When the Raleigh quartet Grohg take the stage at The Pour House on Saturday night to celebrate the release of their second EP, the 14-minute powerhouse Darkness and the Freedom it Breathes, they'll face one unexpected hitch: The vinyl-only release remains at the pressing plant, meaning the release party won't involve the intended product at all.
What would have been a celebratory summit for an arduous year of start-and-stop writing and recording will instead serve, frontman Will Goodyear hopes, as a harbinger of new momentum for Grohg. He wants to make the new music available somehow—download cards or burned CD-Rs, perhaps. But the finished version will just have to wait.
Time is a familiar hurdle for Goodyear: In addition to leading Grohg, the 35-year-old balances a full-time tech support job at music marketing website ReverbNation, a fruitful painting career with several themed pieces now on display in Raleigh's Adam Cave Fine Art and a part-time gig managing bands for the Hopscotch Music Festival. He's helping to raise his 10-year-old daughter, Ainsley, through a pending divorce. He seems addicted to validating all existential toil through near-continual work.
"I've just been trying to fill up the free time I have with music," he says in his art studio on Raleigh's West Street. He kneels over a sheet of posterboard to push paint through a screen with a silicone spatula. "And if I don't have something musically, I'll just come here and do some work."
Tonight, he's doing both. After an eight-hour day at ReverbNation, Goodyear rushed here to paint before heading off to band practice with Grohg, a few blocks over in a cramped rehearsal space beside Capital Boulevard.
Despite an affinity for politically charged hardcore bands, a background in several antagonistic acts and his current tirades with Grohg, Goodyear says that he's more interested in the gray areas of sociopolitical issues. With his art, he aims to explore the interactions between social behavior and economic policy.
The five pieces he's showing at Adam Cave are part of a three-artist show that examines the city's recent downtown expansion. Goodyear's work layers abstract textures and aggressive marks cut into screenprinted architectural features, all taken from area buildings. Goodyear once worked as a delivery driver, a job that allowed him access to the sights and sounds of old manufacturing plants. His concept stems from those observations about how changes in American industry impact those who depend on it, plundering the conflicts between preservation of a manufacturing economy and progression toward automation and efficiency.
But these paintings are illustrated thoughts, not protest pieces.
"I like painting from places that I don't quite understand," Goodyear says. A drop of white paint lands on a black boot.
He speaks carefully, occasionally rambling around a thought until he articulates it at last. It's as if he's layering paint with his words, too: "Ideas that I can't quite form an opinion on make me want to explore it this way. Sometimes I figure something out; sometimes I don't."
Goodyear thumbs the spot of paint from his boot and stops working, at least until he parks his car at band practice.
More than a decade ago, Goodyear played in a string of rather successful, aggressive acts. He drummed in the influential metalcore group Prayer For Cleansing and then with its lucrative offspring, Between The Buried And Me, who have broken into international prominence without him.
Goodyear, though, put his louder musical interests aside and assumed the solo guise "William," conjuring spacious, moody songs. He played sideman roles with local rock classicists such as Strange Faces and Bright Young Things. And until a year ago, he coached marching bands.
But he began writing loud music again around 2011, with neither an audience nor a band in mind. As the material began to build, though, Goodyear recruited a rotating cast of, as he puts it, "whoever was around and interested." At points, those players included The Love Language's Stu McLamb and BJ Burton, Here Lies guitarist Craig Hilton and other volunteers, with Goodyear behind the drumkit. The result was a relentless, mid-paced brute, but the casual nature kept stalling the project's momentum.
"Now, it's different. There's more of a clear purpose for all of us being here," Goodyear says. "The four of us have the time to do this every week, at least, and get out and try to start playing as many shows as we can."
Goodyear now plays guitar and sings at the front of the stage, conducting the group around him—guitarist Andy Townsend, bassist Mark Connor, drummer Joel Willis—like a typical bandleader. It is Grohg's most committed roster to date. After years spent on the road working as a guitar tech for Between The Buried And Me, the band Goodyear left, Townsend decided to take a break from traveling. Goodyear capitalized on his availability.
"When he first asked me, he sent me a couple of raw demos," Townsend remembers. "I listened to about eight seconds of the first song and called him back and said, 'Yes.'"
Both Townsend and Connor played on Grohg's 2012 debut, Culture of Petty Thieves. Willis joined only a few months ago, after responding to an online call for auditioning drummers. He immediately started contributing ideas—and his practice space.
