In November of last year, Stateside reported on the rising musical trend "Witch House". The band at the forefront of this movement is the Traverse City, Michigan-based Salem.
Salem is John Holland, Heather Marlatt and Jack Donoghue. The trio met in Chicago and decamped to Michigan, where Holland and Marlatt attended high school together. A quick scan of the official Salem Website confirms that the once shadowy outfit is now retaining professional management, as well as a publicist and booking agent.
After unleashing a series of limited edition 7" singles throughout 2008 and 2009, the band released their debut album, "King Night", on September 28th, 2010, on IAMSOUND Records. Mixed by Dave Sardy (noted producer for Oasis and Wolfmother), the album references industrial music, gothic rock and shoegaze, with a production style borrowed from Southern rap.
"King Night" received high praise from U.S. critics, including the tastemakers at Pitchfork and syndicated National Public Radio host Jim Derogatis. This validation came as Salem was still living down a reputation for not playing the press game.
In a September, 2010 feature in The New York Times, Holland and Marlatt were painted as evasive in a phone interview that band mate Donoghue skipped altogether (the writer claims that Donoghue "was not available to be interviewed, having slept in"). This followed a handful of live reviews that claimed the band was ill prepared to perform its material in front of an audience.
One of those performances-a corporate gig sponsored by The Fader Magazine during SXSW 2009-has become an infamous example of a buzz band not living up to the hype, a video of the show circulating on the very blogs that built Salem up in the first place.
Now that Salem has a professional team behind them, it will be interesting to see how they develop in 2011. European fans can catch the band live at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, 26-28 May.