Interview: Night Goat

Nobody in the band had ever heard any of my lyrics or melodies until after it was recorded. It was totally very trusting on their end to allow me the creative freedom to find my voice autonomously in the studio.

Night Goat have just released their second  album Totem and it mixes hellishly abrasive noise rock with everything from doom and sludge to post-punk and death rock. The album sees the band reach new heights with these songs and Gavin Brown caught up Night Goat vocalist Julia Bentley who told us all about Totem and its creation as well as discussing all aspects of Night Goat’s music and what fuels its darkness.

E&D: Your new album Totem has just been released. How has it been received so far?     

Julia: Seems to have been received positively and excitedly by the metal community in the United States and also in other countries such as Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, United Kingdom and Mexico! Our friends and supporters here in Ohio also dig it a lot!

E&D: Was the creation and recording of Totem a smooth process?

Julia: Yes and no. I am a newbie in all of this and have not had a real opportunity to spend time in a recording studio, until this album. We had multiple issues going on after we began creating the album in general… First off, the guys created the music during Covid, and I was not really able to make it to the practices most of the time because I was either watching my daughter Lakota, or managing our music venue with virtually no staff other than volunteers. Music venues and bars have been hit HARD since Covid-19 pandemic, and ours (Buzzbin) was no exception. Also, I am strapped for childcare and have minimal resources for any “me time” in general, unless my husband (guitarist Chris Bentley) watches over our little one. Most of the time our lives just didn’t allow time for me to be there while the music was created. So the guys created the songs prior to me contributing lyrics. Then the songs were finished and I began writing while the rest of the band recorded the music in the studio (with no lyrics) with Wreckroom Recording engineer Jeremy James. Then, unexpectedly, Jeremy James had some personal issues to take care of and was out of the picture completely for 10 months! So, that whole time I listened to the music the band wrote, trying to write, but without a deadline I am no good at writing anything. When Jeremy returned to the studio around September 2022, the guys went back into the studio to finish recording the music and I was to add lyrics. Have you ever been in a band with a very talented spouse and rest of the band, trying to record as a newbie, while everyone else is comfortable and experienced? It’s like listening to people speak a different language and trying to understand what is going on, while trying to understand and communicate musical jargon and regurgitate it back so they all could understand where I am coming from, and was very frustrating for them I’m sure…because it was difficult for me to just “do it” without knowing the process of what I am doing (that’s just how my brain works). So after some internal struggles within myself and the band I made the band give me a deadline. After I was given the deadline (over a year after the music was created!) I wrote each song the day I recorded the vocals, about 10 minutes before going to the studio. I had been thinking about melodies/lyrics for over a year, and was trying to get it out of my head, but for some reason I was not able to do that until the very last minute. So, I wrote before I got to the studio (in a cemetery!) and then rearranged words etc after Jeremy and I started tackling the songs. Then it got easier… Jeremy has the ability to “meet you where you are” musically and was very supportive during my creative process, encouraging me and helping give me confidence to complete the album. The rest of the band are all very talented and experienced musicians. I always hassled and begged my guy friends in bands to let me sing and give me a chance, and my husband gave me the ultimate chance in the recording of Totem. Nobody in the band had ever heard any of my lyrics or melodies until after it was recorded. It was totally very trusting on their end to allow me the creative freedom to find my voice autonomously in the studio. For them I am forever grateful!

E&D: The tracks on the album are inspired by Native American lore. How did this idea for these new songs come about and would you consider Totem as a concept album as a whole at all?

Julia: Yes, Chris thought up the topic of Native American rituals to write about, as we all as band members have Native blood running through us. Native American tribal beats are also something most who love music can follow and understand. The tribal, driving drums on Totem definitely can be understood/appreciated by any culture (as all have native origins of some kind) and the drumming literally reflect the tone and feelings we all had dealing with hardship, struggle and drive to overcome all the obstacles that covid brought to most of the world, and to each of our band members, individually.

E&D: The epic ‘Death Crow Dance’ concludes the album. Did it feel right to end the album with that song?

Julia: Absolutely. It kind of gets hypnotic and is actually longer than the album allotted for, because of limitations on time with vinyl.

E&D: You’ve got a few special guests on the album. Can you tell us about those and what they brought to the album’s sound?

Julia: Yes, they all add to the chaos and noise that is not in everyday Night Goat in a way that shines each of their talents. Matt Corey’s saxophone in ‘Death Crow Dance’ just makes you feel like you are coming down from a wild trip or recovering from the biggest OG (orgasm) or high you ever encountered musically. Drummer Tommy Dalo added the chaotic tribal drumming in ‘Child of Owls’ that communicates the “heart” in that song, as that song in particular is about things that started Night Goat to begin with. Mike Pavlis ghostly guitar echoes in ‘Ghost Sickness’ just as the ghosts/spirits can haunt each of us, and the do with PTSD.

