Article By: David ‘Sunshine’ LaMay, Staff Writer ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway, Owner/Chief Editor
Formed about a half-decade back, Kingston, NY-based SHADOW WITCH has made quite an impression in this relatively short passage of time. Their unique mixture of dark hard rock, doom, stoner, grunge, and an occasional pinch of punk has struck a resounding chord within much of today’s heavy underground.
I suppose I could start out by spouting a “third time’s the charm” type of statement about SHADOW WITCH, but it just doesn’t fit. The duo of full-length records that came before were outstanding in their own rights. Once again, the band has stayed true to their core sound, while successfully stepping out of the box at will to give them their unique take on 70’s-influenced occult rock.
The first thing that struck me about their upcoming album ‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch‘ was its production. Whereas their 2016 debut ‘Sun Killer‘ had great songs but a muddy mix, the follow-up ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘ was highly polished, yet still extremely potent. For this third outing, the band seems to have found a truly comfortable sweet spot. The sound is very organic, warm, and most importantly, tinker-free. Its feel is that of a band that was well rehearsed heading into the studio, knocked out the tracks within a take or two, and then trusted their collective gut to keep things naturally spontaneous, yet tight.
Now, of course, this wouldn’t mean much if the songs weren’t there. As you’ve probably already guessed, they most definitely are. Opener “Spearfinger” and “Shifter” have definite punk propulsion, while still maintaining dark grooves. Heartfelt, stark acoustic Delta blues appear as calm-before-the-storm intros and interludes on “Demon’s Hook” (my favorite tune from the record), “Saint Magdalene“, and the longtime live-only “Fountain“.
There’s also a couple of grinding, venomous ditties – “Wolf Among The Sheep” and “6 X 6” – which make no bones about their disapproving take on organized religion. Finally, “Witches Of Aendor” and “Sour” both have an Alice In Chains style bite, though the latter track shifts in and out of it with its tempo changes.
We’ve hit on the production and the songs, leaving one last area to peruse – the lyrics. SHADOW WITCH has always been metaphorical in spinning their dark tales, but not nearly so much as on the ‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch‘ album. Singer and lyricist Earl Walker Lundy and I have chatted more than once about them, and there is no doubt this is the most personal, layered spin he’s put atop the music to date. Is a song really about a demon, or something far more real and painful? Well… yes.
SHADOW WITCH has massively nailed it once again. Absolutely crack musicianship and songs, stellar vocals, intriguing lyrics, and an inviting sound. It’s kind of amazing how they keep managing to not only not quite sound like any other band, but also to not have any of their many songs seem remotely alike. Damned few can lay claim to that, either. ‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch‘ is a powerhouse listen, and though it’s coming out early in the year (February 14th, pre-order links are below), it will no doubt ride quite high on many 2020 “best of” lists come many months from now. Well done, gentlemen. Again.
You can experience the first taste of the song “Witches Of Aendor” via our exclusive premiere of its official video below… then keep reading on for an enjoyable and lengthy chat with myself and Earl. Plus, find their most recently confirmed upcoming live dates! Here’s some words from Earl about the new video:
“We were doing one of our blacklight shows at Altone’s Music Hall (home of the New England Stoner Doom Fest), and Spirits Rising Haunted House had a blacklight installation by Stuart Smith (Stuartizm Designs, LLC) that just matched what we were doing perfectly; talk about synchronicity! We realized it would be the place to shoot a video for ‘Witches of Aendor’. The rest was simple.”
02. Demon’s Hook
03. Wolf Among The Sheep
04. Witches Of Aendor
06. Saint Magdalene
07. 6 X 6
‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch’ is available as of February 14th, from Argonauta Records. You can pre-order direct from Argonauta Records on CD [here], vinyl “Beer/Smoke” variant LP [here], and combo CD/LP [here]. It will also be available on release date through the Shadow Witch Bandcamp [here].
With their third recorded effort coming very soon, as well as countless live gigs and regional fests under their belt, I thought it was time to have a chat with frontman Earl Walker Lundy. Earl is one charming and interesting cat, far more than simply a singer, as you’re about to find out…
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Thank you so much for taking the time for a little insight and conversation. I really appreciate it!
