Bell’s Back Room Concert: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Matt Sweeney “Superwolves” with Emmett Kelly
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Where once was Superwolf, now roam Superwolves, the new album and demon spawn of Matt Sweeney and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, out digitally April 30th on Drag City and available physically on June 18th. Today marks the arrival of their new single “Hall of Death,” which follows “Make Worry For Me.” Sweeney and Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) wrote “Hall Of Death” with visionary Tuareg guitarist and producer Ahmoudou Madassane. The song features Oldham and Sweeney in their traditional respective roles of singer and guitarist recording live in the studio with Madassane on rhythm electric guitar, joined by his formidable bandmates: Mdou Moctar adding his unmistakable lead guitar, Mike Coltun on electric bass, and Souleyman Ibrahim on drumset. Its accompanying video was directed by Sai Selvarajan and Jeff Bednarz.
The songs that make up Superwolves, the duo’s second album and first since 2005’s Superwolf, go boldly into undreamed-of places, and go deep, as Matt and Bonny take all the musics they know to make songs that penetrate. In classic Garcia-Hunter style, Sweeney and the ‘Prince’ first work separately, finding a path to each other in their solitary imaginings. Bonnie lyric sets delivered to Matt spark Sweeney’s guitar brain; chords and a melody are shaped, recorded fast and loose and sent back to the ‘Prince,’ then the two parties meet up to sing, stitch, strengthen and finally perform them together in front of a small unsuspecting audience. Then new sets of lyrics are sent, animated and played in a high wire style until the shared songs and experiences are ready to commit to record.
“The chemistry comes from lives, lived separately, in which music is crucial sustenance. We listen with gratitude and awe, knowing that we belong in there. We construct our dream selves with the faith that these selves will have their chance at life. We know what we are capable of doing and just need each other’s support to bring the imagined languages to life.” — Will Oldham
“I love the challenge to write melodies for Will to sing. Struggle with that challenge too. Knowing that Will’s voice will elevate the melody makes me reach higher and dig deeper for the tune. Makes me want to match it with a guitar part that holds his voice like a chalice holds wine (or blood, or whatever is needed to live the best life). I also love singing harmonies and responses to this voice of his.” — Matt Sweeney