In recognition of Washington state marijuana retailers officially opening for business this week, we sat down with Bainbridge Island’s WEEED, had the band take a few tokes, and chatted about the origins and nature of its particular strain of stoner rock.
"Falling Into the Earth” is both a 14-minute song from WEEED’s excellent new LP, Feng Shui Capital of the World, (album art above) as well as the band’s guiding mantra on what it means to be a true stoner rocker.
Like most divine prophecies, the revelation was delivered from on high via YouTube. Bassist Gabriel Seaver was streaming the stoner-rock classic "Dopethrone" by Electric Wizard when he stumbled upon the phrase. “One of the comments on the video said ‘I feel like I’m falling into the earth right now,’ and that was really impactful for me on what this music means,” Seaver remembers. “Stoner rock has a very grounding sensation.”
That is essential to WEEED’s notion of its chosen genre: a rootedness in place. Certainly the crushing weight of heavy, repetitive riffs can anchor a listener to a landscape, be it the vast, cushiony terrain of the couch or the alien desert on the cover of Sleep’s Dopesmoker. For the three members of WEEED—Seaver, drummer John Goodhue, and guitarist Mitch Fosnaugh—that landscape is their home, Bainbridge Island, where the band formed as high-school juniors six years ago.
“I just feel very identified with Bainbridge,” Seaver explains. “I feel very dedicated to the place, the community there, and the land there. I have such a connection with it.”
That identity is part of the reason the band didn’t completely change its name this year when it began venturing into Seattle to play shows, only to find another regional band named Weed (lo-fi grunge punks from Vancouver, B.C.) had already staked a claim in the scene. After increasing public confusion over which strain of Weed was actually playing, the group just threw another E into its name and called it good.
“I think our name is important to us because that’s who we are. It’s that rooted feeling,” Goodhue says. “We grew up with it—that’s us.”
Weeed's ethos: spirituality frequently intertwines in all kinds of music. photo by Morgen Schuler
Traditional African and East Indian music has informed another aspect of WEEED’s stoner-rock ethos: spirituality, which frequently intertwines with place in all kinds of music, for instance that of Malian desert group (and WEEED favorites) Tinariwen.
“One of my favorite musicians who is also a spiritual guide for me is Mahmoud Guinia,” says Seaver. “He’s a Gnawa musician from Morocco and carries on the whole tradition of a mystical sect of Islam. I think the main way I want to be influenced is spiritually with music. That’s what really attracts me.”
“Morning Prayer,” the sun-baked first track on Feng Shui, ripples with gut-rumbling Middle Eastern guitar lines and wordless chanting. Its heady chugging recalls the reverent, transcendent air of Guinia’s polyrhythmic, riff-based liturgies, even though they were written halfway around the world, far from the band’s inspirational fountainhead.
Goodhue reiterates the idea of “falling into the earth”: “It’s just grounding. It can be spiritual in any capacity—it doesn’t necessarily have to be, it’s just whatever makes you feel good.”
Seaver chimes in. “Heaviness certainly plays into it, but stoner rock is about good vibes.”
For WEEED, sonic, terrestrial, and spiritual heaviness combine to create the effect of “falling into the earth,” which should ultimately generate those elusive good vibes. Feng Shui, recorded at Woodinville’s famous Bear Creek studios, is certainly a triumph—mostly because it manages to break free of the stoner rock’s archetypal “Sweet Leaf,” Sabbath-era origins. While Tony Iommi’s famous post-toke cough certainly launched a thousand heavy ships into the emerald sea of the genre, for WEEED it’s about more than just herb worship.
“I guess there is [that] genre of ‘stoner rock,’ ” Seaver muses. “But I think that [any] good music could be stoner music.”
WEEED With the Fucking Eagles, Diminished Men, Terminal Fuzz Terror, the Gods Themselves, Mts.&Tunnels. Lo-Fi, 429 Eastlake Ave., 254-2824, thelofi.net. $8. 21 and over. Doors at 7 p.m., Fri., July 25.