Amazing things are on the way for Californian noise rockers The Tunnel (SF), and this is an indicative sample of what we should expect from these guys! Taken from ‘The Nightfall’ EP last year and after two more official releases, “Last Exit” is coming along with an official video that makes us wonder how could we assume an upcoming release from the band? Will it be a noir soundtrack of their art? Noise rock like moving threateningly indifferent like a ghost? Swamp rock like a wonderful landscape with countless dangers after we died and nobody cared? Whatever will be, we in WL//WH can’t wait for another strike by this intelligent act from San Francisco and we have our reasons; you see, their last album “Shapeshifter” (also in 2020) went by itself to a high position in my best of 2020 list, and more than that, The Tunnel told me honestly about their plans and about some other things too that you’ll find interesting, especially if you are a noise rocker/shoegazer yourself (they told me about their gear, and about their music), about the current Covid situation there, about the SF Bay Area special. Read on, it is our honor that such bands trust us for their works!!!
Hello guys and welcome to WL//WH! Let’s go straight to the news; What we just watched was an amazing piece of loud and powerful music. Who imagined it? How long did it take to make it? What other useful details for our readers?
Jeff: Sam, Michael, and I wrote “Last Exit” together. I think Sam brought the bassline first, and he also suggested the mood for the video. Both were natural for us so it all came together pretty quickly. I have been making these video collages for our music – for this one I found a bunch of driver education films about not falling asleep behind the wheel – appropriate for the dangerous, hypnotic feel of the song!
What is the story behind the song?
Jeff: The lyrics are mostly primitive internal sounds and fragments, more a state of troubled dreaming and desire than a coherent story.
You were telling me the other day about a new album on the way, where are you at now and when do you say to release it? Α bird blew me a whistle you must choose between 20 songs, or will it be a double-disc?
Jeff: Yes, we have around 20 demos now, it’s a bit ridiculous. The plan right now is to record most of it, then see how it hangs together and figure out how we will split it up.
Michael: Writing while apart during Covid kept us all sane I think. The seclusion engendered some dark inspiration in all of us. I’ll never get over the experience of sitting down at rehearsal and playing almost fully formed songs that you’ve never played live together. It’s amazing.
How is the situation with Covid in San Francisco? Bars and stages and clubs are open?
Jeff: Indoor venues for loud weird music have not yet re-opened in the San Francisco Bay Area. The outdoor music permits seem to be only for acoustic and cover bands. It’s been so long that imagining clubs re-opening as they once were seems like a strange dream. I am hoping life can change again.
Michael: Guarded optimism. Our neighbour state of Oregon has rising Covid rates right now and we hope they get it under control. We’re hoping that California can keep it together. Feels to me that shows in large part will still be next year. We’ve been very lucky thus far in SF/Oakland that most independent venues have survived thus far.
To assume that all this pandemic pressure will come out in your music? I am a little ‘scared’ to be against that wall of sound of yours that I adore and with you taking out all this stress regarding the bad events due to the virus…
Jeff: Lyrically and musically the previous songs were already pretty dark. Dealing with life’s joys and atrocities, that sort of thing. So maybe not so much different now. It’s possible there are a few more reflective moments from the pandemic.
Can you give us your gear, please? There is a lot of people who are looking for the bands’ equipment and paraphernalia especially if they play noise rock or shoegaze stuff, will we give them this gift?
Jeff: I play a 1952 Tele reissue these days through a 1973 Traynor 2×12 combo, with strategic use of just a Boss DS-1 and PS-3 delay/pitchshifter. It’s a simple sound (“piercing” would be another description), but I think it balances well with Sam’s heavy frequencies.
Sam: I play a ‘76 Pbass into a two amp system: the main bass signal goes into a mid-70’s Ampeg SVT and 8×10. The other amp is a late-70’s Twin. That one handles the reverb and esoteric effects. I use pedals on both amps.
Michael: I play drums that are orange and sparkley. They are Crockett Tubbs, an independent drum maker in Discovery Bay. Just got a new Jenkins-Martin snare that I’m excited about.
Your previous album ‘Shapeshifter’ (2020) literally nailed me for good, and I nailed it on my list with my favorite releases last year. I felt helpless with that amount of energy in front of me, will you follow the same path again or surprises await us?
Jeff: Probably follow the same path, given that it twists from album to album. But that’s great, the goal is always to capture and transmit that energy.
Michael: We were really pleased with how cohesive that record sounded considering it was comprised of three separate EPs that were all recorded at different times. Tim Green’s mastering touch certainly helped with that. Our new material is brimming with energy. Excited to start firming up songs and recording.
Really now, whenever I speak with artists from especially California and similar to The Tunnel, I always ask if all this is like a race for you, who’s gonna build the most impenetrable wall of sound as there’s nowhere in the rest of the world such a ‘commitment’ to that energy…guys, why, please?! What is out there in the Californian air that makes you offer monumental musings alike?
Jeff: I think something that makes the SF Bay Area special is the relative lack of musical rules, and that being uninhibited in your art is encouraged. I wonder too if the cliffs and the Pacific Ocean and giant redwoods tend to remind artists that there are larger beasts all around you. Maybe that’s just me.
Michael: California is a special place, especially the SF Bay Area in my mind, but I’ve been here my whole life and I’m biased. Amazing amount of music history and agree that the music scene is very diverse. The natural beauty of this place always serves to inspire.
What would you tell new bands that play like that regarding noise rock is way more than just guitar noises, what Τhe Tunnel need to ‘break it’ in the studio?
Jeff: Noise and catharsis are some of our ingredients, but we don’t really strive to be extreme. What’s more important are the imagery and moods we try to get into a song, those are the things that excite me.
Now I guess the readers would like to know about your inspirations, about your record libraries, about the heart and soul of the band. Let’s make some noise.
Jeff: Many of my records are from the various artistic family trees that sprung out of the Birthday Party, Bauhaus, Prince, Pussy Galore, Oblivians/JMM, Mr. Bungle, WaxTrax, Touch and Go, and AmRep…also inspiration from film, ‘40s US film noir, ‘70s Italian Giallo, ‘80s-90s Japanese cinema…
Sam: Killing Joke, Gary Numan, Siouxsie, Unsane, Hammerhead
Michael: Birthday Party, JL, Jon Spencer, Slint, Unwound, Girls Against Boys, Lowercase, Heads., John Lurie, Young Widows/Jaye Jayle, Big Brave is one of my favorites right now.
I went crazy, I like it, thank you for your time guys, keep dissolving us, the last words are yours…
Sam: Thank you for the interest!
Michael: Really appreciate the support and kind words man. We wish continued success to you and WhiteLight/WhiteHeat.
Keep up with The Tunnel:
Interview by Loud Cities’ Mike