An Interview with Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk by Ross Barnes
On April 26th, 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk after their listening party for their brand-new album, INSIDES. The entire experience has been breathtaking, from the beginning of the album to the end of the interview. Not only are the members of Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk incredible musicians, they are the kind of guys that can inspire and provide insight into the inner machinations of the soul through their art. Noted in this interview is interviewer Ross Barnes (RB), and band members Jacob Leonard (JL), Caleb Gardner (CG), Dane Walters (DW), and Jared Draughon (JD).
RB: To start us off, I’ll get a couple basic questions out of the way and then move on to questions about the album and your writing process and all that good stuff. So, first off, how long have you all been playing together?
CG: Our whole lives!
JL: It’s a complicated story. So as a collective, we’ve been playing together how long? A couple years?
DW: About a year.
JL: Not even a year as a four-piece. Me and Caleb, I played in my first band with Caleb when I was sixteen.
RB: Alright, I got that. So you have that lifelong musical chemistry built up between each other. You pretty much have how you work together down to a science and you’ve gotten to a point where you can just build off of that.
JL: Yeah, but with this project, I started it off as a solo project, with a drum machine, looping, and then me and Dane came together as the first—he was really the first addition to this project. Me and Dane really connected and we still connect. Two of the records with this project are solo records, after that was built between more than just me.
CG: I had seen these guys play as a duo at Delurk many years ago, what struck me about them is that they were really going through a bunch of different genres, eviscerating each one. And I was like, wow, these guys are killing this punk style, they’re killing this headbanging style, they’re killing this ambient style, and I wanted to be a part of that.
RB: With recording this album, what was the first nugget of inspiration for it?
JL: Well, I have the goal of releasing an album every year. And it didn’t happen on this project, but we’re always working on music, and this was just our natural progression as musicians. It was just time for us to release a record that represents us as a band. You know, because we had a two-piece record before that. So we just needed something representative as to what we are as a four-piece.
RB: Alright, I get where you’re coming from. So walk me through the creative process of a song. How does it come in to existence exactly?
JL: Life experiences, you know, we have traumatic pasts, we have beautiful pasts at the same time, so with all of the pain and depressions and experiences of life, music is my outlet for expression.
RB: Alright I get it, so you feel something and you translate that into a creative piece with sound.
CG: That’s just the start of the creative process. As a whole it’s very indescribable.
JL: I’m also going to be the most confusing person to get answers from.
RB: [Laughs] That’s really great on paper actually, or on screen or however.
CG: Seriously though, we are not going to be able to scientifically quantify creative experience. But generally, the songs start as demos, which are usually just shared recordings or pieces of songs that one guy puts forth, usually Jacob because he’s more of the singer/songwriter. Then we try to build parts to make sense, then we try to get the song to performance level, and once it gets to performance level we’re able to identify textures that work, and we’re able to see if there are any problems with the structure.
RB: How does recording work for you guys? Like, do you guys run through it track-by-track, do you record it collectively?
DW: How does the recording process work? That’ll probably be more of a question for him. [Points to Jared]
CG: Tell him J-Rod.
JD: Recording-wise we just started with drums and then layered everything else on top of that. We had to work on each part for a while and dial in the songs and figure out what we were going to do. But yeah, start with drums, and layer bass and guitar and vocals after that.
RB: So it’s a lot of layer and layer and layer, etc.
JD: We also do a lot of pre-production, like live, full recordings and demos beforehand. Once we knew what we were going for we would start layering.
RB: So what are your guy’s next move, after the release show at the Ramkat on May 4th? Do you have a tour lined up?
JL: Worldwide. I mean hopefully we’ll work it to everywhere, but really right now we’re just working up to the show next week.
CG: Hopefully everything is a great answer, but let me take a crack at it. So our record is going into wide release tonight. So through the typical avenues, Spotify, iTunes, hardcopy, we are releasing it. We have a few dates that we have planned in the region coming up, and after that we’re always looking for opportunities to branch out. We all have lives outside of music that we have to take care of, but regardless we’re always working toward growth and bigger opportunities.
JL: We’re playing Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Virginia Beach, and anywhere else in Carolina.
CG: Of course our main goal is to break even.
RB: Well of course, the absolute minimum goal that musicians have is to break even so the music can support itself.
CG: If the music can support itself, then you are a successful musician. And it’s tough overall.
RB: Do you have a favorite show you ever played?
JL: The Ramkat May 4th. Every show is our favorite show. Actually tonight is the best show we ever had, we didn’t have to load in equipment! Our set was flawless too! In all seriousness, we always look to the future people. Because in the end of it, we want our music to have an impact on people in the future. We have a lot of very important topics that we cover in our music, about the environment and the universe, and we try to keep a progressive mindset and image in order to be good inspiration and role models for the future musicians and future people of our planet.
RB: Do you have any experiences from past shows or even bands that stayed in your mind that helped you grow as a musician, or as a person?
CG: That’s a great question, I will always say the band Shiner from Kansas City, they have a record called The Egg. I saw them on tour when I was sixteen. They blew my mind and they made me want to play music.
DW: They were a real and earnest rock band.
JL: In terms of influence, we don’t really pull from music, we’re not copycats or anything like that.
CG: I would have to say that for me, a lot of local acts inspire me to continue being a musician, because we know them, we know what their lives are actually like. Like 1970s Film Stock, we know he’s married and then we see him put on a badass rock show, down at the Garage when it was still open.
JL: And that is what our record is all about. It’s about inspiring one another. That’s what we do for each other. And it’s even more to say that when we see a local band at a bar, it’s our goal to want to push them further and inspire them to go further. And hopefully they do the same thing back to us.
Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk can be found on Facebook at @darkprophettonguelessmonk. You can also find their compendium of music solo-written, duo-written, and full-band-written at darkprophettonguelessmonk.bandcamp.comPhotography by Morgan Jenea