Interview with Kyle Wilcher
Interview by Kat Knite
Evansville, Indiana natives Rat King have just released their new full-length doom metal album, ‘Omen’. We got a chance to catch up with drummer/lead vocalist Kyle Wilcher and talk about the music, future plans, and more! Check out the interview down below and don’t forget to listen to the new record HERE.
Congratulations on the release of your first full-length album, ‘Omen’! I can imagine how exciting that is for you. I’d like to start by asking, how did you decide on the title and what does it mean?
Thank you! Well, we had been planning on releasing a full length record for quite some time but things kept setting us back. A lot of circumstances like health scares and just generally unlucky stuff would come up and we’d have to go back to the drawing board. Finally though, we just said hell with it— we’re doing this thing now no matter what. I guess you can say it’s an omen that we’re here to stay.
Going off the progression of the songs, their names, and the several interludes you’ve included I get a sense this is in some way a concept album. Would that be correct to assume? What was your vision for the album?
There’s a bit of wordplay and such that ties the songs together for sure. I’ve always been really into nautical themes and whatnot, having a fascination for ships and stuff when I was growing up so there’s a lot of that on there. Still though, I wanted each song to be able to stand on its own and not have to rely on another to have meaning, you know? The world has gone through hell over the last year and change, and I was also struggling mentally pretty badly on top of it, so the songs reflect a lot of those feelings. I like to think of the interlude and acoustic intros to be kind of musical omens before the storms finally hit.
Who is the main songwriter in the band? What is your collaboration process like together?
I write most of the songs lyrically and compositionally. Oftentimes, I’ll have the basic skeleton and riffs of a song and I’ll take it to the guys and they add the leads and all that good stuff. There’s been a few songs like Supernova and Hegira that we wrote together at practices, and those are always fun too!
‘Omen’ is heavier and more elaborate than previous releases. You’ve shown your growth capabilities and are paving a way for yourselves as a band with an identifiable sound. Can you tell us about your evolution musically, how you’ve gotten to where you are now, and where you hope to go in the next few years as far as the music-making goes?
I’m definitely happy with how it turned out. I think it captured a lot of the negative emotions we all were feeling throughout the events of 2020 and beyond and helped us process all that stuff a bit better. I remember when we dropped the our first EP ‘Barren’, it did a lot better than we expected it to and YouTube channels picked it up and whatnot. I think it kind of inspired us to focus more on crafting the best riffs and song structures we can since we were surprised people enjoyed listening to us in the first place! As long as we’re making noise together and people like it, that’s all I could really ask for!
Your songs are very much in the doom metal/stoner realm, with elements of hard rock coming through at times. Who are your biggest influences? Is there any artist or band we wouldn’t expect from outside the genre that has inspired you?
I know some people find it as no shock that I’m pretty inspired by grunge and metal bands like Alice In Chains. Layne Staley is probably my favorite singer if I had to pick one. With Rat King, the main focus is obviously the riffs, but I do my best to keep the singing as purposeful as I can even if I’m not the best singer.
Is there a particular feeling you wish to evoke in listeners with this record?
I guess more than anything it’s just about processing negative emotions and hopefully it can be cathartic to others as it is to us!
Let’s talk about your song ‘Nepeta Divinorum’. Not only is the track as ominous as it gets, but the music video has that ultra creepy, trippy, low-q nightmare-scape to really drive it home. My first question is: how did you come up with the idea for the video, and what is your visual production like at this point as a relatively small band? Secondly, I’m curious about the meaning of the song name. From what I gather nepeta is catnip, and divinorum is the latter part of salvia divinorum – a plant with psychoactive properties known to cause hallucinations. How does this tie together and define the track?
We always joke that Nepeta is our straight up Sabbath tribute/worship song. I think it’s our most quintessential “doomy” track to date, so I made sure to put some crazy lyrics with it. My first inspiration for the words was when I was essentially tricked into smoking that specific mixture of plants together and the events that followed. (Long story!) Anyway, it kind of went in its own direction after that!
Our guitarist Jason had this half decent camera so we turned this big tent into some sort of snuff film looking place for the music video. It was only the four of us when we recorded it so we had to prop the camera up on a chair. He had the idea to bring in his friend to mouth the lyrics in the background over a green screen and basically act like he was under some sort of spell. I think it turned out great!
