Recently I reviewed the “Wood & Wire” split EP between the sludge / doom protagonists Undersmile and their acoustic alter egos Coma Wall. Since then, they have released a CD version of the EP, with a bonus track. I managed to grab a few words with them about the release and working on such different projects.
You recently released a split EP with alter ego Coma Wall, how did the idea for that come about?
We’d been dedicating all our time to Undersmile but we were keen to start playing some of our acoustic music, which actually predates Undersmile. After doing a few gigs as Undersmile Unplugged at Desertfest and with Dylan Carlson, Lee from Shaman Recordings got in touch with the idea of doing a vinyl release and suggested doing an Undersmile electric vs acoustic album. So we liked the idea and decided to give the acoustic band its own identity as Coma Wall.
You have released a video for the track ‘Soil’ from the EP, can you explain the concept behind it?
Not really – we don’t think we should tell people what to think about our music, artwork or videos. We prefer people to come to their own conclusions.
For the CD release of the Wood & Wire EP, Coma Wall covered Undersmile song ‘Big Wow’. How did it feel to revisit a song that you had written yourselves?
There is also a Coma Wall cover of ‘Cutter’s Choice’ on the split and this is really just a hangover from the Undersmile Unplugged gigs. When we got asked to play acoustic gigs as Undersmile we thought it would be best to include some acoustic reworkings of Undersmile songs as well as the other songs we’d written. We thought it would be cool to include them on Wood & Wire to get it out of our system so the next Coma Wall release can be completely new, unheard songs. We do enjoy playing those version too, though.
You played at this year’s Hammerfest, how did that go down?
Hammerfest was great – we still don’t know who asked us to play (someone at Metal Hammer presumably!) but we’re glad we got invited. The drive up through Snowdonia National Park was beautiful and we could actually see the mountains from our chalet which was cool. The gig itself was great – we got a very warm welcome and I think we might have been a welcome change of pace after so many of the fast, shreddy and thrashy metal bands. It was slightly surreal playing in a converted family-friendly food court though.
How does you approach writing for two such different bands, do you have set practice and writing time for each or work with whatever comes up?
We are always writing stuff and both styles come naturally to us so it’s just a matter of putting aside time for each band and prioritising what we want to work on. Undersmile has taken precedence in the past but that will probably change in future as more people seem to be getting interested in Coma Wall.
Could you tell us abut the formation and plan behind Undersmile and Coma Wall, what was the thinking behind doing two separate bands?
Taz and Hel had a couple of bands before Undersmile started but the one that stuck involved them both singing and playing acoustic together and they had loads of songs. Since doing Undersmile that band has evolved to incorporate Tom and Olly’s contributions with banjo, bass and drums coming into the mix to become Coma Wall. We like when bands have side-projects, or just do very different things from one album to the next. It seems weird to us that a band would limit themselves to just playing one style of music and that’s the way we like to approach making music.
Are there any differences between doing a split EP with another band than doing one with another of your projects?
I think whenever you do a split there’s always a slight element of ‘I hope our side stands up to the other band’s side’. Not in a competitive way as such, but more because of how much we respect the other band and because we obviously want to do ourselves proud. We definitely felt this pressure when we did a split with Caretaker who are an incredible band and it’s certainly the case now with Bismuth, with whom we’re currently doing a split. In a weird way, this situation was the same with Coma Wall even though we’re both technically the same band – we wanted people to like both sides as equally as possible and thankfully that seems to have been the case so far based on the feedback we’ve received and the reviews we’ve gotten.
Is there a plan for the two bands to collaborate again?
No plans at the moment. I think the split served more as an introduction to Coma Wall but we want that band to do its own thing from now on.
What’s next for each band?
Undersmile are releasing a split with Nottingham based titanic doom duo Bismuth on LP and cassette before the end of the year (in a collaboration between Nottingham- and Holland-based labels). Coma Wall are probably going to start home-demoing songs for a new EP or album and put the feelers out to see if anyone would be interested in releasing it. Coma Wall are also playing at Supernormal Festival on the 10th August and we’re supporting Arbouretum at the Port Mahon in Oxford on the 19th August so we’re looking forward to those gigs.