Helms Alee: Unapologetic, Unwieldy Post-Rock

Helms Alee: Night TerrorHelms Alee: Night Terror (Hydra Head, 8/5/08)

Helms Alee: “New Roll”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/02-Helms-Alee-_-New-Roll.mp3|titles=Helms Alee: “New Roll”]

With fresh sea legs, Seattle’s Helms Alee has not only put out a spectacular debut album, Night Terror, but also forged a sound all its own — part metal, part post-punk, part melody-driven rock, and all abandon.

“We started playing about October of 2006,” says guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen. “We thought we’d get together and just jam around, play our thing. It quickly grew into doing a band.”

Shortly after these initial sessions, drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis joined up. “I was just talking to Annie — oh, Annie’s real name is Hozoji — and she said, ‘Well, I’m a drummer,’” Verellen says. “I got embarrassed because I hadn’t already asked her [to play with us]. We figured out pretty quickly that she worked well. We try not to be too calculated about anything. That might be an easier way to define something that’s a little more…something that sounds less contrived. We just stick it all together and it’s…it’s just a lot of drinking and smoking grass in the practice space.”

If that appears to be a crap-shoot of sorts, its sound is, in fact, unapologetically so. “[Bassist] Dana [James] and I laugh about it because we have no idea, but we both decided to say that it’s just a rock band,” Verellen says. “I mean, we take stuff from the heavier side, the metal, but we also have our other things going on. There is no ‘A’ part, ‘B’ part, ‘C’ part; everything is in kind of its own weird place.”

“There is no ‘A’ part, ‘B’ part, ‘C’ part; everything is in kind of its own weird place.”

Think of Neurosis joining up with The Breeders for a quick outing into the wilderness. If the music isn’t striking enough, the name Helms Alee is even a bit mysterious. “It’s a sailing thing,” Verellen explains. “About four years ago, one of my buddies and I bought an old, beat-up sailboat and tried to learn how to sail. We got really into the strange terminology, and that was one of the terms that you’re supposed to yell. ‘Helms alee’ means to watch out when you’re swinging the boat around, because the boom swinging overhead could knock you into the water. I thought that it was pretty neat and that it fit the band pretty well.”

Helms Alee
Photo: Faith Coloccia

The band took a short West Coast tour in November of 2008 with Verellen’s old pals Minus the Bear. “[We were driving] across the state of California and ended up right in the middle of all those forest fires and lightning storms,” Verellen says of an old trip. “We were going on this mountain, and there’s fucking smoke everywhere, in our faces, and…sorry, this isn’t very interesting. I don’t do interviews. I have no quirky stories to tell.”

Leave a Comment