EARL WALKER LUNDY: My pleasure sir!
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Shadow Witch has been a functioning unit for a while now, but there is virtually nothing available about your origins. Seeing as this is your first full-on interview, I thought it would be nice if you could possibly lay some introductory groundwork by fleshing out some bits of history, and introduce readers to your partners-in-crime as well.
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Alrighty then! What became Shadow Witch started out as a far cry from its current existence. Jeremy (Hall), our guitarist, was the only one of us who was involved in that initial grouping. I was approached by their then bass player, who I’d worked with in a much different context. He knew I could sing. I listened to what they were doing, and I didn’t like it at all. Haha! I knew within about 30 seconds that I couldn’t work with the drummer. That kinda pissed the bassist off, but if the drummer ain’t got pocket, I just can’t hang with that. Then, about a month later, I got a call, and they had changed drummers. That was “Ant” (Anton Von Kleek), who stayed, and eventually played on our first record ‘Sun Killer’.
Anyway, I went to one of their rehearsals to just listen, and it was pretty apparent that the thing wasn’t gonna gel as it stood. The bass player, who was the guy who’d invited me, was just not a good fit, so I again declined. Then, he ended up quitting and soon after, I ran into Dave (Pannullo) at a local bar, and he was like “I’m playing bass with those guys you were possibly gonna sing for, you should come by“. Well, I did – and they had ideas! Mainly just parts; riffs, phrases, but nothing was really in song form. So, it was kinda perfect. I recorded the rehearsals and took ’em home. From there, I started cutting and pasting things into what I thought sounded like a song, and then began writing lyrics and singing on top. Those “demos” were actually my audition, because I wanted to be seen (and still do) as part of the writing team, and not just “a singer”. The “audition” obviously went well, and the band was born.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Let’s talk about the stellar upcoming third record, ‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch‘. I’m gonna cut right to the chase here. Take us through what it took this time around to put together such a potent release, which, by the way, was no small feat considering how fantastic your sophomore record, ‘Disciples Of The Crow‘ was.
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Well thank you, sir! We’re very proud of the ‘Disciples…’ album.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Well, you damn sure should be! Now, just as you had done with “DOTC”, you have once again contributed cover art, but a whole lot more visually this third trip ’round. Care to elaborate?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Well, I had created the painting of ‘The Crow’ for the front cover, but for ‘Under The Shadow Of A Witch‘, I wanted to go further, make the art a bigger part of the total work. So, this time the front cover, back cover, and the lyric sheet all have illustrations that connect thematically. It’s all part of the same metaphor, the same universe, the same story. To some extent, even the same color palette. Haha!
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Let’s kick it on over to the recording sessions. What’cha got for us on that front?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: I recorded the ‘Disciples…‘ album in our rehearsal space (Temple Of The Downward Witness). I’m no engineer, but I created a decent space and I’ve got enough mid-quality mics to record everything with good levels. We did all the basics live in the room, and overdubbed everything there, as well… vocals and all. But like I said, I’m no engineer, and I sure didn’t want to be responsible for mixing that monster, so we went to my buddy Paul Orofino, who mixed and mastered it. Paul has an amazing board, great analog gear, superb ears, and killer instincts.
When it was time to record this album, we cut out the middleman and went to his place to record. Again, all the basic tracks were done live, no click track, all straight-to-tape. Everything was done in one or two takes. We spent a lot of time on the writing and rehearsing of this album, so we just went in and laid it down.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: I’ve given this new slab of yours multiple listens already, and I have to say, your description seems right on point. It has a warm, natural sound, while also carrying a strong air of discipline-induced spontaneity, if that makes any sense. One facet I’ve noticed having shifted somehow, this time was the lyrical and vocal approach. Your pipes were stellar on both of the band’s previous outings, as they are here (well, of course), but I must say, some intangible made your delivery come across as more earthy and personal than before. Is it my imagination, or is there indeed something to my perception?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Oh yeah, the vocals and lyrics are indeed more personal. They have a story of their own. Normally in the studio I can cut pretty quickly, but this time, man it was tough. Part of it was I had been sick, and that’s self explanatory, but the lyrics… ooof! The album was written over a period of about a year, and during that time I was involved in a very torrid love affair. It was my oxygen, my drug. I felt like an addict, and I spent a long time under its shadow. In the end, I lost something that was very powerful and very dear to me, and the album, particularly the second half, is sort of a lament.
