Though they created an online presence two years ago, Witch Jail has only been playing out as a band for a short time. Formed by husband-and-wife team Rob Gillaspie and Emily Filley, the group recently added drummer Zach Turner to the mix. Gillaspie—formerly of Lawrence bands The Spook Lights and Pale Hearts, as well as The Cramps tribute band Stay Sick—lends his extravagant frontman stylings to the surfy, primitive garage rock band. Witch Jail’s music has all the makings of the soundtrack to a sleazy horror movie, and we mean that in the best possible way. The trio sat down together to answer our questions, and we think you’ll be amused by the answers.
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
Zach Turner: Pineapple Boom Bop.
Rob Gillaspie : LISTENABLE. Incredibly listenable Pineapple Boom Bop.
Emily Filley : A 45 you find in a thrift store dumpster but don't know if you wanna listen to it.
Rob : I would. It's LISTENABLE.
Zach : It came from the garbage disposal.
The Deli : Give me some background on Witch Jail. How did the band come to be?
Rob : There is this picture from the ‘40s of these classylooking schoolgals standing in front of the old Salem Witch Jail in Massachusetts. We saw that and decided to steal the name before anyone else could. Made a Facebook page and a Bandcamp page before we even had any instruments. Locked it down. Conjured up the band around it. SORCERY. I'm used to just being a wildass frontman, breaking bottles on my head and taking off my pants and all that... so being anchored to a guitar has been a real humbling experience for me. It's a good thing.
Emily : You forced me to play guitar even though I was super sick.
Rob : What?
Emily : Yeah! Remember that time I was sick for 6 weeks?
Rob : I forced you to play guitar?
Emily : Yeah, you were like, “We should do this!” and I was like, “I can't even stay awake right now.”
Rob : So you're saying I healed you? I cured your illness?
Emily : Yes.
Rob : THAT'S WITCHCRAFT.
Emily : We went through a slew of drummers. Then Zach came up to us in a bar and asked if he could play drums for us.
Zach : That's how I get all my drumming gigs. I just go up to people and ask. That's how I ended up playing with Folkicide, too.
The Deli : What inspires your music and songwriting?
Rob : Vintage melodramas. Old comics and sleazy movie trailers. Slime. Artists of singular vision like Doris Wishman or that guy who directed Miami Connection. Unsolved murders. Drugs, obviously. The Devil—not the metal one but the blues one. Ghosts—at my age, the kind of life I've led, you start to know quite a few of them.
Emily : Romance comics, cats, shoplifting, movies.
Zach : Sticky buns. I think about sticky buns. Don't put that.
Emily : Those sticky buns are gonna be good when I'm done. Better hurry up and finish this song.
Rob : What about your drumming? What inspires your drumming?
Zach : I just like to hit stuff.
The Deli : What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
Emily : Not getting frostbite in the shed at Satan's Gay Acid Bath.
Rob : I was gonna use that show, too. Opening for Guantanamo Baywatch in that freezing shed. They're one of my favorite bands. Also, Getting Zach to play drums for us.
Zach : I don't know. SHE'S ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS. I thought this was gonna be a fluff piece.
Rob : Actually, the fact that we're playing shows ANYWHERE is an accomplishment. I'm just happy Kansas City has been such a good fit for us. We love it here.
The Deli : Rob, you’ve been playing music in the KC/Lawrence area for a number of years. How has the scene changed, in your opinion?
Rob : I don't know that it's changed a whole lot. The way I interact with it has changed as I've gotten older, sure... I think the only thing that really changes in a scene is perspective. The music in KC has ALWAYS been on point. It's a creative town, lots of energy here. That being said, there's always an ebb and flow. Kansas City just happens to be FLOWING in a huge way right now. We just moved here after living in Lawrence for 20 years. Lawrence is... not really a GULCH these days, but close. There's certain things going on with the economy over there that makes it hard to be a struggling artist. Which is probably why KC keeps stealing such great talent from there, ha ha ha. I know it's a BIG reason we decided to migrate here.
The Deli: Do you have any recorded music or anything in the works? What can we expect?
Rob: We have a really rough demo up on our Bandcamp page, but we're gonna record everything over again, then start shooting music videos. Maybe do a horror movie about killer cats. And definitely put out a tape soon.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Rob: Reducing the amount of shit I talk online about local bands I don't like.
Emily : Buying a round of shots for bands when we see them play.
Rob : I'm too broke and crotchety to get out to all of the shows I want to see, which is A LOT of shows, so I try to do my part by spreading the word to people, help build audiences. I've been trying to do art for local bands that I like, too, whether they want it or not. Ha ha ha.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
The Deli: Who are your favorite non-local musicians right now?
Rob: Martin Denny? Liberace?
Emily : Can it all just be dead people?
Zach : Guantanamo Baywatch. Shannon and the Clams.
Rob : La Luz. I like them a lot.
Emily : Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds.
Zach : Cherry Pits are really good. The Rebel.
Rob : I listen to rock music some of the time, but when I'm at home I mostly listen to exotica albums and lounge music.
Zach : I mostly listen to bubble-gum pop and soundtrack music.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Zach: Wrestlemania in Hawaii.
Emily : Hasil Adkins with Tom Lehrer and The Cramps. The Cramps with Kid Congo.
Zach : I don't know. I don't really have a fantasy concert.
Rob : Playing at some seedy fucking titty bar in the 1950s and ending up on one of those Las Vegas Grind comps later on. Or opening for ourselves from 20 years in the future.
Zach : I'm not really a concert guy. So I don't really have one. I like albums better.
Rob : That's a really good answer. I feel like a lot of people come up with really extravagant concerts…
Emily : "The Who and Cher!"
Rob : …I think that's a way more honest answer though. I totally feel that.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Rob : We were gonna say the Residents at one point, just four eyeballs.
Emily : Poison Ivy, Levi Stubbs, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Tuna from the Rock Cats.
Zach : Paul McCartney, John Cage, Erik Satie, Macho Man Randy Savage. There was a question on one of those Legends of Wrestling specials; it was an episode about managers, and they actually had a graphic of their top four managers on Mount Rushmore.
Rob : No girl groups?
Zach : Fuck. I wanna change Macho Man to Ronnie Spector now.
Rob : Martin Denny, Link Wray, Mrs. Miller... Nah, my Mount Rushmore is gonna have The Chipmunks and Screamin' Jay Hawkins on it.
Emily : You're just doing that out of spite!
The Deli: What goals does Witch Jail have for 2015, and beyond?
Emily : Get the allimportant Dan Aykroyd endorsement.
Rob : Get a Crystal Skull vodka endorsement.
Zach : I don't like vodka, though.
Rob : You like Dan Aykroyd, don't you? Then you'll like his vodka.
Emily : We'll just fill a crystal skull with gin for you.
Rob : Also, supporting Zach in his bid to become a pro wrestling manager. What's the story with that?
Zach : The story is, I got a walrus in my bathtub and a crapper fulla diamonds, and I'm gonna buy me a fucking champion!
Emily : And we're gonna ride his coattails to stardom.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Zach : You should probably die before the war.
Emily : Good times, great oldies.
Rob : Never shower. It washes your creativity down the drain.
Witch Jail is:
Rob Gillaspie (Guy Slimey): guitar, vocals
Emily Filley (Suzy Bones): guitar
Zach Turner (Tommy Guyana): drums
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.