One listen to the brittle guitars and husky, hushed vocals of West End Motel vocalist/guitarist Brent Hinds on the haunting title track of the group’s new album, Only Time Can Tell, and you know it comes from a sincere place. That’s because Hinds, who also plays in burly prog-metallers Mastodon, wrote it in early 2011, shortly after his brother Brad died while hunting in late 2010. “I was trying to keep busy, just working,” Hinds says from his Atlanta home. “I wanted to keep busy by doing things other than drowning my sorrows. I was trying to be productive.”
During that time, he wrote many of the songs on Only Time Can Tell – save two which were unrecorded songs from Hinds’ previous bands the Blood Vessels and Fiend Without a Face — as well as several that appeared on Mastodon’s latest, more rock-focused album The Hunter. Hinds says that “Only Time Can Tell” is also partially about his brother Brad, but it’s also a message to his girlfriend. “It’s basically trying to let her know how much I love her and also about how much I miss my brother,” he says. “For some reason the melody for the chorus popped into my head and I just couldn’t really get it out of my head, so I had to do something about it. I had to put it down on paper, record it.” The result is hypnotizing, or as Hinds puts it, “like a warm cup of tea.”
When he had the form of the song done, he showed it to his longtime West End Motel collaborator Tom Cheshire, whom Hinds says contributed verses like, “This little knife that can take your life/and when I stick it in, I say goodnight.” “Tom is a straight-ahead poet,” he says. “I’m just your everyday average songwriter. I couldn’t do it without him.” Regardless of their working dynamic, though, the process has been liberating for Hinds and he feels okay with revisiting a painful time in his life now, if not for the fact that it’s a distraction from the pressures in playing with an in-demand metal band.
“The songs are just so much fun to play live,” Hinds says. “Everyone plays combo amps, and the music is really fun to sway your hips to and it’s not as big, high-profile stressful situation with the loudest amps on the planet. And a guy playing the drums like a helicopter behind you — it’s confusing enough to understand how fast a song is.” He laughs. “It’s a great departure from Mastodon.”
Only Time Can Tell comes out October 30 on Warner Bros.