Interview with Lords of Mace
Written by: David Locklear
When asking Lords of Mace how the name of their band came about, be prepared to hear various true and untrue answers from the band members.
“Originally, we were Triceratops Explosion,” guitarist Matt Smith tells me at their rehearsal space in downtown Winston-Salem.
“I voted for Goblin Shark,” says bassist Jason “Buddha” Myers.
“We were obviously running out of ideas when we hit on Lords of Mace,” drummer Bobby Roberts tells me.
“Really, the word ‘Mace’ was slang for penis with the Phoenicians,” Smith adds. “And it was sort of carried down through time, through the Middle Ages, things like that. But throughout history, it just became a name for a weapon.”
He pauses for a moment before the big reveal. “And that history lesson was all fake news, by the way.”
The rest of the band laugh.
“You made that up? Man, you sold the shit out of it,” vocalist Michael Bright says.
“It sounds like it could be true,” Smith continues. “That’s how we get by! We don’t know what the fuck we’re doing.”
Lords of Mace are technically a young band on the North Carolina indie rock and metal scene, but the members Bright, Smith, Myers, Roberts and temp to hire bassist, Mike Blankenship, have all been playing with different bands in around the Piedmont Triad area for more than a decade. And the band name-though medieval in its tone-probably has a more contemporary connection to a certain American Southern rock band than it does to dicks.
“In reality, the origin of the Lords of Mace name has a connection to...this Peavey amplifier which was most famously used by rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet and various others. And I have one,” Smith explains.
“It’s called the Peavey Mace,” Myers adds.
“And it’s quite possible that the one that I have was actually used by Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Smith continues. “When me and Bobby were doings some work on it, we noticed the white Tolex (a tough vinyl like covering) on it was actually original. And supposedly the Mace amps that Skynyrd had were custom built from Peavey. I’ve never seen another one like that, except for the ones that Lynyrd Skynyrd had; and there are connections that Lynyrd Skynyrd had to North Carolina. Which isn’t that big of a deal, it’s just kind of neat.”
“And it’s loud as fuck!” Myers jumps in.
Lords of Mace were molded from the ashes of several local bands, most notably Tusker-a band whose sound was sort of a love child born from the sounds of Clutch and sweet tea-and established a jumping off point for the more guttural crunch of Lords of Mace.
“Mike just came up to me and said: ‘Hey, can you break up Tusker?’ to which I said ‘Sure.’” Roberts says with deadpan laugh. “So Mike is the reason we broke up. It took about 6 months to a year, but I finally broke the band up!”
He continues, “Really, Tusker just fizzled. Everybody’s schedule just got crazy and I remember hearing that Jason wanted to do a doom metal band”
“The couple times we got together and jammed, we just hit it off,” Myers says. “I was like: ‘Man, [they’re] bigger dicks than I am, maybe this will work.’”
“All of us have played together in some form or fashion,” Bright says, “and with all of these incarnations, that’s how everybody got together. “
However, Bright was already in the country swagger band, Cactus Black, so the idea of a lateral move in bands didn’t hold much appeal.
“I was very resistant,” Bright says. “The stuff with Tusker was up in the air, and I didn’t know if I wanted to make another commitment as a vocalist. I was still-and still am-in Cactus Black and two bands seemed like a lot to juggle. And I think that’s what made me hesitant-maybe I didn’t want to juggle two bands. But they sent me some stuff, and I really, really fuckin’ dug it. So I went and hung out one night and I was sold. I was like ‘Fuck it. I don’t care if it’s two bands, scheduling, or whatever the hell the issue is. Fuck it, I’ll do it.’”
After they solidified the lineup and fine-tuned their dirty diesel groove, Lords of Mace entered the studio less than a year after their formation, put down some tracks and released their first 7” vinyl through Grimtale Records.
“For me, that was a big thing,” Bright says. “In Tusker, we never got to put this thing on a medium to give it away or to sell it...[with Lords of Mace] when we walked out of the studio after being there a few days and having a rough mix, then listening to it on the way home, it was like ‘Son of a bitch!’ And with the prevalence of vinyl these days-especially with metal and hard rock and doom making a big splash on vinyl-we thought that would be a good way to go.”
The lyrical content that the Lords of Mace songs deal in are universally relatable, and can hit close to home if you are from the American South. From the isolated frustration of “Better Off” and “Homeward Angel” or to the more upbeat gambling stomp of “Cherokee Casino”, chances are you have experienced some of the emotions lurking within these songs.
“A lot of it is based on real life events,” Smith says, “It’s a way of documenting things that are familiar to us, especially if you grew up down here.”
“Good, bad or otherwise,” Myers adds.
“It’s just part of who we are,” Smith continues, “So we’re not singing songs about dragons or the British Empire. ‘Cause we don’t really know anything about that.”
“But we’re bringing out two new songs at the next show, and it’s about dragons in the British Empire,” Blankenship adds, not missing a chance to bust balls.
All of the Lords of Mace band members grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, which means the infancy and growth of their influences, styles and current sound was molded long ago in the place many of us are changed by music: an old record collection.
“The first record I got as a kid was ZZ Top,” Myers says, “I’m definitely a child of the 70’s; the Mountain stuff, Joe Walsh, James Gang, Deep Purple. And, believe it or not, Queen’s ‘The Game’. My dad had that 8 track tape that I wore the fuck out. The first time I heard Brian May go [imitates guitar squeal], I was like: ‘Holy fuck, you can do that?!”
“Jethro Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’ was one of the first rock songs I ever attached myself to,” Bright adds. “It was one of the first things that, for me personally, I liked. Like ‘I’m in line with all the shit you guys are doing here and I love it.’”
This ultimately leads to a discussion about how hard it can be for bands to find and maintain momentum with their fan base. Lords of Mace know how hard it is to build a following, and also how easy it can be to lose that following any time a band makes a decision in an increasingly fickle and unpredictable musical landscape.
“Bands go through phases,” Smith says, “It’s all part of their journey, and if you want to go with them on that journey, it might not be what you always want, but it’s still going to be interesting.”
“I love Jethro Tull, but if you can sit through their album ‘Passion Play’ without questioning things, I’ll be surprised,” Bright says with a laugh.
“Like Slayer. Some people have been saying ‘They’re not relevant anymore.’ Bullshit! They’re fucking Slayer!” says Smith.
“Who the fuck says Slayer is irrelevant?!” Blankenship interjects with fury. “They should kill themselves. I hope they get cancer, I hope it’s horrible, that it hurts, and they fucking die.”
However, Lords of Mace recognize that-after all of the shows they’ve played together, the bands they’ve done time in and the miles they’ve put on their passion and their gear-success, such as it is, remains a subjective, unruly beast. They are happy that they have success, and remain light hearted in the comfort they are going to continue doing what they love.
“That’s Lords of Mace in a nutshell,” Bright says. “In 20 years, people will be like: ‘Remember that band that was horrible? I listened to them the other day and it was alright.’”
“Actually, they’ll more likely say: ‘Ah, they still pretty much suck!” Myers says.