It's 3:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday, and the dudes from Godwin Falcon are out on the porch of their downtown apartment, smoking cigarettes and shotgunning beers and plinking cans off the railing with a BB rifle. They are loud for no reason, crass because it's fun, halfway-bombed in broad daylight because why the hell not.
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to play metal.
I ask the guys how they got introduced to metal, and bassist-vocalist Paul Pavlich replies, "We were born into it, just like a deer is born to run. Just like a deer and Bruce Springsteen."
"And Bruce Springsteen was made to get hit by a car," drummer Jonathan Peace blurts out. "Aw, I don't mean that — I love 'Thunder Road.'"
"Stop talking!" one of the others shouts, and then, without explanation, Pavlich starts singing a John Denver chorus.
"West Virginia, mountain mama!" he shouts, and the rest of the band joins in. "Take me home! Thunder road!" Pavlich's voice is coarse and smoke-ravaged, and he barks and gargles the lyrics, trailing off before taking another swallow of beer.
They've invited me into the apartment now, a cramped first-floor space near the MUSC campus where shafts of sunlight eke through the Budweiser and Iron Maiden banners that have been draped over the windows. The coffee table has been pushed into the kitchen to make room for a practice space, and a stack of speaker cabinets and amplifiers covers a wall from floor to ceiling. Pavlich, Peace, and the other band members — guitarist Creighton Jones, guitarist Matt Hughes, and vocalist Brenton St. John — are sitting and drinking on black couches along with a big black dog who almost disappears in the gloom. They insist that they will not let me interview them unless I drink a beer. I oblige.
All five of the guys played metal while attending Wando High School in picture-perfect Mt. Pleasant. Pavlich, Jones, and St. John were in one band, while Hughes and Peace were in their own bands. "You know how there's the Big Three, like Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax? We were the Big Three of Wando," Peace says. After high school, they all attended the College of Charleston, where they combined forces to create Godwin Falcon.
It's nearly impossible to get them to talk seriously about the music. I ask what genre of metal they consider themselves, and they all agree on the term "beach metal." I ask for examples of other bands in that category, and Pavlich replies, "Kid Rock. 'Bawitdaba' is definitely beach metal." This might be a joke.
Despite their gruff demeanor — and despite the fact that songs on their first album featured titles like "Whore Butt," and "My Chemical Bromance" — the metal of Godwin Falcon is nuanced and varied, taking pages from the playbooks of bands they admire. From Dillinger Escape Plan they take complex time-signature changes; from Iron Maiden they take a predilection for hard-galloping guitar shred; from Baroness they take a muscular progressive edge. Their debut album Motorcycle Gorilla Dentist features a number of shape-shifting moments, including the inexplicably good arena-rock "Whoa-oh" anthem break in "Bro Big or Bro Home" and the brief interlude song "AJ's Chicken," which could pass for an outtake by Lucero or the Drive-By Truckers.
Their sound is partly a reaction to "brocore," a suburban subgenre of metalcore where the focus is on playing as many chugga-chugga guitar breakdowns as possible so the moshers have an excuse to thrash around and slug each other in the face. "You don't hear us having 10 breakdowns in one song," Pavlich says. "We write riffy shit that we care about, and we'd rather listen to it than have a bunch of losers scream 'Bro, bro, bro' at us every 20 seconds."
"Any bro that's worth his weight in salt would understand that we're bro enough," Peace adds.
Lyrically, they're pretty vile. Neighbors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland murder each other over bottled water ("Bro Big or Bro Home"), friends driven to cannibalism divvy up legs and thighs "in a pit of blood and piss and shit" ("Docter Witch Tits"), and on the song "Then Came Bronson," the gang shouts over and over again, "I will find you, you fuck."
They do have flashes of cerebral songwriting, though. St. John, who studied the classics in college, dictated a synopsis of Euripides' Bacchae to Pavlich, who then turned around and wrote the song "Pink Sock" based on the violent story. Other songs are based on videogames and the David Lynch TV drama Twin Peaks. An upcoming album titled Ape Hanger Vs. The World "is basically about Terminator 2 and a bunch of our buddies," according to Pavlich.
Pavlich says the song "Whore Butt" is based on "somebody just getting butt-hurt at work," but St. John insists that it's actually based on the controversial 1993 film Falling Down, which features Michael Douglas as an unemployed divorcé who goes on a violent rampage across Los Angeles to get to his daughter's birthday party on time. "That movie is incredible. It'll make you want to do everything that he does," St. John says.
"It'll make you respect Michael Douglas," Jones says.
"And then you'll realize that you're a psychopath," St. John says.
"Yeah. BAAAM! St. John with the ringer!" Pavlich interjects. "Oooooh! My man, my fuckin' man!"
All five of the guys finished their degrees at CofC, and they've got real day jobs now. Pavlich manages a pedicab company, and Jones is an honest-to-God dentist (he goes by a pseudonym in the band). Pavlich, who studied psychology and English, is predictably crude when talking about what he got out of college. "We got our dicks wet," he says. "I couldn't have spoken English to you without my degree."
"I like how well-rounded we are," St. John says. "If you sit us together, I feel like we could answer any question."
"We all have very strong personalities, and I think that comes through," Peace says.
"That's also why it takes three months to write a song," Hughes says.
Oh, and that band name? It's no coincidence that there's a two-town exit sign on I-95 in North Carolina that says "Godwin Falcon."
"We made that up. They stole it from us," St. John says. "We should go talk to North Carolina about that."
"They need to get their shit together," Hughes says, "give us some money."