Night Goat: Reza Interviews Guitarist & Vocalist Chris Bentley

Night Goat are a Canton, Ohio based death rock/noise-rock/doom/sludge (all or some of the aforementioned genres depending on your interpretation) outfit who first came to my attention back in 2020 when I had the good fortune of reviewing their split with fellow Ohioan’s Ghost:Hello and which was released by Polish label Interstellar Smoke Records.

Prior to said split there was 2019’s Milk debut full-length and now new album Totem, its follow-up sophomore release which is set to see the light of day on the 17th March through Black Donut Records. Guitarist and vocalists Chris Bentley was kind enough to take the time out to answer a few of my questions.

Night Goat - Photo by Molly Crowe
Night Goat – Photo by Molly Crowe

Hi Chris, thanks very much for agreeing to this interview. For the benefit of the readers, please could you introduce the band. 

Julia Bentley – Vocals
Chris Bentley – Guitar, Vocals
Dalin Jones – Bass, Vocals
Tommy Dalo – Drums

I gather Night Goat is named after a Melvins track. Is this correct and if so what was it about that particular number that prompted you to name the band after it. Were other suggestions mooted but ultimately rejected?

Yes, it’s absolutely true. When we started out, we knew we wanted something that would match the sound of the music. Something dark, menacing and strange. We began tossing around band names that were from songs and album titles of some of our favorite bands. A few I remember were Pussyhorse (Butthole Surfers), The Beautiful Dead (Killing Joke), Blood Promise (Swans), and Stigmata (Ministry), but Night Goat seemed to fit the best, so we stuck with it. I’m glad we did.

When we started out, we knew we wanted something that would match the sound of the music. Something dark, menacing and strange…

Were you all in different bands prior to forming Night Goat? How did the genesis of the band come about?

We have all been in many bands over the years. The initial line-up for Night Goat was completely different than it is now, other than Julia and myself. I recruited Dalin on bass because I knew he would be perfect for the kind of music we wanted to do. I’d played with him previously in the weirdo, stoner doom band Son Of Neckbeard and we have been friends for twenty years, cemented in our love of extreme music.

Julia and I actually met while playing in an alternative band called Phase. We started Night Goat together. Once the core line-up was complete, we begged our friend Donnie Casey to play drums for us. Donnie has a love for black metal and Danzig so we knew we could get him to do the Chuck Biscuits-style drums we wanted. He really helped us solidify things as a band and his drums were extremely important in our growth. The line-up of Dalin, Donnie, Julia and I has been solid for the past five years. Just recently Donnie elected to step down so we can tour more. Our new drummer Tommy Dalo is a beast on drums as well. So we are poised for touring now.

Night Goat - Photo by Chris Suspect
Night Goat – Photo by Chris Suspect

You have contributed to tribute albums for Samhain as well as Melvins, what other musical influences are there? Anything that may surprise fans?

We all listen to a ton of different music, everything from goth to new wave to grunge to extreme metal and doom. I would say that some of our main influences for Night Goat are Samhain, Unsane, Swans, The Jesus Lizard, Neurosis, Danzig, Helmet, Nirvana, The Birthday Party, Killing Joke, Ministry, Cherubs, EyeHateGod, Acid Bath, Death… so many!

A few bands we love that might surprise people… White Zombie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Failure, Paw, Skinny Puppy, The Cramps, Deftones, Soundgarden, TSOL, The Cult, Obituary, Life of Agony, Poison Idea, The Damned, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths, Whores, The Cure… I could go on forever!

We all listen to a ton of different music, everything from goth to new wave to grunge to extreme metal and doom…

Speaking of Samhain, I find them the most overlooked and undervalued of all of Glenn Danzig’s projects. What is your favourite release of theirs? (Mine is the Unholy Passion EP).

Oh, I absolutely agree! Danzig was really doing some amazing things in Samhain. The Samhain catalog is incredible. It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but mine is probably Initium. But damn, I love everything they did. The early versions of Twist Of Cain and Possession that would make it onto the first Danzig LP are stunning noise/death rock songs.

I loved your split with Ghost:Hello, were they a band you were aware of at the time? Are there future collaborations on the horizon with other groups?

We have been friends with the amazing people in Ghost:Hello for quite a few years now. They are truly an incredible band that we adore and love playing shows with. That split was all their idea and we thank them from the bottom of our black hearts for asking us to do it!

As far as upcoming releases… we are part of a four-band vinyl split that will be released this summer! All of the bands are Northeast Ohio ragers! Supercorrupter, Trash Mountain, Hiram-Maxim and us. Supercorrupter is one of my favorite Ohio bands. They are so sonically interesting… like Jane’s Addiction on steroids. The tracks that I have heard for the split are just devastating. I am pretty sure it drops in July.

