Find Your Lantern: A conversation with 36 Crazyfists

You’ve probably heard it said that the best thing about music is the fact when it hits you feel no pain. While that may be true in certain circumstance, I don’t agree with the idea music exists to numb the sensation of pain. That idea infers that music is a temporary fix, serving as a kind of audio bandage over problem we are not yet able or ready to deal with, and that is rarely the truth. Most music, at least in my experience, is created to help understand and cope with pain. It’s not about avoiding the unavoidable, but rather confronting it head-on with open eyes and zero fear.

36 Crazyfists has spent nearly two decades working their way through the struggles of life with a unique brand of hard rock that has won over listeners from around the world. Their latest release, Lanterns, may be the best evidence of this to date. The record captures vocalist Brock Lindow’s journey from the death of his mother to the place where he finds himself today. Along the way Brock encountered divorce, as well as other setbacks, all of which he found a way to work through on this release. 

We spoke with Brock by phone in the weeks leading up to Lanterns’ September 29 release date. In our conversation we discussed the creation of the album, touring new material, and learning to accept the inevitability of setbacks in life. You can read highlights from our conversation below.

HAULIX: So your tour with Devildriver is essentially the start of the promotion cycle for Lanterns, right?

Brock Lindow: Absolutely. We go from this tour, where we are direct support, to a headline run that carries us through the album release on September 29.

Are you the type of band to bring a lot of new material on the road, or has the new album not infiltrated the stage show just yet?

We are actually playing a lot of new stuff on this run. I think we’re playing 4 new songs on this run, in addition to six other tracks. I know that isn’t the traditional rollout for most artists, but it’s what we like to do. When we have new material to share with fans we get out there and share it. Even though people haven’t heard it we still go for it. We have so many damn songs anymore that balancing it all is difficult, but we try our best.

Is this approach to sharing new material new itself, or have you always been one to bring songs people might not know into the live show?

I don’t know about always, but we are not afraid to do it.

We have been talking to a lot of modern legacy acts as of late, yourself included. Lanterns will be your eighth album to date. When you reach your level, where you have long established your presence in music, it seems like your supporters begin looking to you for something different. They aren’t as concerned with a single song as much as the full album. They just want as much new material as you have to offer.

Yeah. I guess we have that same kind of mindset as well anymore. We don’t necessarily set out to write that one song that will change the world or making us millionaires overnight. Those kind of gran illusions have come and gone many, many years ago, if we ever had them at all. The people who have liked our band since day one are a huge part of why this band is still going, so we’re writing music for us and them. As far as hoping radio or televisions picks us up in concerned, we’re certainly not against it, but we also aren’t actively trying to pander to them. We’ve made our career by being true to ourselves and our supporters first. We might not be the biggest band on the planet, but we are guys who you can meet at the bar after the show to have a few drinks. Where we come from, it’s blue collar, and that’s just how people are. There are of course times when you’re in a bad mood and you don’t want to be in the mix of it all, but for the most part the reason we do this is to see and hang out with our community. If there is a beer or hug or handshake out there for us, we want it.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about your band is how you maintain that community while being based in Alaska. The amount of travel you put in really shows your dedication to the fans.

Thanks, man. I don’t want to leave home to hide in the van or the back of the club. I want to get out there and see people.

Speaking of Alaska, do you have a lot of opportunities to perform there? In my previous travel experience it has appeared as though there is not a large number of concerts coming through the area.

We have done some small Alaska runs. We even played Homer, one time, and it was definitely not the most hard rock place in the world. It was a bit more hippie/folk culture, which is honestly a lot of Alaska outside of Anchorage, but they’re all good places. Fairbanks is usually a good show, too. We’re trying to make a tradition out of playing certain places here, and hopefully we’ll make that happen.

I don’t think a lot of people can appreciate the kind of work that goes into concert promotion in Alaska if they haven’t been there. Unlike the lower 48, people have to make billboard, homemade signs, and generally do a lot more work to get the word out, or so it seems.

Yea, for sure. We don’t get too much of that stuff, so I think when we do you have to make it a major event.

When I was reading about the album I learned of the relationships struggles you went through during its creation. As someone who found themselves at the unexpected end of a serious relationship not long ago, I really connected to the feelings captured on this release. Can you talk a bit about tapping into that?

This is one of those things where I am happy you connect to the record, but at the same time it’s unfortunate those things had to happen to us. Everything that I have gone through in the last few years is not unique by any means. It is the same trials and tribulations people face all the time, which in a way made me unsure how deep I wanted to explore those topics on this release. I think there comes a point where you look at your body of work and you wonder if people think everything in your life is miserable because all you do is complain about the same things over and over. I used to feel that way about Staind. I love that band, but after a few records I started to wonder if there was anything good going on in their lives as well.

I actually had a very high brow idea for how to use some metaphors based on native culture to tie into my own journey, but I realized at one point that was going to take a lot more time. I talked to my girlfriend about whether or not I should write about all this and she told me I had to because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get it out. She was absolutely right. Throughout our career writing has been how I dealt with stuff, so why now – when things are really hard – would I not do the thing that helps me?

I think you pulled it off in a way that does not make it seem like you’re the saddest guy in the world or that your hurting all the time. If anything, coming off the last record I always feel like your albums kind of serve as motivation to keep pushing forward toward better things. This album continues that to some extent, but it also recognizes that even if you feel things are going well that can – often through no fault of your own – get turned upside down when you least expect it.

You have to figure it out. No matter who you are or where you are, shit can turn on you in a moment’s notice. You have to find a way to work through it. Our band, this music, has been a vehicle for me to do that. When you’re around one another as long as we have been there is something about that connection that is special. Something I learned in recent years is how important those connections are, and how without them you’re really on your own. That’s not healthy. You can do it for as long as you want, but it will come out somehow – probably in a way you don’t want it to, like substance abuse. That was not an easy lesson for me to learn, but hopefully it can be for other because of what we’re putting out.

This seems like it ties into well with that Lanterns track “Dark Corners”.

Exactly. I want this material to be something that will encourage me to not retrace my steps. They are little reminders for me. I don’t go back to our old material that often, but when I need to I know they are there. I also haven’t forgotten about the instances that inspired the material, those little bumps in the road that got me to this point.

Being on the other side of the record, do you feel better having gotten these situations and your feelings toward them on tape?

No question about it. Absolutely. Even from the last record, where I wrote songs about losing my mom, was very helpful for me. The weight of this album is different. The last one was stuck in a time vault, but this one is more of a gradual progression out of that period in my life. I look more fondly on these songs just because that period was so bleak. It was hard to lose someone so supportive, especially when it’s your mom. Doing this record, it has definitely been more about the day to day struggle than a specific event or moment in time.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.