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Upstate Unleashed: Interview with Tattermask

L to R: Josh, Travis, Amanda, Harley, Adam
L to R: Josh, Travis, Amanda, Harley, Adam

In a time where Amy Lee is prepping for maternity leave and Cristina Scabbia and company are finally getting back in step with the metal world, on the local level, some bands have never stopped in their pursuit of grandeur. One such band clamoring for the limelight is Charlotte, N.C.’s Tattermask. Fronted by the energetic and animated Amanda Caines, Tattermask has been creeping into ears and hearts since 2007. With the current line up- Harley Quinn (bass), Josh Wright (guitar), Travis Dry (guitar) and Adam Blackmon (drums)- Tattermask has been preparing to embark on a busy, and ludicrous, 2014 with more music, touring and absurdities. got a chance to pick the brains of this curious quintet and delve a little deeper into the histories, influences and development of Tattermask. Think of it as an origin story…..

So, let’s start with the obvious; where did the name “Tattermask” come from?
The name is a word I made up in 2003 that describes the emotional facade of everything being "okay" even when you're really not. Sometimes it's put up as a way not to protect yourself, and sometimes it's about appearing brave to protect others. Sometimes it's just your "game face" even when you're unsure of yourself

How would you describe your sound to someone that’s never heard you before?
You better listen to Sesame Street.
Travis: Have you ever listened to the crickets chirping on a cool springtime night down by the river? Well, it sounds nothing like that.
Josh: Cowboys and anthrax
Amanda: Or, the REAL answer: guitar-driven hard rock with melodic vocals. I like the quote “Like Evanescence, but with balls” from The Rise Guys’ Brutally Honest Music Review of us.

What are three words that describe the vibe/personality of the band?
Crazy fucking musicians
Harley: Insanity, Family, Stupid-o-clock
Adam: Come find out ;)
Travis: Smores, Whores and 4x4s
Amanda: Random, musical jokesters

You guys get compared to bands like Evanescence, how do you feel about that?
I think Amy Lee is a fabulously talented singer, and I am flattered to be compared to her. Other than that, and the general hard rock/alt. metal style of the music, I think that's where the similarities end, really. I think pretty much everything else about our bands is very different; we're a bit heavier, more guitar-driven, more progressive, and more southern-rock-based than they are. Nothing wrong with what they do, I just don't want people to assume they won't like us just because they don't like Evanescence--many have said that they were surprised that they liked us for that exact reason.

Who is the craziest band member?
That is an extremely loaded question. Which of us is certifiably nuts, as in needing to be put away, or which of us is the most willing to make an ass of themselves in public? Well, I think the answer would be the same either way: Adam-Hed.
Adam: That's probably about right.
Harley: When it comes to this band that is a very, very tough choice. We are all certifiably insane... in a way that compliments each others insanity. Then it just becomes one big tangled plethora of craziness. Its pretty fantastic.
Amanda: We're all crazy in our own ways.
Travis: I'd have to say Adam's the craziest.

What is the silliest thing you’ve ever done during a set?
Josh: Hmm, you may have to research some old live Tattermask photos for that one.
Travis: I walk over to Adam and fart without him knowing it.
Amanda: Probably the Domo costume. Or maybe when we planned to all point and scream at a random audience member during a pause in the song.
Adam: Playing a show in boxers and a straw hat. That's it.
Harley: We have this one song, Burn, that has a sudden stop and pause during the break. When we're feeling particularly frivolous we insert a clip of an entirely different song, i.e. Johnny Be Good, Broken Wings, etc., into that pause before going straight back into Burn. You never know what's going to hit you next!!

What is your favorite song to perform?
Probably "Burn," if not that one, then "Asylum."
Adam: Probably "Concern."
Travis: I like "Concern."
Amanda: "The Heat," but we don't play it all that often. I go through phases.
Harley: "Death of Me." It's fun to open with.

How do you develop your material? What is your song writing process?
Well, we start off by recording a bunch of short little riffs. Each riff gets assigned a number. We write out these numbers on pieces of paper and throw them onto the floor. Then we each take turns spinning super fast until we fall. Whatever riff number we fall on becomes the next part of the song. This process happens until Voila!! A brand new Tattermask song has been written!!
Amanda: (laughs) Well, maybe not quite like that, but I’d like to try that sometime!
Josh: Usually, our songs develop from jam sessions. We like all of us to be involved and have equal input to the songs and its parts.
Adam: Speak and Spell. The riff says: "Mrrrrrh"
Travis: We normally jam first and then go on anything we feel at the moment, and then we end up speaking in "guitar and drum" language: "bibbity-boppity, grrnt-grrnt, ert."

What led you to do music?
Music has always played a huge role in my life. My mother was a piano teacher and worked as a choir director/ music arranger at churches and various other ensembles. My dad always had a closet full of guitars, basses, a mandolin or two, and a few other instruments as well. I learned how to read music and got into the school band playing clarinet as soon as I was old enough. I studied clarinet from 4th grade up until my senior year of high school, but it wasn't until my 8th grade year, when the jazz band needed a bass player, that I went over to the dark side. I started playing bass in the musicals throughout high school and whenever my mother needed me for her gigs. The longer I spent on bass, the less time I spent with my clarinet, and eventually stepped away from classical altogether (although it is still the only genre of music I really listen to on a regular basis now). When I became a part of Tattermask that was it. I knew that bass, and being in a band, was my life. I love it.
Travis: My dad played bass.
Adam: Marching band kind of led me towards playing. I played snare, Quads, bass drum, whatever.
Josh: When we were in middle school band, the teachers went around and asked what instrument we wanted to play. I was the only one who said “Electric guitar.”
Amanda: My parents always played music and sang, and definitely encouraged me whenever I showed interest in music. Once I got over stage fright, there was no stopping me.

What was your first concert?
Probably Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Amanda: Collective Soul opening for Aerosmith was my first rock concert
Josh: AC/DC
Adam: My first big one was actually Metallica. Technically, it was Godsmack, 'cause they opened, but I went to see Metallica.
Harley: I think it was Shinedown and Chevelle.
Travis: Y'all got cool ones. Erase my Lynyrd Skynyrd!

What can we expect from Tattermask in 2014?
Epic battles with narwhals in top hats and monocles, leprechauns riding unicycles, and various other magical oddities.
Adam: Dang, I don't have anything funny to say about this one.
Travis: Me neither.
Adam: Harley kind of covered it with her paragraph.
Amanda: But seriously, folks... bigger, better shows, hopefully a couple with nationals, branching out farther into the Southeast, finishing our album, and of course, a lot more webisode ridiculousness.

You can find out more about Tattermask via their Facebook page and on ReverbNation. You can also witness the (occasionally) unmanaged mischief in their webisodes on YouTube. The next place to catch the shenanigans of Tattermask will be at their sixth annual “Tattermasquerade” at Tremont Music Hall on February 22. Featuring feathers, costumes, masks, and a hefty lineup of regional talent, how can you resist? If you dig melodic alt metal with 'tude (and a touch of insanity), then don't miss your chance to see Tattermask!

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