Poison The Well Bio:
Poison the Well. Think for a second about just what those three words imply, and you’ll have a good idea of how these South Florida-based post-hardcore titans have approached music since their 1998 debut. With their fifth studio album, The Tropic Rot, Poison the Well reach the apex of the idea behind their name, rolling out a wide-angle take on heavy music that’s so fully realized in its boundary-pushing, it makes it impossible to imagine the genre in any other way.
Like 2007’s Versions and the 2008 7” vinyl EP series I/III, II/III and III/III that sprang from that album’s sessions, The Tropic Rot is more post-hardcore than hardcore proper. Recorded in California with legendary producer Steve Evetts (Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Cure, Story of the Year), the album finds PTW working with non-traditional instrumentation, cinematic influences, and bigger-than-ever guitar and vocal melodies. Unlike the more willfully eclectic approach on those releases, however, The Tropic Rot refines these outside inspirations to a veritable knifepoint.
“A lot of people looked at Versions as a concept record with this sort of ‘heavy spaghetti western’ theme, but that wasn’t the intent. I think it just came off that way because those happened to be the sounds in my head at the time,” says Primack, who rounds out Poison the Well alongside singer Jeffrey Moreira, drummer Chris Hornbrook, and the band’s two new full-time members (both as of 2008), bassist Bradley Grace and guitarist Bradley Clifford. “With this record, it feels like the first time we’ve had a unified theme throughout. It’s not a ‘concept record’ in that there’s a storyline, but I do think that writing here in Florida and rehearsing six days a week in a cramped, oppressive sweatbox the way we did absolutely affected the way the music feels.”
The Tropic Rot also marks the first time since 2002’s Tear from the Red that Poison the Well stayed so close to home to work on a record. (Both Versions and 2003’s lone major-label release You Come before You were cut in Sweden.) As Primack tells it, that experience had a profound impact on The Tropic Rot’s outcome. “I find this record to be much angrier than Versions,” he says, taking care not to reveal too much of the motivation behind Moreira’s typically hard-to-decipher lyrics. “It definitely reeks of stagnation; this idea of feeling disillusioned in a place that people consider paradise. You tell people you’re from Florida, and they think your life is a wonderland where Mickey Mouse is bringing you milkshakes every day. The reality is that you live in an area that’s built on tourism, where the summers are really harsh and the falls and winters are just bloated with strange faces.”
Since 1999’s The Opposite of December (widely considered one of the greatest hardcore albums of the past decade), Poison the Well have cut a deep path outside of their home base, selling over 300,000 albums in the U.S. while refining a massively influential sound that’s as heavy sonically as it is emotionally. Extensive international touring – with a cast of tour partners ranging from Deftones, Hatebreed and Shadows Fall to Thursday, Glassjaw and the (International) Noise Conspiracy – has kept the band in front of progressively bigger audiences as much as it has expanded PTW’s influence into worlds both in and outside of heavy music’s usual boundaries.
In 2007 – a year after parting with Atlantic, which released the critically acclaimed You Come Before You – PTW returned to the indie world where it started via Ferret Music, and the resulting partnership has produced arguably some of the strongest music of the band’s career. The Tropic Rot is evidence of that – and not just because of the record’s musical power. For a band that’s operated on a sort of highly functional dysfunction, making The Tropic Rot became something of a uniting experience.
“We’re honestly not that difficult—okay, I’m probably difficult, but nobody else is,” Primack says, laughing. “Like, “Exist Underground,” the first song on the record, came from a riff I wrote at practice that I was just going to throw away—but Brad Clifford was like, ‘Are you crazy?! We’ve got to work with that!’ I’m glad we did—there was input like that all over the record that really kept things moving forward, where before we might’ve gotten stuck on just some crazy little idea for days.”
With a solid lineup locked and relentless touring planned for The Tropic Rot’s wake, Poison the Well are ready to keep moving forward in other ways as well. But no matter where the journey takes them, Primack says, the spirit that’s always driven these five guys to get out there and make some noise remains the same.
“We’ve never fit neatly into any one scene or sound, which is sort of the point,” Primack concludes. “I think the one thing that’s helped us connect with people is that we have this rampant, almost overpowering need to be honest—not only with ourselves, but in whatever we put forth to the world. We’ve always operated off the idea that the music you put out is supposed to be 100-percent honest and from your heart, and that’s the one thing we really strive for…“ He pauses, before adding with a grin, “Even if we do come off as sad bastards half the time.”