There's no one in the basement to impress, but Bryan Coats is preoccupied with getting just the right psychedelic images projected onto the wall behind his drum kit. He finds something that fits and retreats behind the skins as Blackwater Prophet launches into a soaring, spaced-out rocker called "God Damn God."
Garrett Zanol pounds dirty blues riffs on his guitar, a hat pulled low over his eyes as he gazes at the swirling figures on the wall. Perched on a stool, Beav Parker provides a bouncing bassline. Zanol's vocals are all but drowning in reverb as the band makes its way through the seven-minute, completely scripted track.
Put it all together, and you can't tell if it's all the cheap beer the trio keeps around, those projected swirls or the music itself that's making the room feel like it's slowly spinning.
An hour earlier, on a patio a story above the basement, Zanol, Coats and Parker smoke cigarettes and sip on beers while a rotating cast of friends lounge on a couch in the corner, not all that impressed by their rock-star buddies. Since playing Volume last year — a roaring set to an ass-to-elbows crowd at Mootsy's — things have changed for Blackwater Prophet.
"We're starting to take it seriously. We've been playing and writing seriously for about a year," says Coats.
"We started taking it seriously when other people started taking us seriously," says Zanol, who at 23 is the band's elder statesman. Coats and Parker are 22.
Blackwater Prophet is currently deep into the recording of their first album, which they're laying down with help from a friend who Coats studied with at Spokane Falls Community College's recording arts program. The record is aimed at capturing their sludgy, dirty — but perfectly accessible — take on blues-influenced rock that makes perfect sense for three guys who worship at the Led Zeppelin altar. The album, of course, will feature their trademark reverb.
"[The reverb] is a necessity, really. It fills it out. I feel like I can play with it more to achieve the sound I want to hear," says Zanol.
"But it's not a crutch," says Parker.
"No, it's not like Auto-Tune or something," says Zanol.
On stage, Zanol doesn't necessarily stand out as a frontman. His mannerisms are as subdued as the spooky drone of his echoing singing voice. His backstory is fascinating: Zanol says he started playing guitar after he was arrested for selling stolen prescription pills when he was just 13. When he got out of juvenile detention after little more than a day, he bought his first guitar and started making music with Coats. He's heavily tatted and drops F-bombs with aplomb, but keeps the lawn at the Spokane Valley home he rents immaculate ("Mowing is like therapy," he quips) and is in the process of restoring his third Volkswagen bus.
He says that with the band becoming more focused, others have focused on the band.
"A bit ago, there was a week straight when every day I was getting a call or a text trying to book us or talk to us about something," he says. Recently, the trio has brought on a friend to help with booking and merchandise and ease the load.
The three still rely on their unglamorous day jobs — Coats and Parker are in fast food, while Zanol works for a screen printer — but have dedicated themselves toward making the band their full-time gig.
"None of us want to work full-time jobs and squeeze music in on the side. It's all we want to f---ing do," says Zanol. "I mean, what else are we supposed to do?" ♦
Blackwater Prophet plays Volume on Sat, May 31, at 9:50 pm at Club 412 mainstage • 412 W. Sprague • 21+