Friday, November 8, 2019
A Ripple Conversation With Dan Sefcik From Bone Church
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
When I was maybe five or six my father took my siblings & I on our first camping trip. I was so psyched cause it was finally summer and I always hated school. As we were leaving, “School’s Out” came on the radio. It was the first time I ever heard it and I remember thinking “Oh hell yea! school sucks! Rock n’ Roll gets it!” That’s the first time I can recall a song getting stuck in my head. We sang it the whole ride up to the campground. My dad told me it was by Alice Cooper and I thought “man that’s one cool lady.” Bohemian Rhapsody was another huge one for me. Hearing that as a kid I instantly loved it. It was sad, then it fuckin ripped, but then it got fairly silly, then it gets sad again. It ran through a whole gamut of emotions. I remember that being really powerful.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
For me it pretty much always starts with a riff, which usually includes a general idea for the drums and then the vocal melody just kind of weaves it’s way in there. Always melody first then lyrics. It’s kind of all happens as one piece for me. I’ll take a pretty well formed idea to the guys and we’ll jam on it and feel out the basic riffs and grooves. Rob puts his special blend of herbs and spices all over the drums. I get everyone’s input and see what feels natural for the progression of the song. Playing it with the full band is crucial for that. Then I’ll go home and work on it so when we return to it there’s some new ideas and the song has moved forward. We cycle through that process a bunch. Sometimes I’ll feel settled on a piece after having played it for a while, only to realize it can be cooler. Then you have to dismantle it and piece it back together. As arduous at that may be at times, it’s always worth it. Never settle if you think it can be better.
Who has influenced you the most?
I think we wear our influences on our sleeves. Sabbath and Zeppelin are the big ones. Those are the obvious baseline inspirations for the overall sound of Bone Church. Also Hendrix, Queen, Skynyrd, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers, Iron Maiden, and a little ‘Tallica for good measure. Ozzy, Elton John, and Tom Waits are big influences for Jack. For Rob it’s Bonzo, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, Dave Lombardo, and a little Gene Hoglan. I also think as a songwriter growing up in the hardcore scene influenced me a lot. We all grew up going to hardcore shows so I know everyone feels similarly. I always want to maintain a high level of energy and emotion in our music. If a song becomes too predictable or repetitive we get bored. I think hardcore shaped that part of our musical taste.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Honestly I find we’re constantly looking back in time. There’s so many incredible bands and records from, let’s say, the late 60s to the early 90s. A span of like 25 years has all our favorite music. Staying motivated is easy. We’re all just stoked to play rock n roll. It’s way better than real life. As far as songwriting goes my brain never stops, and I couldn’t shut it off if I wanted. Also, just go see Earthless live. That will inspire the shit out of you...or just make you want to quit.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
We’re out of New Haven, CT. Connecticut at one point had a huge, and very influential hardcore scene. We’re obviously not playing hardcore but the heaviness, emotion, and intensity of that is translated into our music now. New England can be beautiful but it can also be cold and bleak at times. The weather and the people. Just like how Van Halen sounds like a Southern California beach covered in tan babes, I think we sound like we’ve been raking leaves and shoveling snow. We’re also right between New York and Boston. We’re like the filling in an very irritated, impatient, Oreo cookie. We get all their residual anger. We have fun though. New England does have some very cool folklore. Not many people know but Connecticut actually had their own Witch hysteria and trials decades before Salem, Mass. That history is an influence in our themes. We don’t sing about the desert cause well, we’ve never been to the desert.
Where'd the band name come from?
The name came from a trip to Europe I went on in 2010. My friend and I were back-packing from Rome to Prague. We both really wanted to go to the Capuchin Crypt in Rome but there was just too much to see. We missed our opportunity in the short window we had. We were both bummed and we kept talking about how bad we wanted to see a “bone church.” The last few days of our trip were in Prague and we were completely unaware that THE most famous bone church is actually located there. It’s called the Sedlec Ossuary. So we missed our opportunity twice. Anyway, it was on that trip that I decided I was going to get back and start working on a killer band called Bone Church. Then about 6 years later I actually started it haha.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
The 1991, sleeper blockbuster action film STONE COLD, starring Brian Bosworth and Lance Henriksen. That movie kicks the asses of all other action movies. It’s pure heavy metal, bullet spraying, motorcycle mania. I don’t know how that it didn’t blow up on the same scale as Terminator 2.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
“Acid Communion.” That song addresses religion in a way we hadn’t on the earlier stuff. We have a heavy religious theme for obvious reasons, but I wanted to really dig into it on this record. That’s a very deep rabbit hole. Good thing for us “school’s out FOREVER” so we won’t have to write this essay.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Rob and I have been friends since high school but never got to play in a band together at the time. In 2011 I approached him about drumming in Bone Church and he was down. We were both stoked to get together and jam, but an hour before our first practice I plugged my amp in and it was dead. So I had to call him to cancel. We would reschedule for next week, I’d take the amp to get fixed; No big deal...We then didn’t talk to each other for literally 5 years. The rescheduled practice happened on 6/6/16. None of that seems real but it is.
