Out of the indie-punk bomb shelters of Birmingham, Ala., came the inevitable union of The Ohms and now-defunct Merge Records Verbena—purveyors of cult-favorite records that inspired scores of Southeastern kids worth their snot in rock & roll to go off on a fool quest and start their own bands. Originally dubbed Wes McDonald and The Fizz, the quartet featured Verbena drummer/guitarist Lester Nuby III, the formidable rhythm section of Keelan Parrish on bass and Jake Waitzman on drums, with frontman Wes McDonald (aka Terry Ohms of The Ohms) on vocals and rhythm and lead guitar. But then Nuby’s surrealist dream of a vulture eating a whale birthed a fresh moniker and creative direction and a the band was born.
Vulture Whale’s 2007 self-titled debut, released on Nuby’s Ol’ Elegante stamp, was a nearly perfect Southern indie rock record, tapping the same vein as remarkable first LPs by McDonald’s Ohms and Nuby’s Verbena in 2000 and 1997, respectively. McDonald’s singing channels the sophisticated British sneer of The Jam’s Paul Weller, with a slight nod to Mick Jagger, and a whole lot of his own Southern charm. Nuby and McDonald trade guitarwork, forming an impervious front with Parrish and Waitzman, each upholding their end like a jack stud supporting a header in a stick-framed house. All the while, the ship is calmly steered by musical-savant-come-bar-stool-comedian McDonald, his take on songwriting beautifully exotic, weaving between perfect indie pop and obtuse punk. Vulture Whale is a cornucopia of styles and permutations, draped in the critically acclaimed shroud of indie rock and its rags.
The band’s latest, Aluminium, is their first on the newly revamped Cornelius Chapel Records imprint, headed by Dexateens frontman Elliott McPherson. Aluminium is locked and loaded with heady, brain-clinging tunes—genuine American rock & roll of the Southern persuasion with ample crunch and inspired riffs shot through with Brit Invasion bravado. Crafty rock & roll proving yet again why Birmingham and Vulture Whale have earned a place on the indie-rock map.
The band’s new LP Aluminium—out May 20 on Cornelius Chapel Records—was recorded by Mark Rains (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Killer Mike, Shooter Jennings), and toggles between dreamy kudzu-covered gems and bombastic riff rockers.
Glide is premiering the new single “Cant Help It” (below)a track immersed in controlled chaos, that shows a spellbinding talent – begging one to ask the classic question- “why the hell aren’t these guys HUGE already?”
“Can’t Help It” was the most frustrating song that I have ever written and recorded,” says frontman McDonald. “I knew we had a good chorus but nothing else was working musically or lyrically. I had 20 plus pages of lyrics for the verses, none of it very good. The chorus kept calling me up like, “You done yet? What’s taking so damn long?” I ended up using two lines to cover all the verses, which were also reworked, and all of a sudden the key fit into the hole.”
“This song was work. You know how they say, “the best songs write themselves in five minutes.” Well, that’s a fun and wise sounding thing to say that makes it seem like you really understand the songwriting process. But sometimes the best songs write themselves in six months. And no, I don’t understand any of it.”
“To me, “Can’t Help It” addresses the pull mysterious things have over us,” continues McDonald. “No matter what, a black hole is gonna suck you in if you get close enough. You start asking yourself, “Where does this wormhole lead? What’s on the other side of this situation? Glory? Misery? A grilled cheese sandwich?” I’m scared, but it’s too late—it’s got its damn tractor beam on me. And there’s no going back. It’s eyes are glowing, and it’s moving the ol’ index finger in a come hither motion, saying, “I got something to show you.” And I gotta go because I gotta know. I can’t help it.”