It’s a lovely September evening, and The Shivas are kickin’ it on their Northeast porch …
Mythology mentions the sirens leading sailors to their deaths with their songs, the muses responsible for the brilliant creative works of men, but the stories fail to mention Sunny Faris, Sarah Mckenna, Cat Hoch and Laura Hopkins, the womyn of Blackwater Holylight. Known as the witches weaving the styles of goth, doom, grunge and psych in a flawless musical execution that demands the attention and hearts of anyone in the room, these bad bitches were some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever had the chance to encounter.
ELEVEN: How did this combination of people come to be Blackwater Holylight?
Cat Hoch: Sunny and Laura have known each other a long time.
Sunny Faris: We met in like, 2010, though Mark (of Grandparents) or somewhere around there, and then also through Mark met Cat after that. I knew who she was and I knew that she played music, and she made Mark this burned psych CD and I was like, “Damn, this bitch is so fucking cool. How did she know all this awesome music!?” And then I met Sarah in 2014 when I started working at Bunk Bar.
Laura Hopkins: In the beginning it was just me and Sunny and she was like, “I want to ask Cat to play drums.” We were just jamming because Grandparents broke up and then I wanted to play with her. Me and Sunny had a band together.
CH: 4 babes, no instruments, all girls, just singing a cappella.
11: Wait, really?
SF/LH: [laughter] No, no, no.
LH: I played the banjo, it was like that.
SF: I had a hair wrap.
CH: They were really good. They were like, folk girls.
Sarah Mckenna: Oh god, I wish I met you girls back then.
CH: These girls were like the hottest, coolest, most intimidating babes forever ago when we all met in the beginning.
SF: We all were like, hot and intimidated of each other, I think that’s kinda how that went down? I guess?
LH: Yeah, I was actually really intimidated of Sarah.
SM: What! I was intimidated by all of you! True story, I almost didn’t join (BWHL) because I was like, “Uh, I’m a lot older and they’re so good and so amazing!”
SF: Yeah, she was like “I don’t know if I can do it!” and I was like “Shut up, you’re coming to band practice!”
SM: I know, and I didn’t want to, I was so terrified!
SF: You’re coming into this basement and you’re gonna play these keys! My old basement had mold growing on the ceiling.
SF: I mean it was pretty magical, because that’s where this was birthed. And then we took that picture outside of the garage next door and put it on Instagram and everyone lost their shit.
LH: They were like “What are you doing?”
SF: Yeah, we took one photo and that’s how we told people we were in a band.
LH: We just put my cell phone on top of my car and pushed it in neutral into the middle of the street. We set it to a self-timer and took a photo and everyone is like, “What is this band?”
SF: and then we put it on Instagram, so now we have to at least play a show.
LH: We didn’t have any music out or anything.
SF: Yeah, and everyone was so curious, like, “What the fuck are you doing?” and we were all just like, “It’s, like, heavy.” [laughter]
LH: And then we sold out our first show. No one had heard us play at all, they just knew who each one of us was.
SF: Because everyone had seen our other projects, you know? So everyone was like, “It’s a crazy supergroup,” and at the time my ex boyfriend had kind of made a dude supergroup and everyone was like, “Oh that’s helpful,” so in the back of my mind i was kind of like, “Fuck you boys, you want a supergroup, bitch? Lets fucking make one.”
LH: And we’re gonna do it all in white dresses.
SF: And that’s how that started. [laughter]
11: What surprised you after you started playing out? Did you find the momentum continued?
SF: I feel like the momentum kept going, yeah, because to me, the most surprising thing was that I don’t think people expected it to be as heavy as it is. Not like we’re a crazy metal band, but it’s just a sound in our community of people, hadn’t really been happening yet. A lot of it’s just been psych.
11: Girls can do that?
LH: Yeah, they don’t just sit there and look pretty?
CH: Well I feel like i was really surprised that we all had such good chemistry, and how talented you guys are in your songwriting capabilities, because I don’t think we had ever played in a band proper, together, right? Like, we had seen each others’ stuff, but putting that all together was really cool. It was like “Whoa, this is what we all sound like.”
