By Steven Yuen
At times, it’s very easy to get swept away in the tide and boxed in when it comes to anything that falls under the umbrella of metal. Granted, it’s a big box that happens to possess such a diverse fandom, including your greying uncle to your little brother’s weird, smelly friend. However, it seems too often hard rock and contemporary-metal bands become repetitive and mundane. Outside of the unquestionable metal classics, there aren’t many bands that are universally loved in the scene, and even fewer bands who are able to break the barrier past metal in a meaningful or interesting way.
Now, imagine finding a band able to step outside of the genre enough to keep it interesting but without threatening the classic formula — you’ll end up with the John Wilkes Booth band. They are a four piece from Long Island, New York, comprised of vocalist Kerry Merkle, drummer Christian Horstmann, guitarist Jason Beicker and bassist Harry Vrooman. The band refers to themselves as “Dirt Rock,” which, after listening to them, is the proper term.
Their latest release, “Useless Lucy,” was released only two months ago and clocks in at just over half an hour and has sounds touching on quite a few areas. Their sound is fresh and echoes a few genres in addition to metal — no, seriously, it really does. Being formed in 2005, they’ve kept somewhat silent since their last release in 2009. Don’t think their absence wore them down at all — “Useless Lucy” serves as a testament to that.
Some quick high lights include “From the North” which hearkens Pantera (with a tinge of groove) and happens to set a perpetually solid tone for the rest of the album. “Six One” conveys a clearly psychedelic-rock sound — almost to the point where it feels unnatural — given the pace set on from the first two songs on the album. Periodically, Kerry’s voice is comparable to The Offspring’s Dexter Holland — do with that what you will. “Soaking the Perimeter” hosts a saxophone solo that is initially surrounding. However, seconds into it, you realize it works. This album will likely produce a foot-tapping head-bobbing experience. It’ll be exciting to see where John Wilkes Booth heads as they continue on. Amid their musical mission, we were able to catch up with Kerry and ask him a few questions:
CCP: I noticed you guys hadn’t recorded anything before “Useless Lucy” since 2009. Why the long absence?
Kerry: We have done a few compilations since our last release. We waited to do another full length simply because of funding. We do everything ourselves (D.I.Y.), and we wanted to do this one right. It took two years from beginning to completion.
CCP: Who were your primary influences for this album and your sound as a whole?
Kerry: We all have our individual influences. As a band, I would say Kyuss, Clutch and The Melvins are three of the biggest.
CCP: What’s next for you guys?
Kerry: We already started writing new songs and plan on recording sometime next year.
CCP: What about touring?
Kerry: We play festivals and bigger shows out of state; but as far as touring goes, it’s tough. Three of us are married with families. So unless a huge bag of money falls from the sky, it doesn’t seem like touring is in our future.
CCP: Anything else you’d like to talk about or plug?
Kerry: You can find us on Facebook, and please buy our music!!! All sales go directly to funding the band.
Catch them over at Amityville Music Hall on October 4th for their record-release show!