All Them Witches is a band that bends genres, flowing between psych rock and blues, to jamming and hard rock riffs, and has performed at major festivals such as SXSW and Bonnaroo. This year’s Nelsonville Music Festival brought them to Southeastern Ohio, and had many attendees buzzing with excitement. Chances are, if you’ve been a fan of All Them Witches for any amount of time, you may either have a personal recording of one (or more) of their shows-either of your own doing, or shared from a fellow fan.
For years now, the band has highly encouraged fans to share what they record of their performances. Recently, their talents and fun, quirky personalities have garnered the attention of shows such as Last Call: Carson Daly. Building off of that interview in particular (and figuring we could have a little fun while we got to know each other a bit), I met up with the band near the NoFi cabin at Nelsonville Music Festival, and asked them a few questions. Shortly before the interview began, we picked out a spot to sit, on a pile of scrap lumber, and Ben (McLeod) plucked a piece of poison ivy from the ground, and began to play with it…the other guys pretty much encouraged him to not touch them again, ever. Ben reassured us that not everyone broke out from poison ivy, and he was pretty sure he was one of those lucky people. And then the questions began:
Michelle: I like you guys. I’m excited for your show. I’ll be keeping an eye on your (Ben’s) arm. I heard that one of your wishes was to start a country…so, if you were to start a country, what would you call it, and what would the main law be?
Robby (Staebler): I guess we haven’t really discussed it. I think the first thing we would do would be to put up 20 ft. fences around, before we do anything.
M: So it would just be like, the four of you guys?
Charles (Michael Parks, Jr.): Yeah, at first.
R: Yeah, fences first. And then other things, later. Keep everybody out, don’t talk to anybody…this is all BS. And I don’t know what it would be called…something like magic kingdom.
Allan (Van Cleave): It would definitely have a coast, like, a beach.
C: But we would definitely build the beach, there would definitely be a beach.
R: Build a beach?
C: Yeah, we’d build this with our mind, we’d kinda just create it. That’s how the continents were separated, it’s because somebody wanted it to happen.
M: I love where this question’s going.
C: Yeah, so there it is. First of all, you gotta visualize…probably South America breaking in half, and then take over the most Northern Part of the Southern part that breaks off and then you get to call it whatever you want.
R: The Northern part of the Southern part of South America?
R: Definitely claiming the middle part of South America for yourself? Like in the mountains?
So basically like, the middle of South America. So like, mid-Chile.
C: Yeah, but it becomes the coast. Turns it into an island. Turns into an island…or we can just have Bainbridge Island.
R: We’ll take over Bainbridge. Umm…what would the first law be?
C: Don’t pull poison ivy out of the ground. (Looks at Ben, still holding the poison ivy in his hands). No the first law would be no littering.
R: Yeah, yeah. (The whole band agrees) That’s the first law. You’d be in jail, all the time (accusing Charles). Because you throw food.
C: No, no food’s not littering. Food’s not littering, it’s feeding animals.
R: If you throw it in the street, it composts.
C: No, the creatures get it. The street creatures get it.
A: And it washes down to the sewer people.
M: So there’s an island, but you need to invite creatures.
A: They’ll be there, they’re built in.
M: Fair enough, I mean, they’ll come.
C: Yeah, there’ll be at least a coupla different ones that can turn into like, a million different species. Like, Noah’s Ark.
R: Would there be an airport?
C: Eventually. But you wouldn’t need it because portals would be real at this point.
M: We’re on the verge of that all happening, so why waste money on an airport, right?
C: Unless you can repurpose it, as a novelty thing.
R: This band’s playing a Jeff Buckley song…(starts loosely singing “Everybody Here Wants you Here”, and we decide it’s Son Little that’s playing it)
M: So one of the other wishes I remember was that you wanted to tour on a boat. I was trying really hard to find something boat-like, because I wanted to pretend we were on break, on your tour, and I was gonna ask who you would bring on tour with you.
