Bask-ing (Scott Middleton, far left)

Asheville, North Carolina’s Bask is criminally underappreciated. Their new album, Ramble Beyond, is an exhilarating journey through stoner metal, southern rock, country, Americana, psychedelia, and post-rock. But none of that matters when you hit play. These are songs crafted with care and imbued with a grand cinematic flair: compositional acumen, airtight performances, and atmospheric flights that aim for the sun. Brilliantly executed and sequenced, this is a true album in every sense of the word. Take a walk with Bask and see why this writer is calling Ramble Beyond Album Of The Year. I recently hiked the digital trail with Bask drummer Scott Middleton (vocalist/guitarist Zeb Camp joined for the home stretch) to discuss the genesis of Bask, their beloved home state of North Carolina, and craft beer (sometimes all at once).

Your first (also excellent) album American Hollow ends with the shimmering Band Of Horses-with-balls anthem “Endless Summer” which seems to signal the end of an exhausting but exhilarating journey. “Asleep in the orchard/with fruit hanging ripe and low/it’s begging you to go” kicks off the new one and gradually builds to this unstoppable riff-stomp that, to me, feels like our reluctant traveler needs to finally get moving again after sluggishly engaging in some reflection. The triumphant but sad guitar solo is when this second journey actually begins, nostalgic yet forward looking. It takes most bands an entire career to pull something like that off. Am I reading too much into it?

You describe the vibes of both songs very well. I hear what you’re talking about on “Asleep in the Orchard;” that part gets the juices flowing when we play it live, so I definitely understand the parallels to what you’re hearing. We just try to do our best to write music with heart that emotionally resonates with us.

It’s an overused cliche but this album is truly akin to an epic journey. The lyrics and sounds meld seamlessly to create the soundtrack to an adventure that is both fraught with peril and rife with the promise of rich rewards. From “The Lonesome Sound”: “a day draped in gold/til the thunder erupts/a storm to your soul/builds a road you should know”. Is the album a metaphor for the personal discovery that, perhaps, should’ve taken place years, or even decades, earlier? Is our protagonist a procrastinator?

I think the album is about personal discovery, in many ways via differing challenges and circumstances.The protagonists within these lyrics are hit with the questions and circumstances we all face- from one’s spirituality, or lack thereof, and how that can be rectified with science while pushing the bounds of human ingenuity, to the power nature has to simultaneously nurture and destroy us. Much of the content is about inward discovery through life’s various trials and tribulations.

Your music is so evocative that it makes me want to move to North Carolina. In my view, you guys should be the spokesband for NC tourism or at least soundtrack the ads. “No One Cares About Gender On The Appalachian Trail” could be a great campaign. Have you approached the North Carolina Chamber about this?

Haha thanks! We would love for our music to fight against HB2. The bill was recently repealed but I know many advocates are still quite unhappy with what’s been left in its wake. Anytime our music is associated with our beautiful mountains, I’m happy. I’d be all for it!

Ramble Beyond is my favorite album of 2017 so far; it sounds fresh yet timeless. These songs feel lived-in, like they’ve been playing in my head for years. I’m certain you put a ton of work into them but I have to ask – are you guys actually brothers from other mothers? Did you recognize an instant chemistry?

Once all four of us officially started Bask, we did recognize some sort of magic in the air. Much of it was due to the correct mix of musical and personal elements being introduced right when necessary. A lot of it has also been sheer dedication- Bask could have easily never been formed. Ray and I wrote and jammed songs for a year and a half to no avail before finding the two right guys in Jesse and Zeb. I have to give Ray a lot of credit for sticking it out with me. We all play with a lot of heart and that is something you can’t quantify.

I was reminded of a passage in Jack London’s “Call Of the Wild” when listening: “there is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame…”. Did you, as individuals or a band, receive a flash of inspiration at any point that said “this is our direction, this is who we are going to be”? As a non-artist, I have always been fascinated by inspiration in this way; that one is merely channeling the music/art from another place beyond themselves (simultaneously, this is easy music to get lost in and to achieve that forgetfulness as a listener).

You ask some great questions. I think we all have a slightly different ideal sound in our head for the band, which gets filtered through our processes and hopefully comes out as something cohesive. When we began we never stated, “let’s be a spacey, folky, heavy band.” We knew we wanted to play loud, melodic, heavy music and outside of that, we’ve let things flow naturally.

“A Graceless Shuffle” reminds me of “Sway” by the Stones in that the former sounds literally like a graceless shuffle. This can’t be done without an ace drummer. Are you the Charlie Watts of Appalachian Stoner Doom Country Americana Psychedelic Post-Rock?

