It would be easy to get lost in the ritualistic spectacle that the Charleston stoner rock outfit Serpent Church has shrouded itself in.
Images of snake handling and haunted country churches are part and parcel of their web presence and merch, and it’s paired with a sound that invites similarly spooky resonances.
The group’s recently-released debut EP Quakes of Our Echoes opens with spectral organ sounds, doused in reverb, inviting you into their world. A slow, mournful guitar sprawl unfolds with a stately, vaguely menacing, lope before a long dissolution into distortion and feedback. Things only get more rough-edged and rambunctious from there.
But, according to co-founder and lead guitarist (and occassional City Paper contributor) Jon Stout, the band name and concept all came a bit after the fact.
“It actually took us a little while to come up with a band name,” he admitted, noting that the four members (before lead singer Chris Filan joined up) batted around a bunch of names and ideas before settling on the name that has driven them conceptually forward.
“It’s been helpful, particularly with merch, because there’s a lot of imagery that we can use. But the music is not always about that.”
Instead, the band grew organically with Stout and drummer Michael Hiott, both of whom played in the hard rock group The Cancer a few years back, reuniting to jam in Stout’s garage back in 2020. The two quickly added bassist Robby Weise and guitarist Anthony Capone to the fold while searching for a lead singer.
“We didn’t want to go with the whole screaming thing that a lot of [harder] bands do, because that kind of pigeonholes you a little bit,” Stout explained. “When we brought Chris [Filan] in, we pretty much auditioned him on the spot by making him record a song with us in the style and sound [we were going for].”
And that sound is a comfortable yet exciting meld of stoner rock, classic metal and straight-ahead punk, with just a touch of indie rock eclecticism. That blend comes across both in the range of the four songs on the EP as well as Filan’s ability to channel Michael Stipe as much as he does Glenn Danzig.
Stout says the group is already working on new material. “The stuff we’re writing now is a little heavier, slower stuff,” he said. “We definitely are [still] building our sound and what we want it to be. I mean, you definitely have to get your feet wet first and put something out and then go from there.”
In the meantime, the band is excited about their recently-released “stoner rock” version of Band of Horses’ “The Funeral.” It’s a track that recognizes the surprising potential for pummeling riffs in the indie rock power ballad while also showcasing Fillan’s vocal chops. It also dramatically showcases a band still twisting its sound to new ends.
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