Mighty four-man New Wave of American Heavy Metal outfit Eagle Claw were the last Austin band I interviewed at Fun Fun Fun Fest. By that time I was a little bit punch-drunk from having had little to eat besides complimentary energy bars for three days. I was also coming directly from a Pharaohe Monch set. Suffice it to say I wasn't at the top of my game, and I wasn't about to take comprehensive interview notes. I definitely called them Woodgrain at least once. Thanks to the guys from the band, Bart, Matt, Michael, and Luther, for being easy to talk to and super cool.
What I like most about Eagle Claw's music is the way they work each part for just as long as they need to, then move on to the next idea. Staying interesting playing instrumental metal is all about creating dramatic changes and keeping them coming quickly. By switching between groove-oriented passages and guitar-driven, melody-focused sections, Eagle Claw show different sides of their classic and current influences. Like the best current metal acts sharing the Black Stage with them (High on Fire, Kylesa, Mastodon) they shift back and forth between time periods pretty freely and care less about tradition than pure rocking.
Talking to the band I learn that they write collaboratively and the effort to keep part lengths trim and efficient is a group one. It's out of respect for the riffs that that Eagle Claw try to keep from overusing any one of them. They'll practice doing a section for 20 bars for a few months, then inevitably someone will get bored and suggest cutting to eight, or six, or four. They'll try that and if it feels better shorter, that's how it will end up being played. Muscle memory is a big part of what makes the band work. Once the part is written and edited down for max efficiency, that's how it's performed.
Every rock band I spoke to at Fun Fun Fun touched upon the importance of touring, but Eagle Claw put in it a perspective I hadn't really considered for a while. The way they see it, the "humbling" experience of playing somewhere where no one knows who you are and absolutely no one cares is an essential part of getting a band tough and hungry enough to do what it takes to succeed. They talked about playing a show for six people in Oklahoma and selling $100 worth of merch that night, because they rocked those six people so hard. Having some nights on the road where they made no money at all must have been necessary preparation for that.
Throughout the weekend, I noticed a big difference in the atmosphere around the metal/punk/hardcore Black Stage and that surrounding the hipster/indie Orange Stage. The bands and the fans at the Black Stage, across the board, just seemed way more grateful to be there. I shared this observation with the Eagle Claw boys and they knew just what I was saying. "The Black Stage is where it's at."
Eagle Claw's favorite Austin bands: Pack of Wolves, Tia Carrera, and Woodgrain. Drummer Bart has worn a Woodgrain shirt every show Eagle Claw has played. You can next see them in Austin Friday, November 19th at Red 7 -- it's a free show, and Pack of Wolves and my friends in the radical Squidbucket are playing too. Find out more about the Claw at eagleclawhurts.com -- web site name drawn from actual audience feedback.