From the Swamp to the Sun: An Interview with Elijah Witt from Cane Hill: “This is our art, we have fun and we really don’t fucking care what people expect from us because we know what we are doing is going to be good music”

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Cane Hill are one of the most dynamic and intriguing bands currently in heavy music. After an explosive debut in 2015 they have continued to grow from strength to strength releasing music of increasing confidence and quality. We were lucky enough to chat to band Vocalist Elijah Witt when they were in London last December. We were able to discuss what a great year 2018 was for the band with the success of their sophomore album ‘Too Far Gone’ as well as working with WWE and performing in an arena full of people in their hometown, touring, as well as the crafting of their killer new E.P ‘Kill the Sun’ as well as breaking down some of the lyrical themes and things that went into it and the public perception of the shift in sound. We also discuss the potential for album number 3, acoustic only tours and which Creed song is his favourite…

 

The Last time we saw you guys was at the beginning of 2018 with Motionless In White. Since then you have played a massive hometown show with WWE for NXT, Put out a live album, toured a whole bunch and gone from releasing the heaviest music of your career to the softest. So how would you sum up the year that was 2018?

Elijah: A weird time. In generally really good, we like having content out. We live in a social media society where everybody wants everything now at least in America, here in the UK and Germany people are fans for life and they are if you put out things slowly they are happy to wait, but in America it’s just not like that.

With everything that has been going on have you have a moment to stop and take it all in?

Elijah: No, I don’t even remember the past 3 years of my life, it’s become one very bi blur of work work work. You get into a  band thinking it’s going to be fun then you really get into it and it’s so much work and if you don’t stay active you get left in the fucking dust, so it’s been intense but very worth it and it’s gotten us to a very good place. We did a headliner in America which was much better than I expected, then coming over to the  UK is a fucking blessing because for some reason you guys like us here.

We like you guys here, yet you still haven’t graced us with a headline tour…

Elijah: We have not… We want to make it really cool, if we are coming over to the UK to headline we want to make sure it’s done properly, with the perfect support and the perfect venues that we want to do it in where it’s big  enough for a show but also it’s big enough where its disgusting and build it into something appropriate.

Too Far Gone hasn’t even been out a year yet, but you are already dropping a new e.p ‘Kill The Sun’ so going from what was your heaviest work now into your lightest, where did the mindset come from to do something like this. Was it something you had been wanting to do for a long time or was it something that was suggested to you?

Elijah: Our management originally brought it up because they know what we are capable of and we were just sitting here thing that we could do weirder and weirder albums and trying different things here and there on our full lengths, and the original idea was to do a fully acoustic e.p with re-imagined songs and a cover and we didn’t really want to turn our songs into something they are not, but then we started writing and James was listening to a lot of The Weeknd and a lot of hip hop, we are always listening to Jar of Flies and Temple of the Dog, the whole grunge thing, so we got to thinking that instead of going back and redoing old stuff we decided to go all in and write a bunch of new material to see how it would turn out. We just weren’t as angry this time, we had done 3 very angry pieces of work from the first e.p to Too Far Gone and at some point you sit back and think ‘If we keep putting out the same record, or at least the same general idea of pushing our limits in that very specific role, and then we want to put out a semi acoustic e.p that everybody will think it’s stupid’ so we’ll do it now, that way when we want to do it again in the future people will just think it’s classic Cane Hill.

I saw a lot of reactions online when you released the title track and then Acid Rain and there was a lot of talk of you selling out. For me that demonstrates that people really aren’t listening to your music fully, because there is very much a precedent for this type of sound in your music, It was there in French 75 on the self titled e.p, Strange Candy on Smile and then Why? and The End is the End on Too Far Gone.

Elijah: If you only listen to the singles we put out on our heavy records then yeah you will be pretty fucking confused, but if you listen to our fucking music then you can see where it came from, we have always tried to imply that we can do much more than heavy metal, so anyone that thinks we have sold out….that involves making money, but we do this for fun, this is our art, we have fun and we really don’t fucking care what people expect from us because we know what we are doing is going to be good music regardless of what it is.

There are a few specific things on the e.p I really want to dig into. Firstly I really want to talk about ‘Save Me’ that song completely punched me in the heart the first time I heard it, particularly the lyric ‘Don’t try to save me, wait for me to save myself’ so for you when you are writing something that is as emotionally resonant as this is it hard to really put yourself on display like that and display that vulnerability away from the most heavier abrasive side of the band?

Elijah: It can be difficult in a sense, but I think the bottom line with us as artists is absolute honesty about who we are, where we come from and what we deal with because we  know that’s what people need from music, the entire point of music is to make somebody feel something whether it’s pop music trying to make you happy or give you something to dance to or the aggression of heavy metal and then you have the music where your darkest moments are put into words for you because the fact is that a lot of people can’t write down how they feel, a lot of people can’t even talk about how they feel in reality we are taught to bottle it up inside and push all of our feelings away to live this happy mundane life or whatever you want to call it. but when you have something that speaks to you on that higher level, I know there are songs out there that I can put on any day of the week and it makes me want to break down because it brings back exactly how I feel that I have never been able to put into a song myself and it;s a very scary thing to be one that talks about it and puts it into the music but it’s also very cathartic at the same time. Save Me especially was something that has left me broken, after that relationship with that person I’ve honestly I think never been the same, I think I have a lot more fears, a lot more irrational fears and a lot of my relationships I don’t trust nearly as much as I used to, I have a lot of residual pain from it and if I have that, then I can guarantee you half the population has that too, being able and being given the soapbox to stand on to voice those feelings feels like a responsibility, if I don’t express myself as honestly and as thoroughly as possible then I’m doing a disservice to the listener and myself as an artist.

