High Hopes: Luna Sol

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You know the age-old story: rocker moves out to the Old West, buys himself a ranch, gets inspired by the world’s most famous haunted hotel and forms a band.

Okay, it’s not quite typical, but that was the brilliantly bonkers path taken by Dave Angstrom, guitarist for John Garcia-led stoner kings Hermano, when he packed up his bags and moved from his lifelong home of Kentucky to be closer to his wife’s family in Colorado back in 2012.

The shift to the snow-covered, mountain-surrounded Denver climes sparked a creative spurt in Angstrom. “I like the idea of letting the surroundings soak into the songs,” he explains. “I’m ten minutes from the mountains and driving up there you see these silver mines, and you take a left and you’re in an actual ghost town. We don’t have that in Kentucky. There we just have hillbillies.”

It wasn’t just ghost towns that inspired Angstrom to form Luna Sol, the stoner rock crew completed by guitarist Shanda Kolberg, bass player Shannon Fahnestock and drummer Pat Gill. There was also a visit to the Stanley Hotel. Yes, that Stanley Hotel – the vast, skin-crawlingly eerie residence that planted the seed for The Shining in Stephen King’s head.

King may have turned his uneasy stay at the supposedly haunted house into Jack Torrance’s bloodthirsty, off-the-deep-end rampage, but Angstrom’s trip yielded something every bit as brutal – the deliciously atmospheric, Sabbath-meets-Mastodon Death Mountain. Rammed with thick riffs that slam head-on into haunting harmonies, the track is the perfect introduction into the stoner doom woven throughout Luna Sol’s debut record, Blood Moon.

Recorded at Angstrom’s ranch, the album is full of macabre stories. While King’s spine-chiller was at the root of Death Mountain, Leadville was inspired by the Colorado town of the same name. It’s a place Angstrom describes as “where people go to get off the map and evade the law”.

Not just a product of its surroundings, Blood Moon is also an album shaped by Angstrom’s connections with the desert rock scene. As such, the news that stoner rock royalty John Garcia and Nick Oliveri guest on the record comes as little surprise. The presence of Dizzy Reed among the liner notes is a little more eyebrow raising. “Pat, our drummer, grew up with Dizzy, and when I first moved out here I played a show with Dizzy and we became friends,” Angstrom explains. “I emailed him saying I was thinking Southern Baptist church with a creep funeral vibe for Your War and he sent back a part that blew my mind.”

Angstrom mentions that a new Hermano album is to be recorded later in the summer, so is Luna Sol just a stopgap? The answer is a resounding no. “In creating this band I was selfish and I told the guys that,” he says. “I just want to play the music I want to play and I don’t want any childish drama. I’ve created this so I have something musically to do for the rest of my life and I look forward to seeing it grow and evolve.

“We‘ve picked some songs that we have for record two and we’re still writing more. This is where I want to be and this is what I want to do. I’m a lucky guy, man. Rock is good.”

FOR FANS OF: Kyuss

Angstrom is aware of the easy comparisons between Luna Sol and Kyuss, and admits there’s substance in likening the bands, but insists there’s more just beneath the surface. “I am influenced by Kyuss – I love them, I love early Queens Of The Stone Age, I love Sabbath, but then I also love Johnny Winter.”

Classic Rock 215: News & Regulars