SF: Yeah, I think everything was surprising, but nothing was surprising at the same time. I was kind of like, “What the fuck is happening,” but at the same time I was like, “Of course this is fucking happening.”
11: In everything that I’ve read previously, all I find was how your band broke up and you wanted to see how it would be to work with women. How is that?
SF: It’s the shit, I’m never going to be in a band of all dudes ever again.
LH: Dudes are so whiny and they have so many problems and they’re like, crying all the time.
11: The irony is beautiful.
BWHL: I know.
11: How long have you been working on this record? When it came time to come into the studio, what was it like?
SF: The thing about the record is that we recorded half of it, and we had four songs done, and I wanted to shop it around to some labels. I sent it to RidingEasy, because at the time they were my dream label, and I didn’t know anything about them besides all the bands on there were bands I liked listening to. I just liked the overall vibe of what I saw. I was intrigued. So I sent it to them, they were into it, but they don’t do EPs, they just do full-length albums, so we had recorded half of the record one summer, and then the next summer we did the other half.
CH: The EP felt like it came together really quickly, for some reason, to me. But maybe mostly because I… well maybe having most of the songs written going in was like, quicker, and then adding in synths and drum overdubs and stuff, but it did feel…
LH: Like “Sunrise” we wrote in the studio.
LH: Yeah, like we’ve never played it live.
SF: I pulled it out of my ass. I started writing that song on a trip that I took a few months before that session. I ate acid on the beach with my friend and wrote the basis of that song on acid on the beach while the sun was setting by myself. It was really awesome. I had it in my pocket as this working acoustic on this trip, and then we needed to record something so I was like, “”Well, what about this? Let’s just learn it really quick,” and yeah we just sort of did it in the studio, but that’s one of the songs that I was like, “How did we even fucking do that?” Because what?
LH: She plays guitar on that song. I play bass. And all the music on the album, we all wrote our own parts to. (Sunny) would come in with a song, and I came in with a song.
SF: She wrote “Wave of Conscience.”
LH: And then Sunny would come up with a bass riff, and then we’d write a song around her lyrics and a bass riff. Then Sarah writes her part, Cat writes her drum part.
SM: Just kind of fill it out as it goes. It kind of just comes together organically.
SF: This is just what we’re doing and it’s working so whatever.
11: Have you acquired any cool new gear lately?
SF: Well, when we started the band I was playing through a Sunn 300T. But after we played our first show, I was like, “This sounds like shit” because it was too small. Recently, now I have a Sovtek Mig 100, and I play out of a matching Sovtek 4×10 cab.
SM: It’s so fucking cute.
LH: Recently when we all had our practice, when she first got it, and we all had our earplugs in–which now I know to wear earplugs–but I was standing, and her amp was facing me, and my pants were vibrating.
11: I think it’s working.
LH: I had no idea, I couldn’t hear myself at all, and I play out of a Fender Deluxe, which gets pretty loud but it doesn’t vibrate my pants off my body.
CH: My vagina was vibrating, honestly.
SF: Didn’t you get that Micro Korg at some point?
SM: Oh I did! The Minilogue. It’s been fun, it’s teaching me a lot about how oscillators work, and filter is your best friend. It’s funny that since I play synths people think I know what everything is, but I just learned what an oscillator was, and like I said, filters, low frequency, on and on, and honestly, I just kind of bullshit and tweak things so every set that we do is different. It’s fun though, it’s taught me a lot.
SF: DIdn’t you get your strat?
LH: I recorded the EP with that no-name strat.
LH: The whole EP was on a strat. It was black and out of line. The intonation was fucked, so on our EP, every high note that I hit, it was a little bit off.
SF: Dude so much is out of tune.
LH: Yeah, it sounded kind of cool. The solo of “Willow” is all out of whack because of intonation.
SF: But I kind of liked it, it sounded kind of creepy. It wasn’t so off tune that it sounds like shit, it was just like a hair, so it was like, “This is making me feel uncomfortable but I don’t know why.”
CH: Sometimes that can work out really cool, you know? When it’s not quite perfect, like a style.
SF: Yeah, like all of the “mistakes” on the record are what I like about it.