Cold granules of rain spat horizontally at Magnuson Park on the Sunday I met Wind Burial. We were there searching for the Sound Garden. That place where supernatural tones supposedly hum through a series of hanging metal tubes. As we walked, I heard Wind Burial's "Kissing the Curves of the Earth" in my head. The shifting domes of cumulonimbus clouds over Lake Washington matched the song perfectly. The Seattle-based band consists of vocalist/Moog player Kat Terran, Derek Terran on drums and keys, guitarist Alan Gutierrez, and Justin McCormick on bass and guitar. Their latest album, We Used to Be Hunters, was recorded in an Anacortes church called the Unknown. (Sails were once made there as well, pieced together on the open sanctuary floor.)
Wind Burial's sound is alchemical, an aerial, Wiccan psych-rock. Kat Terran's voice soars. "Kissing the Curves" drives hard, hoisting portals from a mast. When the song's structure drops away, Gutierrez's playing latches onto an updraft, and the band hooks onto him. We never made it to the Sound Garden. Our quest came to an end when we reached a locked gate just past the dog park. We could see the structures in the distance, and stood there listening, trying our best to hear them.
Sorry we can't get in. I hear "Jesus Christ Pose." I can hear Chris Cornell on the breeze.
Kat: I hear "Room a Thousand Years Wide." I'm so glad you didn't hear "Spoonman."
Alan: I hear Guns N' Roses.
What do you bury in the wind?
Justin: Your attachments, right?
K: It's about release. Letting go.
Derek: We learned that in Mongolia, wind burial was for kids who died before the age of 1. They put the bodies up in trees, wrapped in bark.
A: We thought our name was a random thing.
"Kissing the Curves of the Earth." We're talking about flying, right?
K: I wrote the chorus part first, and it made me think about flying, so I went from there. I liked the imagery of rising above. Being over what is destructive. Loving the earth, kissing it. The verses are more about the electronic faith of today, all the constant broadcasting, and the escape from it.
You're also singing about a rabbit. What's the rabbit? Is that a Jefferson Airplane reference? You do have a slight touch of Grace Slick.
K: I see that. But no, I wasn't trying to make a nod to Grace there. The rabbit metaphor is a powerful one. It's Alice in Wonderland, the white rabbit, as a guide who takes you through another world. Specifically in our song, it's a rabbit as a teacher. Teaching us to let go of aggression, and this manic lifestyle we collectively navigate. It's a simple, calm, loving prince of a creature. We have two rabbits, Duncan and Tabitha. They're rescue rabbits. We think one is 12 years old. They meditate. They really do.
D: I heard rabbits have very short-term memories. We like to think when we give them carrots, they experience them with this sense of awe, like it's the first time they've ever tasted them. Experiencing the carrot with the full newness of the beginner's mind.
The transitions in your songs seem to be half steps, as if you're going to and from sections through trapdoors.
J: It's intentional and not intentional. We work on the songs a lot together. We record everything. Songs will happen when we don't mean for them to. Someone will play something they don't know they're playing. We'll just be messing around, a progression will appear, and everyone's like, "What did you just play? Do that again." [Laughs]
A: We tune a half-step down. I like open chords. A-flat. E-flat. I try to let as many strings ring out as possible. I think the fact that we've known each other so long helps, too. I feel comfortable trying things out. We've lived together off and on and traveled together. It makes it all innate.
The great Randall Dunn (Master Musicians of Bukkake) mixed the album. You all say he "hears into" the music when he mixes. What does that mean?
D: He walks around when he's mixing. He's like an alchemist. He'll put a little of this in there, and a little of that. He's so intuitive. He doesn't waste time pinpointing frequencies.
J: We're going to work with him on the next album starting in November. From beginning to end—all tracking and mixing.
[A heron takes off in front of us. Kat stops us to notice. It's a large bird. Its wings are audible.]
What's working with Randall like when you're in the vocal booth?
K: Usually, working in a studio on vocals is stifling for me. Randall was able to make it feel like it was live. I trusted him immediately. It's subtle things. "A Story from the Sea" was one take. On other songs, he got me to think about what the words meant to me, and think about the rhythm of pronunciation. I will write differently now, after working with him.
Talk about your effects. Your sounds. You got some Moogerfooger in your chain?
A: It's pretty minimalistic. There's an overdrive, and a delay pedal I found a glitch in that produces a chorus effect. Sometimes I have to give it the Fonzie, but it sounds nice with the 12-string. There's also a combination of amps. I split the signal from the delay and run it through an accordion amp that has a really rich reverb and nice tremolo. The other amp I use is a more straightforward Fender.
K: Sounds were also due to the big sanctuary room at the church in Anacortes. [Recording engineer] Nicholas Wilbur put mics all over the place. We recorded the bones of the songs live, utilizing the open acoustics of that expansive room. The drums were in the middle of the room. The bass amp was around the corner, separated a bit—otherwise it might have been overwhelming.
D: Where you can hear the room the most is the breakdown on "Kissing the Curves." We decided to hit whatever was in front of us. There were doorbells, and piano strings, and chimes. We went for it.
I was watching footage of the volcano erupting in Chile while I was listening to your song "Sleeping Giant." You're singing about volcanoes. Freaked me out.
K: I love Mt. Rainier. It's my song to Mt. Rainier. I love Seattle, and how there's this massive amount of energy all the time, under our feet, but we barely ever think about it. So much is happening underground. There's all this potential. Rainier is this presence. It could be apocalyptic if eruption happens, which makes me think: Live for today.
D: YOLO. [Full band laugh]
Does Wind Burial have its three-day readiness packs?
K: I have some of those 5,000-calorie survival cookies. They were Christmas gifts. Coconut flavor. They'll last 10 years. Great gift.
A: Great stocking stuffers.
D: From daretobealive.com.
J: Free with a purchase of any automatic weapon.