LCD Soundsystem : American Dream

There’s always been something about James Murphy that I’ve been drawn to. Ever since I bought LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver on a whim back in 2007 I’ve been enamored with the guy. Maybe because he’s close to my age. Maybe because he’s a middle-aged guy acting like a middle-aged guy. He’s not posturing the dude-isms of a 25-year old and acting like a malcontent every chance he gets. His passsions seem to lie in vintage synths, coffee, early 70s electronic music, and David Bowie. How can I not feel that on some level James Murphy is my soulmate? Or at the very least someone I’d love to have a cup of coffee with and talk NEU! and Conny Plank.

When LCD Soundsystem called it quits back in 2011 I was sad, for sure. To my ears Murphy and his band seemed to have more to give to the world. This Is Happening was both a glorious record and a melancholy one. There seemed to be a hint of “where do we go next?” going on, and apparently Murphy felt it was time to move on. Their farewell show at Madison Square Garden was a beautiful eulogy for a band still very much alive but not sure where to go. The band went their separate ways and James Murphy took a shot at producing other artists. What he realized was that he didn’t like producing other artists, just him and all his friends. So just like that LCD Soundsystem rose from the ashes of retirement and have returned better than ever. American Dream is the best album James Murphy and friends have made. It’s still steeped in the fun dance punk of their self-titled and the self-aware cynicism of Sound Of Silver. But this time it feels that there’s absolutely no question as to where LCD Soundsystem are going.

“Oh Baby” opens the album on sweetly dreamy note. This song puts me in mind of Suicide’s sweeter moments. Vega and Rev could definitely create tension and anxiety like the best of ’em, but when he wanted to Alan Vega could sound sweet and sincere. “Oh Baby” is the sweeter side of Suicide, with a hint of early Kraftwerk. “Other Voices” is primo LCD. Groovy as hell with Murphy proselytizing from the pulpit of dance rock, it’s a song you won’t be able to keep still through. Nancy Whang jumps in for a verse or two as well. “Change Yr Mind” seethes with Berlin Trilogy-era Bowie. There’s some serious Low vibes going on here. With the guitar squalls, Murphy’s vocal delivery, and the heavy lean on bass this track feels like some sort of musical exorcism. “How Do You Sleep?” is the darkest I think LCD Soundsystem has ever gotten. Tribal drums, vocals sounding as if they’re coming from some endless void, and languid-sounding buzzes and bleeps make for some seriously grim vibes. Imagine Joy Division and Bauhaus trying to outdo each other in their melancholy prime. That would be this epic slow burner.

When the initial singles “American Dream” and “Call The Police” were released I remember feeling a little underwhelmed. They were decent songs, but not “back from the dead” kind of songs. Then “Tonite” was released and all was forgiven. In the context of the rest of the album they fit in quite nicely as these more shinier, upbeat songs. But “Tonite”, that’s just classic, funky LCD Soundsystem. It’s pure giddy dance fun. I hear that song(and watch the video) and I’m reminded of Prince and the Revolution. Maybe that’s a crazy comparison, but I think there’s something to be said for Murphy’s ability to lead a group of great musicians into funky, wonky musical territory.

I once had an emotional haircut. It was a few years ago when I realized I shouldn’t grow my hair out long, what with me being a man of follicle issues. I wish it had been as fun and punky as LCDs “Emotional Haircut”, but alas it was just sorta sad.

“Black Screen” is the epic ending to an epic new beginning. It’s quiet, dense, and hums with tube-driven emotion. I’m not sure James Murphy has ever written a song so subtle and vast as this 12-minute opus. There’s a melancholy feel as the song fades with a pulsating synth and distant piano chimes. Goodbye, cruel world.

Most of these “we’re retiring, goodbye….hey, we’re back!” shenanigans usually end up with the majority consensus being they should’ve stayed retired(I’m looking at you, Pixies.) But LCD Soundsystem breaks the mold as far as comebacks go. Murphy closed the door too soon on his band of electronic misfits, and I think he knew that the day after his retirement party at MSG. I’m glad he can admit when he’s wrong, because American Dream is a beautiful reunion for them and us. And us and them.

8.7 out 10

 

Preoccupations : Preoccupations

Preoccupations is the band formerly known as Viet Cong. Viet Cong was a band that put out one of my favorite albums of 2015. Preoccupations is a band that may havejag290-preoccupations-fc-1400 put out one of my favorite albums of 2016. Not only for the fact that their self-titled album is a beautifully dark concoction of post-punk abyss and bits of light shining through the grainy muck and mire, but for the fact that these four Canadian musicians persevered through a year of calamities, broken bones, desolate gigs, and ultimately a band name controversy that ended up seeing the band disappear for a few months as Viet Cong and reemerge as Preoccupations. This record is a testament to the frustration, broken relationships, loneliness, defeat, and desolation of a year of general misfortune and finding a beauty in it all.