So, when it came time to record vocals, all of the emotion that was such a huge part of that writing process just hit me like a wall. I felt sick, like dope-sick. Nothing came easily. Paul (Orofino) pushed me to just keep going, and reminded me that he wasn’t gonna let me get away with shitty takes. I trusted in that, and in the end I’m quite happy, if a little embarrassed by the way it’s come out. It feels very very vulnerable. That’s not something I would have wanted to show before, but it feels right for this album.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: I like the fact that it’s obtuse enough to slip by less attentive listeners more focused on the darkly veiled tales’ more direct aspects. Make ’em work for it! Now, among all these nuances, one change is pretty significant – your new label, Argonauta Records. What do you think of what’s transpiring or going to transpire in regards to the band’s best interests?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: For a start, Argonauta and Gero (label head) are based in Italy; there’s a massive European scene we’d love to have deeper access to, and we’re hoping we can get that with the new label. Also, we have a lotta stateside friends on the roster. Our buddies Witchkiss (Beacon, NY), Queen Elephantine, who I adore (Brooklyn, NY), Destroyer Of Light and Red Beard Wall (both from Texas), Delaware’s Wasted Theory (currently on hiatus), and finally, from the Maryland Doom scene there’s the Dee Calhoun fronted Spiral Grave, and Burt Hall’s Mangog.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: I’d be totally remiss if I weren’t to inquire about what is arguably the strongest aspect of Shadow Witch – The live forum, including the October-only Halloween blacklight shows. I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve seen you tear up various venues, and it’s always been a full-bore, all-on-the-line set…. every time. Others apparently agree, as your road dog aesthetic gets called upon often from all over the States, and is always lauded once experienced. What do you and the rest of the band give and/or take away from doing your thing for eager eyes and ears?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: It’s always nice to feel appreciated, so thanks, Bubba! For my money, that “full-bore, all-on-the-line” thing is very important. Every day could be your last, every moment could be your last. That’s the reality. So, the question is “how do you want that to play out ?” Do you wanna go out lyin’ down, or do you wanna go out dancin’?
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Well, can’t knock that kind of outlook! Now, I thought we could switch gears a bit and talk more about you on a personal level in regards to the music. It’s quite obvious that your smooth, controlled, and versatile delivery isn’t something that appeared overnight. How and when did you determine that you had the desire and ability to sing?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: I grew up in Mississippi, and all my people were old-time-religion folks. My father’s family was REAL “old time”. They did that “shape note” singing, “fa, sol, la, me” no instrumentation, other than the human voice thing. Pretty hardcore. Daddy sang all the time, and almost always it was hymns. He sang me to sleep with stuff like “In The Garden“; that song is from 1912, so you get the idea. By the time I was 9 or 10 years old, he was taking me along with him to our church’s men’s choir practice. Every Wednesday night, so I’ve pretty much been singing my whole life.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: I imagine you broke out early and set on your musical way. What sorts of pre-Shadow Witch projects have you been a part of over the decades?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Well, not really; I kinda felt like a late bloomer. I mean, yeah, I started fuckin’ around with little bands in high school, but nothing that made it outta the garage. I think because I didn’t feel confident playing an instrument live, and being just a singer, I wasn’t taken seriously. I’d get the “how can you write songs if you can’t play ’em?” kind of thoughts. So, I saved up and bought a 2-track tape recorder, and sussed out how to do simple overdubs. A friend and I started working together that way; my first writing partner.
