer able to be a part the project, but we have always stayed in touch. When he mentioned that name, I was instantly drawn to it and told him I was going to take it! Ha! At the moment he was on the fence about using it anyhow. I made a deal with him that whoever got their project together and up and running first would take the name and it was me.
I think it’s just a rad name for a rock ‘n’ roll band…
I think it’s just a rad name for a rock ‘n’ roll band and it can have so many different meanings behind it depending on what point of view you want to look at it from. I like that about it. I want it to mean whatever you think it means to you. Being into a number of different spiritual traditions over the years and the concept of ego death coming up in all of them, the name had all of these cool connotations in that vein for me. Peace, love and death… you know? Living without attachment in an effort to transcend who we think we are into the higher realms of consciousness and feeling that are available to us. Who doesn’t want to be in a cult like that? (laughs) The ‘Cult’ aspect to me is just tongue and cheek, really. Well, maybe the whole name is… I don’t know… You decide.
How did you all come to meet, and form the band? Had you played together previously, and, if so, where?
I originally got the inspiration to start the band when I was living in Eugene, Oregon several years back. I was out in the woods a lot and had an avalanche of riffs and song ideas that were coming to me like crazy. They all seemed to be focused. They had an identity and cohesiveness to them, which wasn’t common for me previously. Typically I would get a lot of song ideas that were all over the place stylistically, but this was different. It was obvious that this was more of a focused vision and was meant to be a new band.
Though inspired, I was reluctant to start another band and go through all that entails, having being burnt out from the many bands I had started in previous years only to have to start from scratch, once again. I sucked it up and began the process in Eugene, only to later realize that Portland was the place I needed to be to do this. Once I moved to Portland, I found people to play with immediately. By the time I had met Laura, Ryan and Ben I had been cycling through people in the band for 4 long years. At the time the most recent incarnation was falling apart due to some incompatibility issues between different members, I had just started dating Laura and was venting frustration over having to start over once again and she says to me ‘fuck it, I’m going to play bass for your band’. I had no clue she even played bass. She took it very seriously and learned all of the songs and I was very impressed with her drive and passion for the project.
We had a great chemistry together from the get go…
It lit the fire once again. She had also recommended Ryan as a drummer having played in a band and with him several years back. I didn’t reach out to him initially because it seemed he had a lot going on already, but a chance meeting between the three of us sparked the idea of us jamming together and once we did it was ‘go time’ from then on. We had a great chemistry together from the get go. At the time, a second guitarist from the previous incarnation named Adam Goldman was still playing with us and helping to shape some of the ideas until he ultimately decided to respectfully bow out of the band.
From then, the core 3 of us started jamming on the material and tightening things up in order to start seeking out a singer. The pickings were slim to say the least. We didn’t have a lot of luck finding worthy candidates for the position for the first several months of searching. Eventually we got an email from Ben, who had found our Craigslist ad and had sent us some demos. We were impressed enough with the stuff he sent to have him come down and jam with us, so we all got together and jammed on Fairies Wear Boots and the rest is history.
When writing, which elements do you all come to together on, or is it an initial idea that just evolves? Do you work independently of each other, or sit and write together?
Our typical process starts with me pitching an instrumental song idea or demo to the band. Usually just a meat and potatoes drums, bass and guitar foundation with a working song structure. Once we have a tune that everyone seems to dig, we will jam on it for a while, feel it out and develop it together. From there, Ben, Laura and Ryan will write and develop their own parts to compliment and build on the initial idea until we all have something that we feel good about as a whole.
I trust in my bandmates 1000% to come up with really cool parts for each song. Not only are they extremely talented individuals, but also because they each really give a fuck about each and every note they play/sing. That’s been the general formula for our sound together as a band thus far and it feels like a pretty organic process to me. It works and its pretty efficient. What comes naturally to each member seems to gel really well combined as a whole and I feel like we all get to express ourselves in an authentic way within the band, which is a special and sometimes a rare thing.
I trust in my bandmates 1000% to come up with really cool parts for each song…
Who do you feel has influenced you the most in how Hippie Death Cult has evolved as a band, and a sound? Or have you just gone in, and organically landed where you have?
The majority of the time I am typically the one in the band spearheading and pitching new ideas to the everyone both musically and business wise, though that is not always the case. That being said, the end result in both respects is always a collaborated effort. As I had mentioned earlier, what everyone naturally brings to the table individually just really seems to compliment what one another is doing in an organic way. That’s really what defines our sound. It’s not something that’s premeditated or something any of us really want to categorize or label ahead of time of after the fact. That’s other people’s job I guess.