That's where, even without the vinyl in hand, Grohg is preparing for its big release show. In Willis' rented room, walled with blankets and egg-carton insulation and decorated with faux-bloody handprints, black metal posters and stacks of amps, Grohg works through a seven-song setlist twice. They smooth out kinks, discuss missed cues and refine tones. They're testing a new band-made lighting rig—"crowd blinders," Willis jokes—which the drummer operates through a pedal placed beside his hi-hat. It highlights the music's dynamic surges.
Goodyear moved to the front of the stage in large part because he wanted to power what he considers a good show, to make sure that the music was staged and not just played. When he performs, he shakes his curly strawberry blond hair violently, the tattoo of a Civil War drummer—inked with the soft edges of a daguerreotype by Blue Flame Tattoo owner Errol Engelbrecht—peeking from below his right elbow. Connor and Townsend concentrate on their strings. Willis slams into his kit and taps the footswitch to trigger blasts of white light.
"The presentation is much more authentic," Goodyear says.
Goodyear cites bands like Darkthrone and Satyricon—"black metal bands that took it in more of a rock direction"—as musical signposts, noting the songs' pop-rooted structures. The parts are all simple, but they're compiled into complicated webs. The drums, in particular, embrace space in a way most blast-beaten extreme metal might never consider. In fact, every member of Grohg has non-metal experience.
"It's become the necessity of this band, to some extent," Goodyear says.
Culture of Petty Thieves, Grohg's debut, depended on punk rock's blunt-force approach. Goodyear took on corporate greed, organized religion and chronic disease, as if to say, "Hey, let's all be angry together."
But Darkness blurs things. Recorded with the help of Earth Crisis guitarist Scott Crouse and drum engineer Brad Womack, the EP's swollen sound suits the music's surges of momentum and frequent shifts in tone. A sense of conflict permeates Darkness, mostly in the way several of metal's subgenres clash to form a new whole. Goodyear's lyrics wrestle with mortality and the struggle to make sense of looming impermanence. The songs are informed by his friend's death, separating from his wife after a 12-year relationship and struggling to find a steady place amid such turmoil.
Opener "Obsession with Disease," for instance, rides a moody, black metal introduction into a cutting bass groove, both clearing the path for a complicated guitar bridge that suggests prog rock. It's an experiment in shifting perspectives, as Goodyear wrestles with a close friend's death from a drug overdose and his own struggles with an autoimmune disease that causes severe arthritic joint pain.
He's addressed the haze of prescribed painkillers previously, on Culture's stately "Four Vials." But here he refracts his own pain through his friend's and finds a haunting commonality—"Back and forth, back and forth, back and fucking forth," he howls. "An obsession with disease."
"A lot of this record," Goodyear says, "is like, 'Where am I now? I'm in a pretty low place. How am I going to deal with it?'"
The answer, apparently, is to make the most of whatever time remains. The EP's final song, "The Unknown Infinite," is the record's newest composition and the one that offers some sliver of hope amid the turmoil. Its final line—"Rip open history, write ours in pen"—even portends reinvention.
"There's a little more positivity in those lyrics at the end," he says. "A little conversation with myself about getting my shit together, taking everything for what it is and keeping on keeping on. Writing this record was cathartic in a really sincere way."
Goodyear says he plans to promote the record as much as he can, but first Darkness needs an actual physical release. Holy Mountain Printing, a Raleigh company known mostly for printing heavy metal T-shirts and for which Goodyear used to work, will issue the 7-inch set in silk-screened sleeves when it arrives. From there, Grohg plans to take the show on the road, but strategically.
"We all work a lot," Goodyear says. "We're not going to go out on a three-week van trip where we pay a lot more than we make. I wish we could, but it's not realistic."
Connor, for instance, co-owns the Chapel Hill bar The Cave and helps manage Slim's in Raleigh. After spending years on the road as Between The Buried And Me's guitar tech, Townsend now works on guitars at a Sam Ash music store. Goodyear admits to nostalgia for the old days of touring with Prayer for Cleansing and BTBAM, but he's an adult now.
"Good times," he says. "There's just a lot more to deal with at home now, and I don't know if I could leave my daughter for an extended period of time and feel good about it."
In a way, the EP's delayed pressing is emblematic of the fits and starts—lineup changes, divorce, death, paying the bills—that contributed to the two-year gap between Culture and Darkness. But the band is already working on new material. If time is scarce, they want to make it count.
"We really believe in the music that we're doing," Goodyear says. "It would be silly if there was a demand for it not to deliver it. Our job is to build that demand."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Punishing time"