Then the punk thing happened, and I fell in with a bunch of oddballs. The scene in Mississippi was tiny, and we didn’t know shit, but we found a whole-in-the-wall place, “The Keg,” on a frontage road off the highway. Just washed up truckers and worn out lot lizards, but the owner said we could rehearse there EVERY DAY(!), IF we’d play on the weekends. We said hell yeah, and it turned into a crazy scene – the handful of kids we knew who weren’t afraid to hang there, the Diamond Backs ~ a biker club from the Gulf Coast, those old lot lizards and truckers – all packed into this tiny juke joint – bottles breaking, dancing on tables. That’s where I learned to perform.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: So it sounds safe to assume that things begin to gel together for you properly once you made the trek up here to New York. Is that the case, and if so, what were you dabbling in/with?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: I guess there’s a pretty good argument to say that is the case, although it was actually a pretty chaotic journey. I did the band thing down in Mississippi for close to five years, before I got so frustrated with it all that I threw in the towel. I had put together my first recording studio, with an eight track ½ inch machine, and started writing and recording on my own; pretty heady post-punk stuff.
Anyway, I had a bunch of demos and basically no prospects, when kinda out of nowhere I got offered a little mini art scholarship. I had dropped out of a BFA program in painting, but the school still liked me, and they had access to a studio space in Manhattan and no one had jumped on it, so I did. I met a girl, started doing music with her and one of my oldest friends from MS, and ended up staying in New York. We got what we thought was going to be “the big break”; scouts from a major label, all that bullshit. Needless to say, that didn’t pan out. Too much coke in the boardroom, no concentration on the bands, it was a mess, and left me with a real bad taste in my mouth. I had left a situation where I was playing live five nights a week for a shoe box apartment with pair of headphones and no band; it was really disheartening, and I kinda went into a hermetic state.
We moved from NY to Canada to New Orleans, then back to NY, and ended up in the Catskill mountains. It was about that time that the grunge thing happened, and it really struck a chord with me. I realized how much I missed playing loud and live, and how desperate I was to get back up in front of people. There were a few projects in there, a few missteps perhaps, but it got me my chops back, and led the way to Shadow Witch.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Ahh, this would also further explain your hefty (and quite cool) contributions to the layout and artwork of the band’s records. On that note, y’all had recently released a video for the new single “Wolf Among The Sheep“. Given your artistic background, how much input/influence did you have on the process of creating it?
EARL WALKER LUNDY: I’m definitely a visual thinker, and very proud I’ve been able to contribute cover illustrations for ‘Disciples of The Crow‘, and the new album. Everyone in the band thinks conceptually, so I feel honored to be trusted with the actual album presentation. The new record was very personal for me, so, knowing that, the other guys kinda let me roll with it. Not so sure I’ll have such free reign next time, haha! As far as the video for “Wolf…” goes, we had a concept, the tent revival thing, based on the song intro, but were working with a couple of film folks, so you’re seeing their interpretation of that. During the shoot I mainly played host/cheerleader, cook and bottle washer, and let them get on with it. Obviously it’s kinda campy; the band had a lot of fun with it.
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Okay, so normally I’d just write the final response, giving you that one last chance to hit on whatever you wanted. But, since it’s you, I want to see if there’s anything more specific we haven’t touched upon that you would like to address.
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Hmm. I don’t know. I guess the main thing I’d like to emphasize is the new record. I prefer that term “record” over album, particularly this time around, ’cause it really is a record of the time it was created in; a rollercoaster reality that took me places I never thought I’d go. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks, kids!
And, in 2020, besides our new record comin’ out, Shadow Witch are scheduled to play an encore blacklight set at The New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3, and return for the third straight year to the long-running Maryland Doom Fest!
RIFF RELEVANT / Dave LaMay: Well my friend, that should do it. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat and share. Now onto February 14th for the new release!
EARL WALKER LUNDY: Indeed, sir – Thank you, David!
Earl Walker Lundy – Vocals, Mellotron, Loops
Jeremy Hall – All Guitars
David Panullo – Bass
Justin Zipperle – Drums
(Doug Thompson – Album Session Drummer)
– 2020 Live Dates –
Feb. 22 – Baltimore, MD – Oliver Brewing (w/ Heavy Temple, Eternal Black, Haze Mage) [info]
Mar. 18 – New York, NY – Arlene’s Grocery – ODE TO DOOM [info]
May 15 – Florence, MA – 13th Floor – (w/ Conclave, Cortez, Kingsnake) [info]
May 15-17 – Jewett City, CT – Altone’s – NESD 3 [info]
Jun. 18-21 – Frederick, MD – Cafe611 – The MARYLAND DOOM FEST [info]