And the comparisons that have been drawn with other bands, do you feel they’re fair, or unfair at all?
Well, I guess it’s fair… you know. People hear what they hear and always want to associate what you do with sounds they’re familiar with that you remind them of. You have to try and describe it somehow, right? It doesn’t really bother me, though a lot times people will hear things in there that were never really actual influences. I take it as a compliment because for the most part, that seems to be what the intention is. It’s all good to me. I think there are a lot of different unique sounds going on within these three releases, both individually and collectively. You can certainly say certain parts sound like this band or that band, but ultimately as a whole, I don’t think we sound like anyone else.
Given the chance, who would you love to tour with? If you could choose ANY band, or artist, from any time period? And… Are there any other bands who you have checked out recently, and thought, yes, we would love to play some shows with them?
Holy shit… So tough to narrow that answer down, but I probably have to go with the most obvious one, which is Black Sabbath. Everyone in the band has different favorite bands… but that is the one band that everyone in our band has an immense level of love for. As far as recent bands we haven’t played with yet that we’d like to… I think teaming up for some shows with High Reeper would be killer since we just did that split together. Right as COVID was first hitting we had a European tour with Green Lung from England in the works. They are another band we really dig that I think would be a really good pairing for us. I’m also a huge fan of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, playing some shows with them would be fucking incredible and it’s always inspiring catching Yob here in town. It would be really cool to play with them as well.
I think teaming up for some shows with High Reeper would be killer since we just did that split together…
Is playing Europe on the agenda at any point in the next year as restrictions begin to ease?
Yes 100%. It’s been on the agenda from day one and we cannot wait for the opportunity.
Is Circle Of Days something you will be exclusively promoting, or is it the result of COVID lockdown times? Is it something you’ve made, and are now ready to promote, or are you already on to new ideas, and will just play the songs as part of a bigger set list of songs?
This is our full-on new record. It’s what we had worked up organically leading up to when we recorded it. It just so happened that we were in lock down when we recorded it. If anything, that just allowed us to spend a little more time on it. We had worked up a pretty busy year for ourselves in 2020, had a lot for heavy touring lined up throughout the year and were planning on recording when we could. As it turned out, we had a little more time to flush ideas out and be a little more selective with tones etc… since all of our tour plans got shit-canned. We didn’t see much of Ben throughout the last year, but Laura, Ryan and I have been jamming together regularly throughout and have a bunch of new instrumental material mapped out for the next one as well.
It’s been such a quick release between the Split EP with High Reeper, how did you come to do the EP separately, and not include the tracks on Circle Of Days instead?
We ended up initially recording 7 songs for the album, which clocked in at somewhere around 60 minutes of music. Most of the new tunes are really long… Circle Of Days and Eye In The Sky are each 10 minutes long and most of the rest are not much shorter. With the 44 minute time restriction on vinyl records to keep sound quality optimal, we would either have had to make it a double album or utilize some of the songs on another release. Gabe, who is the head of our current label Heavy Psych Sounds brought up the idea to do the Doom Sessions split with High Reeper. They had some new material they wanted to release as well and it sounded like a really good way to present some of our new material in tandem with the new full-length album.
We are really proud of this underground rock and metal movement that is currently going on and are honored to be a part of it in any capacity…
Commercial success, or underground heroes? which would you say is the motivation for the band?
The majority of us in the band are really driven to attain some sort of level of success and are grinding our asses off to get there. On the same token, artistic integrity is really important to all of us. Whatever level of success we achieve, it would have to be on our terms. We are not opposed to commercial success, but I really don’t know what the likelihood of that would look like for us. Most of the bands I love that attained commercial success just did what they did and it happened to have a mass appeal somehow. So if it did happen, it would have to be a situation like that.
Massive bands like Black Sabbath & Guns N’ Roses etc… seemed to me to be authentically just doing their thing and somehow rivalled the success of pop artists who were manufactured and primed for it. That being said, I just don’t see the same kind of support for rock bands today like they had back in the day. That and it seems like there are WAY more bands out there than ever before. It’s definitely more of an underground thing today, but it’s a very real, cool and authentic thing. We are really proud of this underground rock and metal movement that is currently going on and are honored to be a part of it in any capacity.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and please use this space for any final words…
I’m going to take this opportunity to thank you for having me and thank you for the great album review you did for Circle Of Days. Also a huge thank you goes out to anyone reading this or who has supported us in any way. Massive gratitude and love to you all.
Interviewed by: Lee Beamish