WEEED are a psych-stoner quartet who began hanging out and rocking the weirder, spliffy end of music together as teenagers, growing up so near yet quite separately to one of America’s big guitar band meccas, Seattle; they hail from across the water in Bainbridge Island, immersed in the glow from the lights from the city, ten miles and an hour away by ferry – but something like five hours and 136 miles round if you’re a landlubber.
Maybe it’s this rubbing together of proximity yet distance that set them off on a slightly different course to the more standard stoner-grunge fare for which that city is renowned; they certainly come from a heady, Afro-psych inspired and exotic place, as you can hear when you toke on today’s single drop, “Do You Fall?”, which comes ahead of their fifth album, of the same title, which will be with us at the end of the very first week of the new year.
Frontman Gabriel Seaver reminisces: “We started playing together in 2008 when John, Mitchy and I were all 17. The idea of Weeed at the beginning was to make a stoner rock band, play heavy riffs and have fun. We were really inspired by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Boris, Sleep, Electric Wizard.
“Our beginnings were really based in our friends around Bainbridge Island. There were a few houses that we would gather at to jam. We’re like a big ole family.
“The sound started as heavy riffs then as time went on, we wanted to include more sounds that were influencing our approach: Incredible String Band, Ravi Shankar, Duke Ellington, Soft Machine, Yes and Rush. The most foundational way that [guitarist and flautist] Mitch and I have related though, is through improvisation and this quickly became a more and more prominent thing.
In more recent years, Weeed have pulled in more African influences, as Gabriel comments: “It’s hard not to be drawn to those rhythms if you like to dance at all. One of my earliest memories of hearing live music is when my parents took me to the free Folklife Festival in Seattle as a baby. I remember digging on some music that had to be from somewhere in Africa. As a teen I had the blessing of getting learn from and jam with Cheick Hamala Diabaté, from Mali, which was a very special moment in my life.
“I saw Tinariwen, the Tuareg group from northern Mali, who had a big influence on how I approached the guitar. I also discovered Mahmoud Guinea, a Gnawa musician from Morocco whose music eventually led me to want to start playing bass in the band.
“Music from Africa has been a pretty constant inspiration and influence throughout my life.”
And boy, can you really here those fusions at play in their new single; an incantation fully psychedelic, psych-folk even, cosmic and in the complex polyrhythmic sway of Afrobeat. Rather delicious it is, too; and when that flute breathes into the middle break, wholly transporting, opulent, dropping out entirely and reprising in “Tomorrow Never Knows” backwards masking.
The new album, we’re told, was fertilized in the loss, grief, privations and depression of the Covid times; yet Gabriel, Mitchy, and drummers John Goodhue, Evan Franz and Ian Hartley who make up the self-styled ‘biocosmic’ Weeed come out swinging with an album that we could really do with in our lives.
As Gabriel sums up a song with a nuanced sway that speaks to the body: “The medicine of rhythm is needed these days. Part of the prayer and intention in this piece of music is to help people connect with the Earth.”
WEEED’s Do You Fall? will be released by Halfshell Records digitally and on CD and cassette on January 7th; both vinyl variants, trad black and cleeear milky orb, have both already sold out; je suis désolé. However, for other formats get yourself over to Bandcamp.