Your album cover is equally jarring – and I mean that in a good way. Who designed it and why did you choose this particular image?
Our good friend Candy Meadows-Daily was commissioned for that one. I don’t think she named the painting but I like to call it the “Ship’s Cat”. I told her I wanted something to represent bad luck and bad omens like when you see a black cat cross your path or something like that and she painted that and I absolutely love it because it looks like the painting itself is haunted. She said the process of painting it was cathartic for her in processing the emotions she had been feeling throughout 2020 too. (Definitely a common theme here!)
Where do you find inspiration for your expression? Is there a particular place or thing that boosts your creativity? Do you feel new ideas coming from the experiences of every day life?
A lot of times I’d come home from a shitty day at work or something and just try to use that to write. I’ve battled with anxiety and depression a lot and music has always helped me cope with that better too.
I think I’ve written the most lyrics in the car, just sitting in parking lots and whatnot. Sometimes I go out to the car to write or sing ideas I’m hearing when I don’t want to disturb my wife or the rest of the apartment complex late at night!
Your style as individuals and together in the band is very interesting and unique, how would you describe your look?
I think we each just express ourselves differently and that creates an interesting dynamic onstage. I think you can tell by the band shirts and merch we wear on stage a lot that there’s a lot of different influences brought to the table but we all love doom metal.
How did you all meet each other? Was there instant chemistry to play instruments together, or was it something that had to be worked on? What has been your favourite thing about playing music as a group?
My brother and I met Nick and Andrei through the local music scene and they had both played in a punk band together prior to Rat King. Andrei, Jason, and I wanted to jam some heavier stuff and then eventually we decided to play our first show as Rat King on New Year’s Eve in 2016 (with no bassist) and when Nick saw us at the show he decided to become our bass player!
The chemistry was pretty much there from the start, because we all wanted to try something heavier since we had all played in punk bands before this. I think my favorite thing about playing as a group is being with three other people that love it as much as I do. There’s a lot of people in life that don’t like heavy music, so it’s always refreshing when someone else gets it and enjoys it the same!
What is the doom metal scene like in Evansville, Indiana? Is it easy to find musicians in your circle who you vibe with? What has it been like in general trying to break through in music?
The metal scene in general here is pretty cool. Lots of hidden talents and I’ve been surprised to find out some acts are local. There’s a handful of other doom bands around here like Crows of Odin and Faerie Ring and they are always a blast too. We’ve played several shows with those two bands here around town.
It’s definitely a tough road, because sometimes it’s hard to reach an audience outside of the local one. We’ve been on a small tour around the Midwest and several one-off shows to other cities and such and it’s always cool to see someone you don’t know enjoy your work.
You’re all pretty young guys, relatively new in music. What other jobs do you work? Any other hobbies? How do you manage to do everything you need to do and chase your musical passions at the same time?
Lots of factory and automotive jobs around here. Evansville is a very industrial city. Sometimes besides music it can be hard to find fun things to do but we’re lucky there’s tons of talented artists here. Jason and I do backyard wrestling on occasion which is lots of fun! We’re both huge wrestling nerds which explains the excerpts you hear on the record!
Sometimes managing work schedules between us all with music can be tough but it’s always worth it. There’s been many times where I’ve chosen to go to practice and miss out on sleep and I know the other guys have too. It’s just one of those things that you have to make happen because it won’t on its own!
Finally, I’d like to ask, what are your biggest dreams as musicians? Are there any dream venues or shows you’d like to play? What would make you happiest and most content?
If I can play music as my job, that’s all I could ever ask for and I think everyone else feels the same. If my music could be self sustaining to where I could tour on it and live off it, that would probably be my main dream. I’d love to eventually play further out west as I’ve never been anywhere close to California or anything, and I’d also love to play out of the country because I’ve never left the US either.
Thank you very much for your time, and I’m wishing you the best of luck with the release of ‘Omen’. I’m looking forward to seeing where the road takes you guys! Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Do not inhibit yourself! I delete songs and lyrics and stuff all the time because I think it sucks and I’m trying to stop that. As long as you enjoy what you’re creating, do it.