Wild eyed and possessing the qualities of a preacher at a tent revival or one who’s seen the fang-toothed sasquatch monster in the woods, The Builders and The Butchers‘ Ryan Sollee sings to testify. Uncharacteristic of the band’s lurid musical tales, the 5 young men from Portland by way of Alaska appear mellow and norm-observant. Friendly and unassuming, their offstage demeanor belies their full-blast southern goth intensity, an intensity I suppose we should have suspected with 2 out of 5 fiery haired members.
The Builders and The Butchers’ songs come out as aged stories dappled with occasional gleams of color or light amidst wailing, shuddering, cold darkness. Think rot, stench, the plague, ugly acts, horror. As a collective, the group unravels these stories with banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, drums and percussion and Ryan’s shuddering voice using words like godforsaken, blood, prison, devil, stone, grave, dirty, gavel, black gold and iron ore. The result, rather than creepy, is an engaging, earthy, participatory celebration: the urge to dance after dark, unkempt and barefoot; a fuck-it-all-i’m-gonna-do-what-feels-good attitude; freedom arising from the realization that until your heart stops pumping and as long as your lungs are circulating oxygen, you can’t be stripped of your essence under any circumstances.
It’s a light feeling that comes when I think of the many around the globe who appreciate and support The Builders and The Butchers and who, in turn, may be unlocked from some sort of personal or societal bondage, if only for a song or the duration of a concert. Sometimes it takes a strong contrast or a good jolt to shake folks into gratitude for their very lives. The Builders and The Butchers know how to provide just such a number.
Listen to the Exclusive Live Tracks (option/click to download):
*LA: The Builders and The Butchers are playing the Hollywood Pallladium this Saturday and Sunday (Oct 17 and 18).