Night Goat - Photo by Molly Crowe
Night Goat – Photo by Molly Crowe

As much as I enjoy debut full-length Milk, I feel that new album Totem is a major league step-up in terms of songwriting and performance. Is this a sentiment you would agree with?

I definitely agree. It was a very planned out record from start to finish. It is a concept album and that in itself made it a challenge to write. We spent a long time recording it as well. There was a lot of time to spend on recording, writing and experimenting after Covid hit and annihilated any chances of touring etc. So that’s basically what we did. Milk lacked a bit of direction I think. I love some of the songs on it, but it wasn’t nearly as focused as Totem is. I like everything about Totem and I am very proud of the entire thing. I hope other people dig it as much as we do!

Digging into the album’s tracks, I was particularly struck by Sister Wolf. There is an immediacy to it that I hadn’t heard from the band before. Was this a purposeful opening statement of intent?

It definitely was. Sister Wolf is my personal favorite song on the record. It encapsulates the theme of the record and has a feverish drive to it. It’s propelled by the rhythm in a very serpentine way and Julia’s words and vocal style really gives it the weight it deserves. When I was writing the guitar riffs, I wanted it to sound like a mixture of early Danzig and Bleach era Nirvana… There is a savage feminine energy on that one that I adore. I’m thrilled you picked up on that!

[Sister Wolf] encapsulates the theme of the record and has a feverish drive to it…

The band have always been quite diverse and difficult to pigeonhole, was this intentional as a way of distinguishing yourselves from your contemporaries, or was it a case of just jamming and whatever felt right got featured on the recordings?

We do try very hard to incorporate a broad spectrum of our influences without sounding like any particular one. I think that is extremely important in heavy music. I mean just because I love Black Sabbath or Sleep doesn’t mean I should sound like a cookie cutter version of them, ya know? I feel like many bands get too caught up in a certain style sometimes.

I love bands that break the mold. Ghost:Hello and Supercorrupter are great examples of that. Ghost:Hello sound like a stoner rock  Devo and Supercorrupter push into zones other than doom and stoner rock that really make them fresh and stand out. For Night Goat, the main reason this happens a bit more organically is probably just because we all love weird music of different genres and enjoy consuming and processing that music and spitting it out in a new way.

Night Goat 'Totem'
Night Goat ‘Totem’ Artwork

I really like the artwork; how do you feel it ties in with the music? Was there a theme you were going for? Also, what was the significance of naming the record Totem?

Totem is extremely significant. The concept for the entire album was to base the songs off Native American folklore and mythology. Julia and I have a deep interest in Native American history, especially the creepier, darker areas of it. Terrifying stories of the Wendigo and shape-shifting skinwalkers are very prevalent throughout the culture. I’ve always been fascinated by these stories because they are so rich in high strangeness. We set about writing songs about some of our favorites and Julia just made them come alive! She has the keen ability to take those ideas and transform them into shamanistic twists as seen through a kaleidoscope of her own life. It’s a pretty incredible and slightly frightening gift she has!

As far as the artwork goes… I am a HUGE fan of rock and roll artwork. As a kid I would just love to take out my parents and uncle’s records and look at all the weird and scary covers. The best ones were the albums in which the artwork seemed to be a visual extension of the music. I try to make sure that happens with all of the Night Goat music and art as well, they are symbiotic visual and aural revelations and stories.

It’s a pretty incredible and slightly frightening gift she [Julia] has…

Yourselves and the aforementioned Ghost:Hello aside, I know next to nothing about the Ohio music scene. Is it quite a vibrant one and are there any bands that readers of The Shaman should be aware of?

Northeast Ohio always seems to have a thriving scene of heavy music! Definitely check out Supercorrupter, Rebreather, Neighbor Dan, Lake Lake, Pillars, Slow Wake, Black Tar Superstar, Gnomad, V- Trigger, The Liquid W’s, Cult Kids, The Last Witch, 72 Legions, Exostra, Axioma, Cult ov Crowley… many more!

I live in a boring North-West English town where acoustic folk and indie are the orders of the day. Are you guys able to tour the UK imminently to spare me from such a banal and bleak existence?

Hahaha! We would LOVE to tour there! If anyone out there is reading this and wants to help us tour the UK and Europe, hit us up! We are READY!

I wish to once again extend my appreciation to you for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add, any shout-outs, plugs etc? Now is the opportunity…

I would just like to thank all of our fans and friends out there! AND a huge extra special thanks to Morey at Black Donut Records for believing in our music enough to release it. Morey rules.

Beware the moon. Beware the Totem.

Totem, the new album from Ohio-based Night Goat, will be released on 17th March by Black Donut Records on ghostly grape vinyl and digital download. Pre-orders are now live and available over on Bandcamp.

Label: Black Donut Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Interviewed by: Reza Mills