BIG HAUNT'S SOUND is well described by the band's name—large, uncomplicated notes and percussion with eerie, haunted melodies on top. The trio's debut EP, Devotionals, is the explosive they've been waiting to detonate.
Devotionals is an amalgam of folk structures and vocals, with hiphop-inspired drum techniques and classical, minimalist piano overtures. In "Burn Me Up," dark lyrics and harmonizing are wrapped in poignant instrumentation that ebbs and flows between high-energy shrills and relaxed verses. "All Your Arms" is a solemn goodbye to a lover who can't be blamed for not understanding the narrator's predicament, with big builds and strong chants throughout.
Big Haunt is lead guitarist/vocalist Lars Ballard, pianist/vocalist Lily Breshears, and drummer/vocalist Jeff Evans. Ballard grew up in a wide array of settings and situations, including time living in Western Samoa and a period of time being homeless. "There is definitely a sense of desperation and false redemption in what we do.... Being homeless is not fun," he says. "There are always these kids from privileged backgrounds who say, 'I'm going to be homeless for the summer.' People idealize poverty in this really interesting way."
Evans, meanwhile, grew up in Tucson in a musically inclined family, and often found himself singing and playing instruments when the family got together. "I grew up singing in choirs my whole life, since I was eight years old," says Evans, who's toured the world in choirs, from South Africa to Mexico and elsewhere. He also did a lot of beatboxing growing up, which influenced how he plays the drums.
Breshears comes from Woodburn, Oregon, and doesn't like to talk about it. She says it's "best known for the Woodburn Outlet Mall." She started dabbling in piano when she was three, and started taking lessons at the uncommonly young age of four. Breshears and Evans went to Italy with the Portland State University Chamber Choir last year and won first place in the Seghizzi International Choral Competition, the first-ever American choir to do so.
Devotionals is an EP and not a full-length because Big Haunt didn't have a lot of money. "When you have limited resources and you want to do something, you just do it," says Ballard, adding that his gas bill has gone unpaid to help finance the EP. It was recorded with David Pollock, a long-time friend of Ballard's, over the course of a few 10-hour days. "When we first started recording, we didn't have a goddamn clue what we were doing," Ballard says.
Big Haunt recorded in a studio and then mixed in a basement, the opposite of how many bands do it. Ballard says the idea is that if a good person is mixing the record, one doesn't necessarily need an acoustically perfect room to do it. He believes it's much more important to record the actual instrumentation in such a room. Outside of their typical instruments, the band found noises by hitting a washing machine, letting a wooden door fall to the floor, and dropping railroad spikes onto concrete. They also ran a lot of their instruments and vocals through tape to keep it from being too pristine.
"We don't necessarily want to be affiliated with the folk genre. I feel like we're offering an alternative," Breshears says, and Devotionals' classical, hiphop, and hard electric ingredients prove that there's much more going on in Big Haunt than your typical folk elements.
"I'm so much more interested in people getting murdered and drowned and eaten alive by monsters than people canning beans and churning butter," says Ballard.