In the intersecting worlds of post-punk, post-industrial music, of which neofolk is our flagship, there is an interesting melding of the ultra-modern and the class, folk, or traditional. This can feel as though it is a futuristic memory of the past, electronic music with influences from the oldest forms of generational music. Or it could be a touch of one genre with something established, such as Appalachian folk songs blackened around the corners. With Quercus Alba it is actually simply light, finger-plucked guitar work that is expanded on with a temperamental ambience or meditative sound. We first came across Quercus Alba with a split they did with Foret Endormie, and were excited to finally catch up with them for a full interview.
Now we have been able to corner them for an interview and discussed American folk influences, how the project came together, and what their recording process is like.
So how did your project come together? Was it your first musical project?
Sort of a long story, however I’ll keep it brief. It starts with my study of classical guitar and music in my early 20’s during college. My education and teachers introduced me to many artists, genres, and compositional styles that kind of opened my mind about what music can be. After I graduated I started listening to many folk and neo-classical type ensembles and bands. I particularly enjoyed nylon-string guitars mixed with other instrumentation in a modern chamber ensemble setting. Unfortunately, its not as common as one might think. I also dove quite heavily into soundscape and ambient type sounds. Most recently, I picked up clawhammer banjo. So, I decided to put something together with instruments I was familiar with while combining some of these influences into a sort of solo ensemble. I tried to create something that is both instrumentally and sonically unique.
This is my first project composing anything in this genre. I have been an active member of the metal world for quite some time. Until recently I was a live member of Panopticon. I also play in a doom/sludge metal project called Circadian Ritual, and did a project called Inaeris with my friend Jori Apedaile (Eneferens).
How did you settle on the name?
Quercus Alba is the scientific/latin name for a White Oak tree. I was raised and grew up in an old grove of white oak trees in northern Minnesota. It seemed fitting due to this project’s main idea of portraying the Minnesota landscape through musical means.
What folk musical traditions do you draw on? I feel like there is an Appalachian influence.
I guess most of my folk influence comes from singer/songwriters and some American primitive players. Also, there is a definite Appalachian influence. I play clawhammer banjo on my recordings and will on future releases. I have wanted to play banjo since I was young but just never had the extra money or time. Through playing in Panopticon and the influence of my friend Austin I was able to get my feet wet with both the banjo and mandolin. This led to my current absolute obsession with clawhammer and open back banjos. I enjoy playing, jamming, and listening to much olde time / folk type music in my free time.
What instruments are you using? What is your writing/recording process like?
So far my instrumentation has been guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano/synth, and accordion. I record and write everything from my home while learning as I go and slowly improving that process (I hope). Most of my compositions are modeled after emotions or settings I’ve experienced in the wilderness of Minnesota. I attempt to interpret what i see, hear, or feel into musical ideas.
Why do you think it is important to stand up against fascism in music scenes?
I believe it can be a very destructive path of thought for our modern society. We need to move passed this ill-founded ideology to continue social progress. The more its allowed to leak back into conversation without being challenged the worse the problem will become.
What’s coming next for you?
Another full length coming out either Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 which I’ve almost finished writing. Also, I hope to work on anther split with a good friend of mine shortly thereafter.
What bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?
Sangre de Muerdago, Valí, Forêt Endormie, Leo Brouwer, John Luther Adams, Vin Downes, Ulvesang, Andrew York, Musk Ox, Evergreen Refuge.
We are putting both of their albums here, includin the Foret Endormie split, so check out their Bancampe. Also we added three of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so make sure to add and share that as well.