Todd Whitener doesn’t like to overthink songs. With longtime bandmates from Tantric and Days of the New, he didn’t have to. Together they just squeezed into a room and channeled what they already knew they had with each other.
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“The more time I have to think about an idea, the worse the idea is going to work out,” guitarist Todd Whitener laughingly tells American Songwriter. “Our approach when we got in the same room was to wing it honestly. We’re basically just kind of channeling when we get together, and the songs just started to fall out of this.”
The project named Blisskrieg and its 10-track debut, Remedy, out today, came together rather quickly due to this relationship among former bandmates Jesse Vest, Matt Taul and Whitener. The album was recorded in about a week, even with a new face in the mix. Former Submersed vocalist Donald Carpenter was invited to sing in the project early on when Whitener, Taul and Vest started discussing the idea. Even though no one had ever met Carpenter prior, he was inserted into the role as if he had been playing with them the same 20 years.
“It was incredible, the way we joined forces the first time actually meeting in the studio,” Whitener said about Carpenter. “I had known Donald for a little bit, but Jesse and Matt had not. And it was like we’ve known each other our whole lives. It was one of those moments that probably sounds cliché. There’s always somebody that you feel like you’ve known forever and that’s how it was with him.”
Whitener who had been living in Nashville the last decade after the conclusion of Tantric, which formed from the remaining members of Days of the New, was working his way through the touring ranks as road crew for Dierks Bentley during the time Blisskrieg was in talks. Whitener and his former bandmates had been toying with a new band concept for a while, but without a completed lineup and singer, it was just an idea. While on the road, Whitener crawled into his bunk on Dierks’ bus and stuck his earbuds in to listen to some music and catch some sleep until the sun came up. Just as he was about to drift off, he was jolted awake by a Submersed song that came from his playlist.
“That Submersed song, ‘Hollow’ came on my playlist out of nowhere and it woke me right up,” Whitener remembered. “And I thought to myself, ‘my gosh, I totally forgot about this guy and his music and how connected I was to it.’ I began going down the rabbit hole of googling him to see what the heck he’s been up to lately and discovered some of the other music stuff that he had been doing. But I also saw that there seemed to be a little break in the action for the past year and a half or so prior.”
The pursuit led Whitener to an Instagram account, where he casually reached out to Carpenter, saying how much of fan he was of Submersed and asked if Carpenter would be interested in playing with him sometime. Carpenter responded almost immediately, agreeing and praising Whitener’s work in tandem. The two needed to meet though, which Whitener expected to be challenging while he was out with Dierks. Scrambling to find a mutual day to meet up off tour, Whitener realized the bus was playing Dallas that very night, where Carpenter resided.
“I’m a big fan and believer in synchronicity, silver linings and meant to be kind of stuff,” Whitener said. Carpenter came out to the show that night and the creative bond between the two was uncanny. “We’ve been close ever since. I don’t think I’ve really experienced anything quite as powerful as this feels musically and stuff.”
The pandemic as halting as it was, offered Blisskrieg an opportunity to write and track their record as spontaneously as they all came together. Remedy plays like a concept record, with a narrative and journey woven throughout each song, starting with the single “Inside Me.” The song that opens with blissful and pristine guitar walks leveled with the lyrics I’m not looking or free ride, hold tight I’m heading for the high life.
“’Inside Me’ is the first song on the new record, and we felt it was the best representation of what people could expect to hear from us in the other songs,” bassist Jesse Vest said. “It has bold vocal harmonies, heavy bass and drum grooves, and a mix of melody and aggression in the guitars that are recurring themes in the rest of the album. ‘Inside Me’ is the launch pad for the album. While this record is not a concept album in the traditional sense, it does take you on a journey. Listeners can expect to finish the album in a very different place than they started it.”
Other songs like “Parasitic” illuminate the toxicity in various kinds of relationships, piloted by the chorus, back away from me, I don’t want to live for you. The closer and title track, “Remedy,” places the listener exactly where they should be with a universal solution to the previous problems laid out in the previous tracks.
“The first song on the record is ‘Inside Me,’ which basically describes that dark voice in our heads that leads us in the wrong direction and causes us to make the wrong decisions,” Whitener explains. “It’s that battle within. And then it traverses through everything that comes along with that, in different ways during the progression of the record. It ends up on the song ‘Remedy’ which is sort of an explanation of how to remedy that darkness. So it ended up kind of being an unplanned concept record if you will.”
The all-encompassing Remedy is a reflection point for Blisskrieg and Whitener especially, who finds himself in a weird time for rock music, explaining “it’s a strange place that I haven’t figured out yet.” But he feels comforted seeing the songs that were written during his own heyday—the ‘90s and early ‘00s—re-charting today. “It really seems like people are kind of clinging on to what is the golden age of music, so hopefully we can have a small impact on bringing some of that stuff back.”
Although Blisskrieg is nothing sonically like Tantric or Days of the New, it has the same essence of music from yesterday, evoking good times, road trips with friends, the rock and roll lifestyle and the age-old hustle of making your dreams come true. And with an expanded band family, including Carpenter, Blisskrieg means even more to Whitener as he returns to the music that he knew he could never truly leave, even being on tour with one of country’s biggest stars.
“It represents more than just some notes and some chord progressions,” Whitener said about Blisskrieg. “It represents a brotherhood, it represents a bond, and it represents the reflection of the times in our life right now.”
Blisskrieg continues to write more for a second album, but for now you can enjoy the perfect Remedy out today, order here.