E&D: Do you feel this is your most diverse album to date and was that your intention in the first place?

Julia: Yes, this album allowed all of us an opportunity to be more creative, especially when we play the songs live. It allows us all the opportunity to experiment along the way, during a set. Each song is a little bit different and I feel like you can hear the creative spaces left open to play with live. I felt like I could literally hear what I was supposed to do lyrically for melodies… as that’s one advantage of being in a band with your spouse haha! you can hear each other’s heartstrings in the music and create with that knowledge. The spaces left for me in full trust allowed me to find my voices… all of them!, and create however and whatever I “heard” I was supposed to do, and then also create impromptu, with however I “FELT” the day vocals were added.

E&D: How have Night Goat evolved as a band since your debut album Milk?

Julia: We have evolved in a few ways. First off while looking for the sound we had a few other people in the band Mike Pavlis on guitar, and at one point Bill Govan on guitar. We had to go down those roads to know what we needed and what was not needed. We became resourceful and more trusting of the core 4 of us, as far as energy goes there is something there in no more than 4 people in the band for what we were writing. We then used a more trusting and carefree approach with the music and such because it seemed to be alive and kept changing up until we recorded.

E&D: How is life on Black Donut records and how did you come to be on the label?

Julia: Black Donut records are awesome and very easy to work with. They just get it! I don’t know how, but our vibes just seem to line up. I am very open and honest and sometimes very blunt in speaking and I can just be myself with the label, we all can. They are very supportive of our work as a whole and individually as artists. It feels great! One day, Chris just decided to send out our music to the label because we were proud of it. Chris is very modest, and I encouraged him to send it out because, hey why not? Closed mouths don’t get fed!

E&D: Who are the biggest influences on the music of Night Goat since you began?

Julia: From my perspective I would say The Jesus Lizard, Unsane, Danzig, Samhain, Sonic Youth, Swans, Nirvana, Dead and Gone, Neurosis, Bauhaus.

E&D: How did Night Goat start as a band?

Julia: Chris and I started Night Goat after facing many tragic events in our lives together, sometime simultaneously, that caused major upheaval and emotional distress. Chris’s mother passed away, then one of my teenagers attempted suicide with their brother witnessing, then I went through a horrible custody battle (and in the end have 2 very large voids and it was very traumatic), Chris’s father passed away, addiction issues were faced, and then Covid-19 pandemic and fall-out occured. We had a lot of stress going on and needed “somewhere to put it all”.

E&D: Are you looking forward to hitting the road this summer in support of the new record?

Julia: YES! We ALL are. This is a very positive thing we all have to focus on amidst a lot of uncertainty and struggles at home in Ohio. This is also my first time ever touring, so I’m sure I’m in for it haha!

E&D: What gigs that you have played still stand out to you?

Julia: Washington DC at Slash Run was EPIC! We also played the last show EVER at Frankie’s in Toledo. In the past we opened for Cherubs, Christian Death, The Obsessed, Bummer, Buildings, Whores and Nox Novacula which were also AMAZING shows and we all love each of those bands.

E&D: You just mentioned you shared the stage with the likes of Christian Death, The Obsessed and Whores, to name a few. Who have you loved playing with the most?

Julia: Out of those 3, my personal favorite was with Whores. I got to pick them up from the airport and drive them around and it was really cool to get to know them as people. Their performance was top notch as always!

E&D: Who would you love to play with in the future?

Julia: Whores, Unsane, Godflesh… really we will play with any band that wants us to open… that’s how we have done it so far we are very open to lots of music. Any band associated with Ripple Records, Season of Mist, Reptilian Records or Amphetamine Reptile Records.

E&D: Which bands have been some of the most memorable you have ever seen live?

Julia: Well, me and bassist Dalin Jones saw The Jesus Lizard 4 years ago in Detroit and not only got to help David Yow float through the crowd, I got thrown up and got to crowd surf too and that show was so high and mighty on energy it will stain my brain forever with amazing musical memories! But the band members collectively vote that our personal favorites live are 90s era SWANS, Jesus Lizard, Neurosis, and most recently Suicidal Tendencies, Whores with Bummer, Cherubs, Multicult, Failure and Power Trip.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time with Night Goat so far

Julia: Highlights with the band include every step of everything we do together as a band. I am new to this end of music (being in a band and creating, not just listening and supporting the scene). I look forward to more awesome road trips and learning many new things with these amazingly talented dudes.

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