Horns of the Headless members bring rock firepower to Maryville
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As older guys playing heavy rock in a scene dominated by younger musicians, the three members of Knoxville band Horns of the Headless knew they had to do something to stand out after the exit of their former bass player.
“Gimmick-wise, we were going to put on makeup or get a girl, so we went with Sara,” drummer Derek Harvey told The Daily Times this week.
He kids, of course; Washington — a veteran of the local outfit Lost Holiday — earned her spot in the band, which brings its particular band of ferocity to The Thirsty Turtle in Maryville on Friday, by earning it. And her inclusion, singer Mike Walls said, has only served to make Horns of the Headless better.
“We didn’t really realize how much of a change was needed until Sara got with us,” he said. “When she did, we reevaluated where we were.”
“With Sara, we had to go back and re-learn some things, and the songs came out better and tighter because of it,” Harvey added.
Horns of the Headless has been around since 2010, but founders Walls and Blake Womack go back further than that in the East Tennessee music scene. Walls, a 1987 graduate of Bearden High School, was in Hypertribe in the early 1990; Womack, who hails from Anderson County, was in such bands as Alpha Zulu and Dead Star Prophecies; and Harvey, a 1987 of Powell, is a veteran of Serene Scream.
“We’ve all been in different bands that were considered metal; we cut our teeth on that kind of stuff,” Walls said. “But we took a break for 10 years because we got sick of all the music out there. We wanted to make the songs we want to make, so we took the pieces that are out there and started doing our own thing. We’ve refined our sound, and we’re not done figuring it out yet, but we know what we like and what we don’t like.”
The four members have an aversion to labeling what Horns of the Headless does as outright metal — there are elements of punk, thrash and metal all thrown into the mix, Harvey added — and while it’s difficult for them to put an exact label on what Horns of the Headless music is, there are certain things it is not.
It isn’t pretty. It isn’t dreamy. It isn’t depressing or mellow or boring. It’s rock ‘n’ roll in the true sense of the word: bold, brash, brutal and blistering, the sound of a the “Jackass” crew crammed into a Chevy Nova at 1 a.m., taking Jager shots and chasing them with Red Bull while driving down “The Dragon” at 120 mph with the lights off.
“It’s just straightforward rock ‘n’ roll,” Harvey said. “If you’re looking for technical changes in what we do, you’re not going to get it. We’re varied in our writing styles, and we might have a song that comes off heavier and another that’s more groove-oriented and the next song might be in-your-face punk, but it’s all raw.”
And, he pointed out, Horns of the Headless is palatable. It goes down smooth, which is why the band fits easily onto bills that feature doom-metal bands, cover bands and pop bands. That’s one of the things that attracted Washington to the mix last fall, when they guys were seeking a new bass player.
“My introduction was seeing them play live, because it sounded to me like they had been doing this together for a while,” she said. “They have a certain chemistry together that’s really energetic, and the energy of the music and the live shows impressed me. I looked forward to going to shows to see them play.”
And when they asked her to join, the fact that she’s the one girl in a band playing a particularly masculine brand of rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t a factor, she added.
“I don’t really have that attitude, because I did a lot in life and music before Horns of the Headless,” she said. “I looked at it more as an opportunity to improve as a musician and to have the experience of being in a band of musicians that have been around the block in the music scene. I see it as a big opportunity to be a part of a field I can grow in.”