As a radio host and music journalist, I've interviewed more than 500 heavy metal and hard rock bands over the past decade or so. When the subject of a band's new material inevitably gets brought up, the response is usually something to the effect of, “We really wanted to push the boundaries,” or “This is the best material we’ve ever recorded.”
So it was a bit refreshing when, sitting in a practice space on a Monday evening with the three members of Seattle band Sandrider, guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski admitted the band's stellar new 10-song album Enveletration (a made-up word that combines envelope and penetration) was just more of what they do best.
“We just kind of do the same,” Weisnewski said. “The band is just chill. We’ve got this rhythm that just feels right.”
During practice the band is gearing up for their record release show on Saturday, April 8 at the Sunset alongside Dark Meditation and Museum of Light. For the release, they’ve teamed up with the popular heavy metal-loving brewery Holy Mountain for a limited run of Sandrider beer, complete with labels donning Enveletration’s artwork.
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Much like the majority of stellar metal releases that have been flooding record store shelves, a good majority of Enveletration was a product of the pandemic, with just around half of the LP being written in the Before Times. As Weisnewski describes, pouring their creative energy into the album was essential.
“I was going fucking crazy,” Weisnewski said. “We've been going to band practice every week for our whole lives, right? Since we were 14. It took the pandemic for me to look back on it and realize this has been a heartbeat in my life. It's been a constant driver and outlet for my entire fucking life. Ever since I learned how to play an instrument. And then suddenly, the year I turned 40, it's just like, ‘Oh Jesus, I need this. Holy fuck.’ I had a really hard time with it.”
Enveletration finds the band at the height of their power, combining their knack for heavy, crushing riffs with furious blasts of straight-up rock ‘n’ roll fun. Looking back at the rest of their catalog, though, you understand exactly what Weisnewski is saying. Sandrider haven’t exactly strayed far from their OG formula, they’ve just perfected it. All four of their albums have been recorded by Matt Bayles and mastered by Ed Brooks. In fact, the band is so set in their way that the only thing they’ve really changed over the past 12 years is moving their practice space three times.
“That's really my favorite thing about this band,” bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts said. “Everything happens really organically. It just works. You don't really have to talk about it. You just keep doing it until it doesn't work. Just assume the sail.”
But this is how it’s always been for the Sandrider guys. After meeting freshman year of high school in Bellevue, Weisnewski and drummer Nat Damm toured relentlessly with their band of almost 15 years, Akimbo. Looking for something a little more relaxed and less demanding, the longtime friends linked up with Roberts, who was playing with the Ruby Doe, for a project that was intended to be nothing more than a good time.
“We didn't have shirts—the whole thing was like, ‘No merch,’” Roberts said, laughing. “Nobody wants to sell merch. We had all worked really hard in other bands.”
“It was like, ‘Just shut and play,’” Weisnewski adds.
It’s difficult not to feel a real sense of comfort around the Sandrider guys, with the relaxed take on their writing process, their admittance to turning down a ton of cool tours to stay home with their families, and their self-deprecating humor. It’s immediately apparent that the band takes second place to their friendship.
“Band practice is usually half playing and then half, like, shooting the shit and talking about shows or books or whatever,” said Damm.
Even if it’s not a major change in the band's direction, Weisnewski pointed out they started shifting the vocal duties with this album by trading off parts with a bit of call-and-response.
“This is the first record where Jesse and I have sort of like, ‘Predator handshakes’ on every song,” Weisnewski said, describing the tag-team approach of dueling vocals.
Since Sandrider released their 2018 album Armada, their original label Good to Die Records folded. So, wanting to keep it local, they released Enveletration on Northwest metal label Satanik Royalty Records, founded by deathCAVE vocalist/bassist and all-around local hero Michael Freiburger (who once graced the cover of The Stranger with his wonderful corgi Balrog— RIP).
“Our working relationship with Good to Die ended because [founder] Nik [Christofferson] was done,” Weisnewski said. “We just looked up and went, ‘Well, what next?’ Then Freiburger was right there like, ‘Hey, guys.’ It happened really naturally. It's just a really easy, easy transition.”
Now celebrating two years as a label, Freiburger’s Satanik Royalty Records has released albums by Seattle bands Heiress, Dark Meditation, and Old Iron, among others. Elevation,
“The first time we talked about doing a record, his passion and the excitement for making records with people is just, like, dripping,” Weisnewski said. “That's the kind of guy you want to work with.”
Sandrider's album release show is at the Sunset Tavern Sat, April 8, 8:30 pm, $17, 21+. They also play Southgate Roller Rink Fri, June 2, 9 pm, $15 cover/$5 to skate, 21+.