INTERVIEW: Will Allard talks about the upcoming record from XERXES and his love of Universal’s Classic Monsters!

Photo By Mary Burks
There has been plenty of anticipation leading up to the release of Collision Blonde, the new record from punk band Xerxes that will be released this Tuesday, October 21st via No Sleep. To get you hyped, the band has been streaming a few tracks from the album online over the last few months, all of which have created positive buzz nationally. Judging on the small sample we’ve heard, this is shaping up to be the finest record this band has created thus far. Check out their excellent new song “Chestnut Street”:

To get a better handle on what to expect, Xerxes guitarist Will Allard was kind enough to answer a few questions about the release of Collision Blonde, what the band has planned going forward, and more..

Never Nervous: Talk about the upcoming Xerxes record Collision Blonde. Judging from the singles that have been streaming online over the last few months, it’s easy to judge that it’s very different than anything you’ve done in the past.

Will Allard: It is definitely a bit of a step in a different direction, but I’d like to think it’s coming from the same place with the same intent we had when we first started. We are six years older, the personnel has changed and maybe the tones are a bit different, but I think the people who liked the band before are going to like these songs and are going to be able to find that element they liked in the old material in Collision Blonde. Maybe it’s hidden under a layer of maturation or has a couple new faces attached to it, but I think they will find it.

NN: The “Xerxes Sound” has evolved quite a bit over the years. You guys seem to be steering away from the hardcore punk sound you started with. What would you attribute this to?

WA: Besides the obvious completely new rhythm section and even this being the first LP record I played guitar on with this group, I think the change of sound has a lot to do with the writing process. Before this record, everything was usually already written by the time someone brought it to practice. Sure we would workshop the songs, but never like how we are doing now. With this record, we wrote probably 90% of it together right there in our rehearsal space and three of those when we were in the studio. We have four amazingly different heads with completely different backgrounds and interests and it makes for a really unique combination. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

NN: Do you have a personal favorite track from Collision Blonde?

WA: That’s hard for me to say. I’m not really a fan of my own music – or anything I create really ever – I really don’t listen to it or interact with it much. Maybe “Chestnut Street?” I would probably listen to that song if it were by another group. It has a cool kind of late 70’s London groove to it. Ben and Jo did a great job creating that and the way they make you wait for the ever so slightly delayed crashes on the interludes really gets me.

NN: What guitar players inspire you to write for Xerxes? Are there any direct influences that you draw from?

WA: It’s funny. I’m not really a guitar player. I’m a classically trained percussionist who just happens to be wielding a stringed instrument. More often than not, I catch myself playing the guitar in weird sort of wacky ways that I don’t think anyone who’s ever had a guitar lesson would do. I’m not very good at playing guitar like a guitar player so I think I’ve had to find my own way around it. I love to beat on the strings around the bridge and scrape and shake and create a lot of noise. That being said, however, Juju by Siouxsie in the Banshees is one of my all time favorite records and a lot of it has to do with John McGeoch’s guitar. He has an extremely creative style and was one of the main influences for the more traditional guitar work on Collision Blonde for sure – especially the title track. I’d say I draw a lot from him.

NN: So after you guys release Collision Blonde in a few weeks, what’s the plan afterward? Is there a tour planned? Do you have a record release show planned?

WA: As of now our only real plans for the rest of the year are to do an east coast tour up to New York for CMJ and then down to Florida to play The Fest. And we must be insane because we are already a few songs into a new record and have some studio time set aside in December…

NN: Tell me something that the average dude on the street wouldn’t know about Xerxes.

WA: Ben, Jo, and Calvin love watching these parrot YouTube videos. It’s the worst thing in the world. The videos are usually just parrots saying dumb things or them doing something like riding a vacuum around a room and they all go hysterical. It’s morbid, really.

NN: Outside of Xerxes, what other projects have you been involved with lately?

WA: Other than working on a bunch of other people’s projects at Missed Connections, right now I have been working very hard on a new project of mine called xo Madisyn. I’ve spent much more time thinking about it than recording it because the recording part doesn’t take much time at all. The execution though is very important so I have to approach it with the right head. It’s a little zanier than anything I’ve done before and it requires me to be in a totally different space.

NN: What current bands in Louisville have been knockin’ your skirt up lately?

WA: There are so many great bands in town. Today I heard the newest Coliseum record they recorded last week and I can safely say it’s their best stuff to date – such an incredible group. I also like the newest Twin Limb record a lot, the new Young Widows, Julie of the Wolves, anything Rachel Grimes, and Vaderbomb. I could go on and on.

NN: With the recent surge in newer record stores around town, which one do you find yourself frequenting the most, and why?

WA: I patronize most of them, but I like Guestroom Records a lot. Aside from being some of the nicest people in the world, they seem to have everything you could possibly want. That is seriously a place you have to make a budget for because if you don’t you will walk out with entire discographies. Plus Jake Philley works there!

NN: Care to recommend a good horror flick that we might not have seen? It is October, after all.

WA: I like the classic monster movies. You can’t go wrong with The Wolf Man, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Dracula, or Frankenstein.

NN: Before you go, talk about your favorite record of 2014 so far.

WA: I haven’t paid close attention to too much from this year. There are a couple coming up I’m somewhat excited about like the new Iceage. Nothing is really sticking out to me much, though. Young WidowsEasy Pain was pretty cool. I think I’m still just recovering from last year. 2013 had seriously some of my favorites. New Nick Cave, David Bowie, Crime and the City Solution, The Julie Ruin, My Bloody Valentine – ya know? Like, that’s pretty wild.