This interview took place prior to the release of “Pit Dunce.”
Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with California’s The Writhers. Together we discussed their influences, monsters, their live shows, their latest single “Pit Dunce”, and so much more!
RW is Robert Writhe, Rikk is Rikk R Treat, and KW is Kenny Wolfsbane
1. Mustard is thankful to have The Writhers join them at Music Shelf. How is everyone?
Rikk: Ready to rumble.
KW: H A N G R Y
2. According to an online dictionary to writher is to twist the truth. What truth does The Writhers twist?
RW: I actually have never actually heard that definition before. Our name comes from the root “writhe” meaning convulse or shake. We are a group of convulsing individuals, or “writhers” if you will, and we’ll have you shaking too.
Rikk: OR IS THAT A TWIST TO THE TRUTH!?
3. Mustard wonders what is the origin story of The Writhers? How did the band form? When did you decide to be The Writhers?
RW: You want the true story or the cover story? Rikk, our drummer, needed a horror band to open a show he was putting together in 2017 and I wanted to start an accordion punk band so I recruited the other guys from a three-piece I was previously in and out Rikk on drums. We practiced once a week for four weeks, played the show, and the rest is history. I could also tell you that we’ve been a traveling gang of ghouls haunting the earth for the good part of a century. Escaping our mistakes, trying to correct our misdeeds, and hiding in the shadows of society, where we found ourselves smack in the middle of the underground art and music world. We’ve been playing as a band on and off since the 1960s garage rock movement, bringing us to our latest incarnation of the Writhers. I’ll let you guess which story is which.
Rikk: The 60’s were a wild time man…
4. Mustard loves your use of pink and black. Did professional wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart inspire this color choice?
RW: Ha ha, not quite. I was wearing pink and black to concerts, art shows, and around town years before starting the band. Partly to tie into an art project about the history of punk I was working on at the time because I thought color combo embodied the spirit of the music. That said, the Hitman is one of my roommate’s favorite wrestlers.
5. Who (or what) influences The Writhers?
RW: Musically, the Cramps and the Misfits were big with us early on but now I feel The Damned and TSOL are bigger. But my favorite band is They Might Be Giants, which only vaguely inspires this project in an indirect, cosmic way. Cult camp culture and experimental horror definitely plays a role in the Writhers as well.
Rikk: I am very influenced by post-hardcore and hardcore punk as well as deathrock, so you will hear a spin on things like two-steps sections, breakdowns and even things like bossa nova beats on the drums.
KW: I’m primarily influenced by metal and bring some that flavor to the band, but over the last year I’ve gotten heavily into synthwave / darksynthe; as well as wanting to be a horror soundtrack composer for years now. Top 5 favorite bands right now are Carpenter Brut, Dance With The Dead, Daikaiju, Perturbator, and Knocked Loose.
6. What is The Writhers creative process?
RW: Occasionally we’ll jam improvised songs together until something sticks. But lately, I’ll write riffs, lyrics, or sometimes an entire rough demo, and share them with the gang to improve upon. I like to write about real issues or the mundane but cloaked in layers of monsters and goofy storytelling, but dumb, fun songs about moshpits are good too.
Rikk: I find that this form of writing that Robert has mentioned has been really helpful for not only completing songs in a more timely manner (since we aren’t able to practice as often as we’d like), it has been an interesting way for me to try things that I normally wouldn’t on the drums since Robert is not a drummer. So trying to match what he demos on garageband has been interesting for me.
7. Your debut album “Ghastly Reminders” is a reflection of self-absorption, fear, seduction, and more. Are these commonalities amongst human society? Could you share what it was like to put this album together?
RW: That’s what it says on the promotional material to sound fancy. They are issues everyone deals with though, human or non human. But those were simply the underlying themes in the first batch of songs we wrote. With the exception of “Pink Twilight” which was improvised the day before recording, all of those tracks were the original songs made for our first 2017 performance.
8. Dracula is on the cover of “Ghastly Reminders” and plays a pivotal role on your song “I like to leave marks.” How does Dracula symbolize these ghastly reminders?
