THE PORTLAND QUARTET R.I.P. is a serious heavy-metal band that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Check out their press photo. Taken at SuperShots in the Lloyd Center—Portland's original green-screen portrait studio, according to the website—it's a charming combo of tenderhearted and tough as nails. "It is very powerful," R.I.P. vocalist Fuzz warned of the picture, "so please use it wisely."
Formed about four years ago by Fuzz and guitarist Angel, the band arose from a vision to create something "new and knuckle-dragging from the streets." The two guys added drummer Willie D and "supreme tickler of the four-string motherfucker" Jon Mullett, and R.I.P. was born.
In March the band released their debut full-length, In the Wind, via Totem Cat Records. It's a snarling, '70s-influenced slab of what R.I.P. calls "real West Coast street doom." But don't let the word "doom" fool you: In the Wind doesn't pound its riffs into eternity. In fact, the album's 10 tracks are tight and efficient, with a rumbling low end, guitars coated in heavy crunch, and deep, dark grooves as far as the eye can see.
R.I.P.'s brand of heavy metal is a throwback to headier times without veering into pastiche. To find out how they do it, the Mercury emailed a few questions to Fuzz, and boy, did we get some answers.
MERCURY: Can you tell me what West Coast street doom is and why R.I.P. chose that particular style?
FUZZ: Street doom is a reaction to our environment. There are too many bands out there trying to mask the fact that they got nothing to say and nothing to play by farting out an hour-long set of the same "Fisher-Price My First Tube Amp" lullaby riffs with some pseudo-mystical lyrics about their astrological sign over it. So everybody yawns and checks their phones at the shows, and nobody's heart rate goes up in the band or audience. We think heavy metal needs to come out of the stars back into the streets, back into the ugly vitality and danger that drew us all to it in the first place, and that's what we're out here trying to do.
How important are guitar riffs to your songwriting process?
Guitar riffs are the songwriting process. That's it. We are very proud to be a regressive rock band—music to drool to. All the fans out there know when they grab an R.I.P. album, absolutely zero percent thought and 100 percent feeling went into its manifestation. No brains were used in the making of In the Wind.
What are the songs on In the Wind about?
Our songs are about panic, addiction, death, anxiety, fear, and leather—the shit we all experience in our day-to-day lives. For the few R.I.P. fans who know how to read, the lyrics are available in the insert of our LP and CD.
Sonically the album has a nice vintage vibe going on. Then there's that amazing album cover. And the hair. And the leather jackets. What exactly is R.I.P. going for in terms of overall aesthetic?
We try to give the people who come our gigs a respite from the tedium of their awful lives. In this day and age when every bank teller has a vintage Scorpions shirt and some turquoise rings on, it's not enough to step on stage looking like an extra from That '70s Show. When you come to a R.I.P. gig, what you are getting is four perfect specimens of masculinity taking the audience on a journey that is equal parts spooky and erotic—half funeral oration, half male revue.
Is there a subsection of Portland's heavy scene that you guys feel like you're a part of? Any other bands you feel a kinship with?
If you've listened to our record or seen us live, it should be self-evident that there's no band in Portland operating on the level we are on. I'll put on some other Portland band's albums if I'm feeling down and want to have a laugh, or if I can't sleep and need something super boring to help me drift off, but that's it. The Portland heavy scene is a garbage heap and we are at the top, gazing out to the more fertile pastures our rock 'n' roll journey will take us to.