For me personally I feel like this is the first time I have seen you specifically through your music. On the last two albums particularly there are songs with very broad meanings and appeal, even if you know what the song is about they have very dual meanings whereas on here it’s seems very specific and  open like you are talking directly to the listener. Was that something in the back of your head when writing, to make this is as direct as possible?

Elijah: That song specifically was written more easily than the rest. We were sitting around and a very close friend of ours is going through something similar we know she is in an abusive relationship an we know her husband is violent and he gets angry and her reaction to people trying to help her, even her own mother was to curse her out and tell her to stay out of her life, and she has her kids sitting there saying “Don’t tell him to calm down, it’ll make it even worse” and that’s from little kids, and she’s trapped in it  and she’s been broken from past relationships that we have seen and when I heard that story it just flashed me back to what had happened to me and having my mum sit me down and tell me what an abusive relationship was like and what I was in, and I had no relationship with my family for 3 years because the person I was dating hated my family and they hated her and I decided to choose the one who was manipulating me over the ones whose existence brought me into the world, so the moment I heard that story my phone popped out and I wrote every lyric down in 30 minutes, so that one was really easy.

One of the things that the release of this e.p does for you now as a band is it opens up a lot of different avenues for you. Is there a possibility of An Evening with Cane Hill type shows where you do a heavy set and then an acoustic set?

Elijah: That’s what I want to do, the other guys might have other ideas but that sounded fun to me, where you have a soft set where we can do the e.p,then things like Why?, Swamp, Strange Candy, whatever fucking soft songs you want, but never French 75, then in the evening you can have the heavy show or honestly it could be a thing where we go on tour with softer bands and just play our softer music pushing the boundaries of what a heavy band can do, I mean you look at a band like Code Orange who have gone the opposite way and have gotten progressively heavier and they have gone from being in a hardcore scene to touring with Gojira and things you like that which you never would have expected from a hardcore band, and we want to be a metal band that is able to tour with Boston Manor or Don Broco.

We have mentioned French 75 a couple of times in this interview and I think it is possibly the most requested song you guys get but you never play live. How does it feel to have those songs in your catalogue that have connected with people but you know you never want to revisit them?

Elijah: If they get something out of it then that is always a positive thing, but I get nothing out of that anymore. When we wrote it, it was something we liked but then very quickly decided it was something we were very into but it was always already released and that is just our opinion on the song but if anyone wants to like it then feel free. We are very selfish onstage and we are going to play what we want to play is the bottom line.

2018 has come to a close and 2019 starts with the release of Kill the Sun and a tour with Sevendust.

Elijah: …And Tremonti, the legend behind the Creed riffs, Creed are so good.

Favourite Creed song?

Elijah: What If.

Excellent choice. What else is 2019 going to bring for you, are you going to begin work on album number 3?

Elijah: We are already writing, we know exactly what we’re doing and where we want to go with it which is the opposite of what the e.p was, I’m so ready to go back to heavy music and just rage, I already have the call line in the next song, I know the pit call already, it’s heavy and anti religious, very classic me. So we have that and we will probably end up in the studio at some point in 2019. We will be touring over the summer so I assume we will be in the studio after that.

What has the exposure from working with WWE done for you guys. Have you seen any growth in fanbase since you played the NXT show in New Orleans?

Elijah: It was so sick. We have seen a good solid amount, more of what it is, is that we see a bunch of wrestling fans at our shows now.

You got to work with Lzzy Hale as well which was pretty incredible.

Elijah: Yeah she is easily the most down to earth rock star you will ever meet. You meet her and you would never think that she is filling out stadiums and arena, she was super stoked to work with us, she’s super nice and super pleasant and wildly talented, I am nothing, she is a god and I am a peasant.

It must have felt amazing doing it in front of your hometown crowd as well.

Elijah: It was pretty rock star, then we went back to our headliner in small ass clubs (laughs)

Circling back to the e.p to close things out. What do you think people will get from Kill the Sun that they didn’t get from Smile or Too Far Gone?

Elijah: They are going to get a much more vulnerable side to us I guess. Erased was a very vulnerable song on Too Far Gone it was about Devin watching his grandfather who raised him slip from dementia due to Alzheimer’s so that was vulnerability for us and the peak of vulnerability for us on Too Far Gone  but I think we have pushed a lot further on this, and it didn’t start off this way but it did become a very conceptual piece of art for us, it starts with the beginning of a very dark path for us with 86d No Escort, and it’s the jump in of feeling like I’m a piece of shit and how everyone can relate to feeling like a piece of shit then it goes through how e destroyed every relationship and every friendship and how we destroyed ourselves and the end there is a solid resolution and I think people are going to get a much more in depth story than we have ever given anyone.

How do you think the e.p will affect your relationship with your fans?

Elijah: I think it will make us a lot more relatable, you will see a very different side to us from the insane all I think about is death and all I want to do is die stuff, it’s definitely still there but it’s in a different light and I think it’s easier to relate to than anger sometimes, everyone gets mad but everyone is also very definitively sad, we live in a very fucked up time and if you look at the 90s and aggression was everybody’s thing, everything as fucked up sand people got mad, you look now and everything is fucked up but it’s genuinely very depressing, there’s not a lot of rage going on, there’s not millions of people trying to break things, the rage isn’t as prevalent this generation seems to have a much darker more depressed side to it which people can relate to.

In closing do you have any final comments for all the Cane Hill fans out there.

Elijah:  Buy my stuff so that we can buy weed, that is my final opinion because that is how fund our problem, (laughs)

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