Thanks, I’ll take it! That’s a really fun song to play. I throw in some linear beats into the shuffle, which is when no limbs are playing simultaneously together. I’ve had much to learn as a drummer as the band has grown- specifically, just being a tighter musician.

Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Explosions In The Sky, Ryan Adams, Baroness, My Morning Jacket, Sabbath etc. are all names that spring to mind when listening. These reference points would seem to insinuate a jumbled mess, especially for a band rooted in heavier sounds, yet this is as confident and cohesive a statement as I’ve heard in years. I know your goal is “rhythm heard for miles, melodies remembered for weeks, and an honesty and sincerity felt to your bones”. Well, mission accomplished. There are seemingly no concessions to genre. It WORKS! (Yes, this is a question.).

We all like those artists to different degrees. It’s very exciting to me knowing that we can push ourselves even further as musicians and take more chances. We’ve been getting into more prog influences and have amassed more and better gear since our debut album. I’m definitely ready to take the music out there a bit more. We’ve been free form jamming at practice, which is a really awesome way to stumble upon some magic and push yourself as a musician. It’s something that definitely excites me.

You have a formidable live rep. I’ve read elsewhere that this album captures your live prowess in a way that the debut does not. I obviously can’t speak to that but the progression from an already spectacular debut is astonishing. A close friend of mine lives in South Carolina and I convinced him to check you out at The New Brookland Tavern in Columbia on 5/17 (that is suspiciously close to “Blocland” btw). First, do you agree with that assessment and second, any plans on expanding upon the tour? (Please say yes.).

Yeah, I believe so. Chris “Scary” Adams did an awesome job on American Hollow; we were just fortunate enough to dial in the tones with Travis Kammeyer at Fahrenheit Studios over a month long process of recording. Our debut album was recorded within three days!

What North Carolina-based craft beers would you recommend? Which one would pair best with a) Bask and b) a Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza and side of breadsticks?

Our bassist, Jesse, works at Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium, so definitely any Wicked Weed beer. We are all huge fans of Burial Beer Co. and just worked on brewing a beer with them this morning, set to be on tap at our Asheville album release. The creation of the beer and the name will be inspired by Ramble Beyond.
There are so many good beers in town, it’s tough to pick just one to pair with us, although Burial does a great job matching our aesthetic to the beers they have brewed for us.

For the Pizza Hut combo, I’d recommend the Pisgah Pale Ale. It’s easy to drink, has a lot of flavor going on for a pale, and is perfect for this time of year. It’s often overlooked but is deservedly a staple around town. How about a P’Zone while we’re at it?

While writing and recording Ramble Beyond, Scott/Bask was listening to:

Scott:
William Tyler- Modern Country
Steve Gunn- Eyes on the Lines
Sumac- What One Becomes
Swans- The Glowing Man
Mamiffer- The World Unseen
Horseback- Dead Ringers
Inter Arma- Paradise Gallows
various Mahavishnu Orchestra albums

These were albums I was into mostly throughout the recording process. If we were to go through albums during the writing process, it’d take a while.

Zeb:
Yes – Fragile
Kate Bush- The Kick Inside
The Beach Boys – Smile, Pet Sounds
Paul McCartney – Ram
Daniel Romano – Mosey
Grateful Dead – Live Sets from ’72 and ’77

Ramble Beyond is out now via Self Aware Records.

  • DFrye

    I blame Meat for rendering the PH question obsolete.

  • Cooolin

    This interview WORKS! This album WORKS! Pizza Hut, however, can go choke on oily breadsticks.

    • DFrye

      lolz

  • lobster man

    Great interview. I’m definitely going to have to go back and give this album some more listens. I was thinking about “Mush” earlier today actually. Scott’s album list is great.

    • DFrye

      The vinyl is finally out. I ordered the Carolina blue of course. Yeah great list (both). Makes all the sense in the world.

      Thanks man.

  • Blochead4real

    Kick ass. Pure kick assery. In the butt.

    • DFrye

      Gotta say. I listened to A Warm Rain…like a dozen times the past week. That shit was exactly what I needed. Thanks.

  • theyachtmaster

    DFrye going deep on the questions here. I dig it.

    • DFrye

      I may have listened to this album a few times.

  • Doris Montgomery

    Gunn!

  • inthedeadofknight

    Hell of an interview my man! Well done!

    • DFrye

      Thanks brotha

  • Black Antlers

    Nice one DFrye. I did initially read the first two tags as ‘Alcohol Featured’

    • DFrye

      Ha. Some alcohol was featured, or mentioned. Same thing.

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