Bison is a band that you can’t ignore. The Vancouver, Canada band formed in 2006 and has since gained a following of die hard fans with a brand sludgy metal that grinds low and slow. Lead vocalist James Farwell recently sat down with Slickster to discuss their new record, You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient, thoughts on the business side of music, and the blues.
Can you talk a little about Vancouver and how the city has influenced your overall sound?
James Farwell – On this record, the city influenced the music in that I wrote it after fleeing Vancouver. After being forced out, due to a housing crisis and not being able to find a home for my growing family. This is the urgency that is lent to this record. It is a sober look into the void that life once was, and carving out a new one. It’s about safety and feeling held. It’s about feeling free, while still being a part of the depraved circus which rules our lives.
How did Bison form?
James Farwell – I found dudes who could be in a room and a van with me for long periods of time. All of the members of this group have been like family, always that connection which is the most important. Finding respect and love and kinship in other musicians is beautiful. It took 35 years for me to find these guys.
What was the point in your life when you decided you wanted to be full-time musicians?
James Farwell – When I wanted to be a full-time musician I was drunk and young and stupid and had a glazed over film of naivety in my eyes. Life is so much more. The music is just the story of it. It’s the outlet and cure for many things. Friends and community and connection, which often come out of music, are the real ingredients in life. Music is a fucking savior, but my family keeps me afloat and has my back. There are so many fucking gross things about making music your business, and I don’t want to. Music is sacred, it can’t be destroyed by a bunch of bastards that live their lives according to numbers and some money god.
The band was once signed to the iconic Metal Blade Records, can you speak a little to that time in the band’s history?
James Farwell -Well, you can refer to the previous answer for some insight into that. Metal Blade was a young guys dream come true. It was an excellent introduction into a world that I did not know a thing about. I didn’t know the reality of major labels. You are turned into a cog in a giant machine, and if you falter or skip a beat or say no too many times, you are replaced. We changed direction, and they did not support us. It was a great lesson to never do that ever again.
The new record is powerful, sludgy, and a little loose, what was the songwriting and recording process like?
James Farwell – The song writing was the result of a new life, settling into a new small town and having the space and freedom to create something in a controlled way. Not as destructive and chaotic as past writing periods. It was finding the comfort and safety of my family, and having that I could really get into some shit with myself and in my head, knowing I had this lifeline to pull me out. I also had nobody breathing down my neck to produce product and to make it more metal or evil or some bullshit like that. I didn’t have some energy drink nightmare tour offers to stress me out or some fear of hollow obligation to a business that I thought of as a cancer.
I have my own thoughts on the title You Are Not the Ocean, You are the Patient refer to? But would love to hear what the title means to you?
James Farwell – We think we are something we are not. We need to be humble. That is the only way we can get out of this alive.
The song “Tantrum” brings some Middle Eastern influence to it, in fact, I hear a lot of short little bursts of “other” instruments that infiltrate songs on the record, where did that idea come from?
James Farwell – I really wanted to make some trip shit. It’s something we have never really done, other than throwing a space echo in here and there. Also wanted it to be creepy, scary. The feelings you have in your heart and brain before you explode – those are some treacherous emotions, and I wanted that to come through in the tune.
This is the first full length record with bass player Shane Clark, how has Shane influenced the band’s sound?
James Farwell – Shane is an amazing musician and a great friend. He is a true Bison family member. He has a fantastic ear and intuition regarding songwriting and he really gets the vibe and feel of this writing we are doing. Couldn’t have done it without him.
I read that you (vocalist James Farwell) listened to a lot of blues when making this record. How has that sound influenced the new record?
James Farwell – Simply put, there is honesty in the blues. The end. It helped me make more honest music. All heart, no cock. All vomit, no retch.
Who are the musicians that inspire you most to make music?
James Farwell – People I see who just love it, and love creating, and do it for beauty and to better the world. People who dive into themselves and tear themselves apart and are able to crawl back out, and share it, to connect and affect people.
What’s next for Bison?
James Farwell – Probably fucking everything up. Working on a rock video, hopefully Much Music or MTV will play it. Also cooking up a great European tour in 2018. basically, we are just taking our time, doing things the way we want. Chopping wood and hanging with my family. Gonna work on another great batch of cider, and build a shed. Peace.