Photo by Michael Lessner
On Oct. 30, Howlin Rain will release Under The Wheels: Live From The Coasts, Vol. 2, the second in a series of live recordings. Like Vol. 1 of the collection, it is culled from Howlin Rain’s North American coastal tours in 2018 and 2019, which were in support of the band’s latest studio release, The Alligator Bride.
The live collections were curated by Howlin Rain founder and guitarist Ethan Miller. According to a press release, the record showcases “Howlin Rain’s trademark rock ‘n’ roll bombast and intricately woven, extended improv passages swirl into a distinct form of storytelling, expressed through spiraling energy and a near constant flow of form and melody.”
Today, we premiere “Alligator Bride” from the record. “Though the song itself isn’t ‘dynamic’ in the traditional sense of radical loud and quiet or fast and slow sections,” Miller told Relix,
“‘Alligator Bride’ has always been been one of our biggest dynamic challenges and an exercise in balancing simplicity with resonance, bare-bones with complexity of tone, a melancholy grace with a fierceness of determination, a strict balance between damage and beauty.”
“In the years that followed on the road, “Alligator Bride” was a mainstay in performance for us. A nightly test at maintaining our balance,” Miller continued. “It was the center of our album by the same name, and it centered us on stage and in our minds in the often chaotic psychic state of live performance.”
Miller shared a lengthy statement with Relix about the conception and making of “Alligator Bride.” Read it in full and listen to the new track below!
Ethan Miller on “Alligator Bride”:
Though the song itself isn’t ‘dynamic’ in the traditional sense of radical loud and quiet or fast and slow sections, “Alligator Bride” has always been been one of our biggest dynamic challenges and an exercise in balancing simplicity with resonance, bare-bones with complexity of tone, a melancholy grace with a fierceness of determination, a strict balance between damage and beauty. A few two many fancy kick drum or ride cymbal hits, a few too many fancy bass or guitar note runs and this song gets all fucked up.
It was born a late night campfire song in my spare bedroom/writing room and I figured it would go in the middle or last on the album as a moonlight deep freeze, perhaps even as just a solo acoustic performance alone in studio.
In an offhanded way I played it through for the band at a group album rehearsal and said ‘So there’s that too but we probably don’t need to worry about that one, I’m sure I’ll do it solo or something low key.’ Guitarist Cowboy Dan said, ‘Woah, woah, hold on a second there, that’s one of the best songs we’ve got, I’m hearing it full band, up, full-on.’ I responded with something like, ‘Well, that will never work Dan, it’s not that kind of song but what the hell, let’s play one together so you can hear it that way and we can move on.’
In the moment it didn’t feel as bad as I thought with a full band but I still didn’t hear what Dan was hearing.
At that time I was staying in one of a few cheap cheap ‘murder motels’ I had in rotation (I call them ‘murder’ because they’re cheap, dirty, and feel dangerous) right on the Mexican border that fill up between am and clear out by 7am. In the small hours, looking out of my window from a dirty room, the yellow glow of a prison on one hill in the distance and the sparkling of lights all over the ridge across the border I listened back to the recording of “Alligator Bride” from that evening and it definitely shook me.
In another 6 months or so, “Alligator Bride” surprised me again as we tracked it in studio at the Mansion in San Francisco on the night of the presidential election in 2016. Emerging from the tracking room having just recorded it, the USA it seemed, had changed radically in a matter of hours while we worked. And the abstract lyrics I’d written the year before of a person psychically reeling in melancholy, wonder and horror at the past, present and future of the United States and it’s Dante’s Inferno of American heaven interwoven into its own hell, suddenly took on a new tidal wave of resonance to me. As many songwriters claim; it was like the idea and the lyrics I had written for “Alligator Bride” previously, had been hurtling like a freight train toward their meaning all along.
In the years that followed on the road, “Alligator Bride” was a mainstay in performance for us. A nightly test at maintaining our balance. It was the center of our album by the same name, and it centered us on stage and in our minds in the often chaotic psychic state of live performance.
As the song goes, ‘Catch ahold of your breath, you’ve been travelin’ time…’
— Ethan Miller