Like a mash between a noise troupe and a classic rock crew, Howlin Rain’s self-titled 2006 debut offered a mix of rooted rock and fried psychedelics. Now, expanded to a quintet minus Sunburned Hand Of The Man drummer John Moloney, but still fronted by Comets On Fire’s Ethan Miller and including Drunk Horse’s Joel Robinow, among others, Howlin Rain returns in March with Magnificent Fiend, a magnificent album that tones down the feedback and concocts a denser vibe with bigger, more boogie-worthy CCR-on-Crowes hooks. This week we drop “Calling Lightning Pt. 2,” a song that links directly to the band’s debut. We asked vocalist/lead guitarist Ethan Miller for the lowdown.
At least in name, this is a continuation of “Calling Lightning With A Scythe” from the last album. The earlier tune had bummer lyrics and then that big noisy solo. How did you decide to approach “Pt. 2″ the way you did?
I was just trying to engage with the way that I usually walk away from song and albums forever after they are finished. They live on in the live set but keep changing there. I was thinking about the way poets and film makers keep reworking the same theme or film with different characters, plot twists, story arcs — but essentially they are reworking an essential theme. Like Woody Allen or Scorsese do sometimes. I wanted to open up some of my songs to the same treatment — this is probably the first of many. Also, a lot of people told me that that was the best song on the first record so I was kind of cooking up a sacred cow also.
What’s the story of “Pt. 2″? I hear “slaves to a ghostly army” … “dancing in our graves” … “laying in the ruins of a golden age,” etc. Seems like some sort of apocalyptic “Glory Days.”
Well, The Boss rules the coup so I’ll definitely go with you on the “apocalyptic Glory Days” assessment, simply because it’s high flattery. But the actual lyric to that chorus is: “We are only slaves, to our ghostly
arms and legs, dancing in our graves, and laying in the ruins of the golden age.” So its not quite as Evil Dead as all that. But it does fuck with the concept of getting hung up on focusing on the tree and blinded to the forest around it — existentially speaking, tragi-comically speaking and in terms of the Machiavellian and erratic trajectory of time.