Zeb Camp was studying Appalachian history and Southern literature four years ago, at UNC-Asheville, when he began writing lyrics for the Asheville band Bask.
While folk, bluegrass and the iconic singer-songwriter are the soul of our regional music scene, guitar-driven heavy music is emerging here, and Bask is at the forefront. The music is soaked in heavy guitars, but the tone and lyrical sentiments are baked in this part of the south.
“A lot of (our songs are) about coal mining or about the transition from the agrarian Appalachia to the industrial Appalachia,” Camp said. “And the environmental aspects to all those subjects, especially mountaintop removal, that got injected into there.”
Before Camp joined, guitarist Ray Worth had already developed the framework for Bask—dense, atmospheric guitars and song structures grounded in the musical roots of Western North Carolina.
“Dynamics have always been important. The two-minute mark to the song, when it kicks in and all volumes are blaring, and we want it to hit you in the gut,” Worth said. “Maybe it’s a minute of buildup beforehand or we go into an Americana interlude or bridge. It’s important for us to have these deep valleys and crevices in our songwriting.”
Bask has a pair of six-song albums out. The latest is “Ramble Beyond,” and Camp’s lyrics are drenched in stories and sensory metaphor—the feel of gravel and dirt underfoot, the taste of alkaline from poisoned waters, the sight of tobacco leaves hanging to dry. Camp reveals some of his lyrics come from overlooked stories from history told in the podcast “The Memory Palace.”
“I’ve always found that trying to think from a unique perspective is easier than thinking of a big idea as a whole,” Camp said. “Thinking of a character’s viewpoint, a more narrow outlook, I’ve always found that more helpful in writing.”
Three years ago, a well-connected booking agent lifted Bask from the ranks of the merely local by landing the band on a month-long European tour with 20-year metal veterans High on Fire. That connection has continued to pay off. High on Fire is headlining the first Heavy Mountain Festival, a two-night bow to heaviness (Sept. 1-2) Worth curated for the Mothlight and the Orange Peel. Worth tends bar at both.
“I wanted to come out swinging, to bring out some nationals, some big boys, because I feel like there’s this market for heavy music that’s been growing in Asheville in the eight or nine years I’ve been here,” Worth said. “I feel confident in it.”
Bask is working on a new album they hope to have out in late 2019 and looking to hop onto another tour that will carry their music out of the mountains.
“We ultimately adopted the Grateful; Dead philosophy to our business plan. There’s really no dollars in record sales. It’s all about having a killer merch table and a really good live show,” Worth said. “Some of our highest concentration of listeners are in Scandinavia, and we’ve only been there once. Most people wouldn’t have come to us if it weren’t for Spotify, but you can’t download a t-shirt and you can’t download that live concert experience.”