In May, local doom metal band UZALA got the chance to play Heavy Days in Doomtown, a four-day DIY metal festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. As guitarist Chad Remains describes it, the trio couldn't have asked for a better experience.
"We had about an hour to set up, which is a long time," he said. "Had a nice long soundcheck, played through really quality equipment that belonged to the festival. And by the time we got all dialed in, I looked up and the place is absolutely packed to the gills. People are sitting on the bar. They're sitting right on top of the sound booth, almost--the sound guy can barely see us."
He was so moved, he added, that he told the crowd, "This is our first time in Europe. Really glad to be here. I talked to a lot of you folks before we played, but I might have forgot to tell you--I love you."
Remains and his bandmates, drummer Chuck Watkins and guitarist-vocalist Darcy Nutt, have been getting love here in America, too. VICE premiered UZALA's second album, Tales of Blood and Fire (2013), on its Noisey music site last October. CVLT Nation called it "easily one of the best releases of the year." Last year also found the group opening for Chelsea Wolfe at Shredder and touring the United States with Mike Scheidt from the acclaimed metal band YOB.
UZALA starts a six-date Northwest tour next week, which will include a Radio Boise Tuesday show at Neurolux on July 15 with Dallas-based doom band Dead to a Dying World and local hardcore band Blackcloud.
The band's deliberate tempos, droning riffs and clear, forceful vocals create a sound both fearsome and seductive. Nutt and Remains, the UZALA's chief songwriters, took their time developing this sound--they'd been married for nearly a decade before they decided to start a group back in 2009.
"We had not ever played music together before, other than in the early, early days," Remains said. "It was just kind of like, 'Oh yeah, we have a bunch of amps, let's jam,' but there was never any band. And we decided one night [that] instead of going on a date that we would do that instead."
The couple wrote two songs that night, and UZALA was born. The band recorded its self-titled debut (2012) at Visual Arts Collective with Wolvserpent's Blake Green at the mixing board, Built to Spill's Stephen Gere on drums and Portland, Ore.-based musician Nick Phit on bass. For Tales, the current lineup laid down tracks over six days with Seattle musician-producer Tad Doyle at his Witch Ape Studio.
"Tad had a lot of awesome ideas for us [and] got us what I felt was a really great foundation sound for the bass and the drums," Remains said, "which allowed Darcy to be really creative with her vocals and allowed me to be really expressive with the guitar overdubs and stuff."
Remains credits UZALA's impressive list of contacts to his lack of fear when it comes to networking.
"I've just never been afraid to actually meet people," he said. "I don't get terribly star-struck ever, so meeting Mike Scheidt from YOB or meeting Dave Sweetapple from Witch or meeting J. Mascis [from Dinosaur Jr.] ... doesn't bother me at all. I know they're just guys, just people."
UZALA doesn't mind being "just people" either. According to Remains, the band tries never to tour for more than three weeks at a time. This is partially because Watkins can't gig regularly--he lives in Portland and drums with the band Ephemeros--but also because he and Nutt can't be away too long from their daughter or Nutt's day job (she runs Chalice Tattoo Studios).
"If [UZALA] became a full-blown job to us where we were working at it nine months out of the year on the road [and] taking every gig that was thrown at us, I think that it would get old really fast," Remains said.
Still, the band plans to keep going. UZALA has material for a new album but wants to take some more time to work on it. In the meantime, Remains looks forward to touring again and especially to playing Gilead Fest in Oshkosh, Wis., with Wolvserpent, The Body, Ash Borer and other metal acts later this month.
When describing UZALA's approach to touring, Remains recalled a story that a Marine friend once told him about a general's address to his troops before they were shipped out.
"He rolled up his sleeves and you could see all of his tattoos. And he said, 'I've only got a few things to say: Be polite, be professional and be prepared to kill any motherfucker that's in your way.'"