RW: That’s not Dracula. It’s an entity we call Devilmask, our long time adversary. We’re always on the run from it. Devilmask is also on the cover of “In One Gulp”.
9. Mustard is curious if The Writhers watches “What We Do in The Shadows.” Does The Writhers have a favorite vampire?
RW: All the main vamps are excellent in their own ways so it’s hard to choose. If I had to pick, it’d be Nadia or Colin. But to be honest, I haven’t seen the latest season yet if that would change my pick.
Rikk: What I’ve seen of the show, I love the dynamic between Nandor and Guillermo, his familiar. But of all vampires in history, I am a fan of Count Orlock and the young vampire in “Let the Right One In”.
KW: TEAM EDWARD
10. You followed up “Ghastly Reminders” with “In One Gulp?” How long after “Ghastly Reminders” did you begin working on “In One Gulp?” Is there a chance of this becoming a trilogy?
RW: Most if not all of main the tracks in “In One Gulp” were already written by the time “Ghastly Reminder” was in the mixing and mastering phase. These EPs are merely batches of our best songs at the time of recording strung together with a loose theme. I don’t know if there will be a properly connected and themed trilogy but the plan is to make a compilation album of our early songs sometime in the future. But we are working on a novel little third EP before we tackle a full length album.
Rikk: As far as something connective for the story told within those two EPs, you may have to wait for our future LP. But as Robert mentioned, after we finish our string of one off singles, we plan to release another small EP.
KW: a couple months or so before recording is right when I joined, so we got to work right off the bat. Learning and improvising was nerve racking but in the coolest way. I’m especially proud of the bass riff on “Devilmask Defeated,” it’s like 95% a cool stoner doom riff I’d had in the vault for like 2 years but had never done anything with. NOW IT LIVESSSS.
11. The Writhers is tasked to reboot Universal’s Classic Monsters Universe. What is your strategy?
RW: Cast actual monsters for the roles. Covering a normal human actor in fake hair and prosthetics to replicate a werewolf is so old-fashioned and, quite frankly, offensive.
Rikk: Capture the Monster Squad so that they won’t foil the plan…again.
KW: Just re-release “Van Helsing” (2004), it was the pinnacle of human civilization and we took it for granted. Humanity has nothing left. Or go completely balls-to-the-wall and do a Van Helsing/Castlevania/Monster Squad crossover. But Rikk has to have an on-screen death cuz suck it Rikk lol.
12. A human gets invited to see The Writhers live. How would describe The Writhers live performance?
RW: You know the kinds of things you only find funny at 2AM in the morning? That’s our entire show, but occasionally with a mosh pit. Seriously though, we’re a mad, sweaty party for punks, goths, and everyone in between. We have offbeat music, spooky vibes, terrible jokes, and unique audience participation.
Rikk: Keyword “terrible jokes”. I feel like we offer something for fans of different music. We have our mosh pit songs for the hardcore kids and punks, we have our atmospheric songs for the goths and we have the surfy tracks for the billies.
KW: Sweaty. Sticky. Spastic. Sexy. Loud. Not the worst band you’ll hear that night.
13. How would you describe your latest single “Pit Dunce?”
RW: A catchy punk show anthem with a little something different. It captures our pit dunce ritual we perform at every show. Mind you, the ritual existed before the song, but now they go hand in hand.
Rikk: Mosh or pay the price.
KW: INVOLUNTARY WRITHING.
14. After a human is assigned the role of “pit dunce”, how long do they hold that position for?
RW: Until they change their ways and dance at our shows or… um… when the song is over.
Rikk: And by “when the song is over” he means at the point of their death.
15. What is next for The Writhers?
RW: We have a swamp monster themed split in the works with our local San Diego garage punk pals, Butt Candy, coming this Spring. Afterwards we’ll wrap up the aforementioned third EP which will be titled Bug Stuff.
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
RW: All the big streaming platforms have our work but we encourage people to look us up on Bandcamp to listen for free or support us by buying digital downloads of our music and physical merch! If you’re in the SoCal area, see if we’re playing a show near you.