We practice on the 5th floor of an old factory in New Haven. It looks like a High School from a Nightmare on Elm Street dream sequence. It has no heat or air conditioning. There’s an old freight elevator that’s always breaking but we keep using it anyway. On one freezing cold January night, at about 2 AM, we got stuck in it. Our phones were pretty much all dead from the cold and the crowbar we normally used to get in and out was missing. We thought we were just going to have to sleep in it over night. Then suddenly this very disheveled, scraggly looking guy appeared out of nowhere and looked in the little port window. He pried the elevator open and then immediately disappeared without saying anything to us. We call him “Bum Ghost.” He’s great.
We also saw a UFO this summer.
We recorded Acid Communion with Dave Kaminsky at Studio Wormwood. It’s in Mansfield, CT, out in the sticks. One night after a session we were standing out in the driveway. It was about 11 PM. We saw the clouds flickering; lighting up like there was lightning off in the distance, but it was going on for a unusual amount of time. Assuming there was lightning behind us I turned around to see it; as I did the whole property lit up like a football stadium. It was the brightest light I’ve ever seen. A large white orb moved quickly across the sky and then disappeared behind the tree line. We all stood there quietly in shock for a moment. When we tried to talk about it we just started laughing cause what in the fuck man?...we went inside to tell Dave what we just saw and his response was (I can’t express how nonchalant this was) “Oh yea...You saw a UFO. We see those all the time out here.” Completely unfazed. We think it was the Rock n Roll gods giving us their blessing. We had been camping in the backyard and slept there that night. I legitimately thought I was going to get abducted. I didn’t though. Unfortunately.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Playing live is everything. To date, one of our favorite moments, collectively, is still the response we got at our first show. It was at the launch party for our friends Hoax Brewing Company. As a band you don’t know how you’ll be received, especially when you’re first starting. They could have came out with that big cartoon stage hook and pulled us off but it was the opposite. We heard people singing along to the first song, which was surprising in itself considering we were brand new. When we finished that first song, the crowd exploded. It was nuts. To to be honest we we’re all pretty taken aback by it. The whole set was like that. It was one of those moments the energy in the room was so palpable. Sharing moments like that with people is what this whole thing is about.
What makes a great song?
Catchy melodies. Genre doesn’t matter. All of the best songs have catchy melodies and memorable hooks. In the riffs, in the vocals, in the drums. And not being too predictable. You have to know when to repeat an element, but you also have to know it’s time for a zig when they’re expecting a zag.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I ever wrote was for my first band All Held Victim. I don’t know what that name meant but it sounded metal as all hell. We were 13-14 at the time. The song was actually included on a compilation released by a small local label called Asbestos Records. It was sick.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
We’re all really proud of this whole new album. We grew a lot as musicians while working on this. But if I had to pick I’d say we’re I’m most proud of “Iron Temple” and “Acid Communion.” Those two songs are pretty epic.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Uncle Acid. They understand the key to a great song. Catchy melodies and hooks. They almost have a pop sensibility; but a very dark, creepy one. Tyler Childers too. That guy can write a hell out of a country tune.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
They all have their place. Digital is the most covenient but it sounds the worst. CDs sound great, and we have a nostalgic affinity for them because that was the choice medium if you grew up in the 90s. But vinyl is of course the best tangible form of music. The ritual of listening to a record is very enjoyable. I think it helps you appreciate the music more because it’s done with care. You can’t easily just flip through songs like you can digitally. You go to the specific room with the record player, sit down, look at the artwork and only focus on the music; the way it was intended. The record itself is art, especially now. That appreciation is something that started to get lost at the dawn of the digital music age.
Oh beer as fuck. Nick likes a good whiskey but we’re definitely beer boys. Especially Pat and Rob. As a matter of fact; Hoax Brewing Co out of East Haven, CT just made us our own beer called “Bone Church Brew.” They brewed it with real goat bones which sounds ridiculous because it is haha. It’s damn good though.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Rob and I grew up in Milford, CT. Our record store growing up was just the mega chain type stores in the mall. We used to have Cutler’s Records in downtown New Haven but that closed years ago. Now the best record store around is The Archive in Bridgeport. You can definitely get lost digging around the basement. They also have tons of VHS and rare B horror movies on Blu-Ray. The place rules.
What's next for the band?
Release “Acid Communion” and spread the gospel. Convert everyone we come in contact with. Grow the parish.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
More than just the first six Sabbath records are good. U2 is the worst ”rock” band of all time. Long live Rock N Roll!