Poison The Well – Brad Clifford (Guitars)
POISON THE WELL have been around for over a decade and their twisted blend of hardcore, metal, and indie rock, has only improved with each release. The Florida outfit just released The Tropic Rot which only cements the band’s unshakable reputation. SMNnews caught up with guitarist Brad Clifford to talk about the release, his views on album reviews, and what bums the band out while on tour.
The first thing I noticed about the band since your last record is that you’ve expanded the lineup. What brought on this change?
Poison the Well has always been a 5 piece live, so when it came time to tour on Versions, I came in to play guitar, and we had a few bass players fill the position until settled in with Brad Grace. I think having a 5 piece is/was always the goal and it was just a matter of finding the right people. Doing Versions as a 3 piece was more out of necessity and the urge to keep going relentlessly, rather than preference.
The name of the album is striking yet I’m not sure what it means. Can you break down the meaning of The Tropic Rot?
It has a lot of meanings, depending on which member you ask. To me, it sums up my time in Florida while writing this record. It was a pretty dark and lonely time for me, and Florida wasn’t exactly the place I wanted to be. In addition to that, it speaks to me about the idea of the being in a place which people consider to be a magical tropical paradise, and by and large, it’s not. There’s a lot more deep and dark going on there when you’re around more than 4 nights and 3 days at Disney.
The cover of the album is a photo of Jeff Moreira’s mom taken years back. How did she react to being included and what does she think about the band in general?
She’s really stoked about being on the cover. It’s an honor to be able to have her on the cover, and to have a layout full of such personal photos that definitely fit right in with the title and feeling of this record. She’s super supportive of the band and wants us to be number one. I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but yes. Number One.
You recorded The Tropic Rot in the U.S. with an American producer this time out where on the last 2 albums you went to Sweden and worked with Eskil Lövström and Pelle Henricsson. Did the comfort of working in the States have any impact on the way things came out?
I think at this point everyone in the band thought a new sonic take would be good for this record. It’s musically different than any other release, as always, and we thought Steve could take this music interesting places. Recording in the U.S. this time around was another bonus, because the comfort of recording at least in your own country was probably necessary at that point in time. It sounds like Sweden was a definite full-immersion-into-the-record kind of experience, and maybe being able to take a breath from it here and there could help the process. We can’t have anyone losing their minds.
Did Steve Evetts open up the sessions to a lot of experimentations in the sonic sense? The album has an almost ethereal quality to it.
We always wanted experimentation and weird noises and other things in there that added flavor to the songs instead of stripping it down too much. It’s definitely a record with a more aggressive sound to it than Versions, and that was exactly what this music needed. Steve was great with finding sounds that fit perfectly with the style of song, and has magic ears.
Unlike a lot of other bands who took the plunge, the major label thing didn’t end up killing the band off. Did you ever look at that part of the band’s career as a failure or a bad move?
I look at it as a positive thing. You Come Before You was a great record in my opinion, sounded fantastic, and that was the ultimate goal for the Atlantic experience: to be able to make an awesome sounding record.
The sound you helped shape in the late 90s has become huge (relatively speaking of course) in the last few years. How do you see the band fitting into that? Do you even consider PTW part of any scene at this point?
I could see where it maybe helped shaped things in a general sense as an influence here or there, but I think in recent years especially it’s gone beyond that. From an outsider perspective, I saw Poison the Well as a band who mixed punk rock and hardcore with influences from 90s indie rock and melodic punk bands. Now it seems a lot of influence comes from two much more extreme ends of that spectrum: death/black metal/thrash, and pop punk. Within that, we don’t really fit. I guess we don’t really fit much of anywhere to be honest. Most tours we’re either the heaviest band, or the lightest band. We’re totally into that, and be able to be diverse enough to pull it off where we do. We don’t know where to put ourselves as far as our exact fit in any scene, so we just do whatever we want which allows us some freedom and awkward times, depending.
What is the reaction to the new album been from your core audience and do you ever read your press?
Some dudes totally read press. It’s exciting to offer a huge chunk of yourself in the form of this creative expression, and have it to yourself for that time until the record comes out, and then when it does being under the microscope and hear what it means to other people. The reviews for The Tropic Rot have actually been way more positive than we even expected. I think it’s a very relevant but atypical record for what’s going on in music nowadays, and we’re extremely proud of it. It’s awesome to hear the vast majority of people seeming stoked on it. In the end of the day a good or bad review isn’t going to change what we do, but positive support is always better than negative.
Have you heard any newer bands that have excited you recently?
I feel like I talk about this all the time, but this band from Milwaukee called Red Knife Lottery is awesome. They certainly aren’t new bands, but both the newest Mastodon and Kylesa records are incredible.
What is one album that everyone in the band can agree on in the van and one that just bums certain members out?
The new Mastodon gets everyone stoked for sure, even for dudes who weren’t the biggest fans before. One that bums certain members out is definitely Michael McDonald. That dude needs to never be in my ears again!!!
By Carlos Ramirez