A: (laughing) Who should we bring on tour, on our boat?
C: Definitely a captain.
R: Someone that we wouldn’t mind losing if we had to eat them, if something happened.
A: I’d wanna take Daniel Higgs (the band questioned his choice, but them agreed).
R: Have you met him? He plays the banjo.
A: He looks like a sea captain.
A: He could probably fake it.
C: We could sail like, the entire coast of the Americas, but never be more than a quarter mile off the shore.
A: Yeah, that’s what I’m into. I’m into never really losing sight of the land. Except for maybe one day, where you do it because it’s a dare. Make yourself feel alone
R: I wanted to do like, a Mississippi Riverboat gambling tour.
C: That would be sweet.
R: Like on a paddleboat, and have bands (Sternwheeler peoples, are you listening??).
M: Yeah. I’d kind of imagined how there are musical cruises happening a lot, right now…is there anyone you wish you could play with, that you haven’t, yet?
C: Boney Jams out of the North Caribbean. They do the Carnival Cruise tours. But as far as a band I’d want to play with, Endless Boogie.
R: Yeah, Endless Boogie would be sweet.
C: Also Rob Zombie would be cool.
R: Endless Boogie never leave New York, except they played this festival, last year. But they (usually) never leave Brooklyn.
M: So that was a big deal then, that they were here. I know you guys have played bigger festivals than this (Nelsonville). Is this the first time you’ve played here?
A: I’m stoked.
M: Right? I know you haven’t played your set, yet. But atmospherically, does it differ from some of the other festivals you’ve done?
A: I grew up in Columbus, we both grew up in Columbus (looking at Charles), so I feel like I’m at home. And I just went swimming in the Hocking River, which I’ve done many times, but never at a festival.
C: It’s pretty relaxing. It feels chill. You can escape the heat. There’s not 50 million people here. The port-a-johns are not nuclear waste holding tanks…I swear it said John 3:16 on the septic tanks.
M: I also saw that you’re going to Europe. That’s exciting.
R: It is.
R: Yeah, we just went for the first time, not too long ago. It was a lot of fun. And this one’s gonna be even more fun because we learned a lot on the last tour.
C: And we have a driver this time, in August.
A: We have a driver?? I thought they were doing all flights.
R: Nope. He has to drive to all of those shows, and we’re not even on the bus with him. It was literally going to be impossible for us to drive ourselves. We’re flying to the Netherlands, and then we have to go to Copenhagen, and the driver has to drive for 2 days to meet us, somewhere. But it’s gonna be fun.
M: So you said you learned stuff from last time…if you had advice to give to people who were setting out on their first European tour…
R: Get a driver.
C: And don’t carry all your money in a clear satchel around your waist.
(They went on to share where they now keep their money from the shows…but I didn’t want to open that invitation up to the public).
M: The only other thing I wanted to ask, saying you’re kind of interviewing machines, is there something you wish someone would ask you, that no one talks about?
C: Someone should ask us what our problem is. That’s a good question…I’d want someone to ask us that question that you just asked us. It’s like interview Inception. There was one time I was surprised by a question. He did a piece for a magazine in Chicago, and he asked me why I had my mic stand so low. Which is true, I keep it down really low, and I never really thought about it. So that was nice. So little, minute things like that are really interesting. Let’s you know that they’re trying to do their job, too.
At the end of the interview, I’d asked if they could share a few words with my friend Amanda, who already had other plans for the weekend, and wasn’t able to attend the show/festival. She received advice about picking her socks up off the floor, was told they had a whole bunch of cake and she couldn’t have any of it, and Allan proceeded to tell her about how he’s planning to divert the drain in his bathroom into a gray water system, and is thinking about doing a solid slab cement floor…honestly, even if I only had this conversation to base my support of this band off of, I would jump right in. But then you get to listen to them perform, and you see the full deal-lots of talent, generous with their time, and fun to be around. No wonder they’re growing in popularity by the day.