There’s an industrial graininess to Preoccupation’s music. It sounds as if it came off an assembly line in some long dead factory located in an overgrown lot awaiting demolition. When you first hear album opener “Anxiety” that grey and soot-filled landscape of Eraserhead comes to mind. Singer/bassist Matt Flegel’s voice sounds like a cross between Peter Murphy and Neil Diamond. This is the guy that covered the former’s “Dark Entries” a couple years ago, but could pull off “Forever In Blue Jeans” like a champ. With “Monotony” that gravelly voice only solidifies the Diamond mannerisms, but only if the Jazz Singer would be down with Wire’s 154. The 11-minute “Memory” floats along on something that resembles a good vibe, or at least a smile as you sink into the ether. There’s some great guest vocals by fellow Canadian and Handsome Furs/Divine Fits singer Dan Boeckner. The track goes from driving force to melting into the abyss. It’s a mesmerizing listen.

I think what I find so amazing about this record and band is their ability to go so dark in mood, yet still put this sheen of optimistic light throughout the gloom. There are truly harrowing moments on this album, but there are also some nearly new wave-ish sounds happening here. “Degraded” rises through the speakers in a sheet of white noise and feedback before morphing into one of the most “pop” moments we’ve heard from these guys. There’s also more emphasis on rhythm this time around, as Flegel and drummer Michael Wallace lock in for some serious groove throughout the record. Guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen use their 6-strings just as much for creating swaths of noise and mood as they do for creating melody. They seem to be painting abstract over the skeletal grooves. “Forbidden” is dark and foreboding, while “Stimulation” sounds like The Police circa 1979 colliding with Rush circa 1984. A propulsive beat is painted in jangle guitar and Matt Flegel’s urgent vocals. “Fever” is a synth-heavy closer that has a doomed calm to it. “You’re not scared, carry your fever away from here” Matt Flegel sings as hazy synths consume everything till silence.

Preoccupations sounds like a band more comfortable as a band, but not necessarily content. There’s still plenty of push and pull on this record. There’s tension and skepticism about where we’re all going as humanity seems to continue to rot from the inside out. Despite what may sound like a downer of an album, Preoccupations self-titled is as engaging as it is harrowing. There’s beauty in the shadows and darkness, as Preoccupations point out one song at a time.

8. 4 out of 10

 

 

 

Cate Le Bon : Crab Day

Cate Le Bon makes music that is happy and sad at the same time. It’s a mix of 60s euro pop and 70s lower east side New York post-punk. The guitars never get too loud, but they’re played with an attitude by Le Bon that brings the Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd guitar interplay to mind. 2013s Mug Museum was the album that brought her to my attention. My ears perked up to her mixture of playful guitar and Nico-ish vocals. Le Bon seemed to have locked into something that so many before her had attempted to but could never do right. It’s a trick to give a little swing to something without making it too dance-y. She does it quite well. Cate Le Bon has returned with the quirky, catchy, and oddly child-like Crab Day. It’s a loose, fun, and artistically freeing album that feels like stream-of-consciousness put to bizarro nursery rhyme music.

“Crab Day” opens the album like a surreal call to arms. “It doesn’t pay to sing your songs”, Le Bon sings over and over before getting to the chorus of “I saw you see mecrab-day-for-web on Crab Day/Speak your eyes to me on Crab Day”. The idea of Crab Day came from Le Bon’s niece who after finding the idea of April Fool’s Day to be terrible exclaimed that everyone should instead celebrate “Crab Day”, where you draw pictures of crustaceans all day. This seems like a much better idea than pulling pranks on family and friends, so Le Bon ran with it. The result is an album full of quirky pop songs that feel like they’re forming right in front of your ears from thin air. “Love Is Not Love” has the sway of early Television, arty and pretzel-like. “Wonderful” sounds like Nico fronting The DBs on a rainy day practice session. Skronky horns are thrown in for good measure. “I’m A Dirty Attic” has a Velvet Underground vibe. VU in playful mode, not angry and despondent mode. “I Was Born On The Wrong Day” is an autobiographical song as it pertains to Le Bon finding out from her mother that they’d been celebrating her birthday on the wrong day for 30 years. Not earth shattering, but I could see how that could cause some sort of existential crisis of identity. It’s a rather lovely tune run with piano, horns, and guitar. “We Might Revolve” sounds like the onset of a panic attack. It’s manic pace and panned guitar parts only add to the vibe of oncoming anxiety.

Cate Le Bon seems to be working through some things on Crab Day. Nothing earth-shattering, per say, but maybe some bigger questions on who she is and what her place is on this big old blue rock we call home. A crisis of identity and how we figure out what we’re supposed to do with ourselves is something that can be workshopped quite easily through music. Le Bon seems to have opened her head and heart and replied with Dadaist-like musical responses to those questions. Crab Day sounds like a quirky call-and-response to the universe.

7.8 out of 10

 

 

Wire : Nocturnal Koreans

Wire have been one of the most quietly profound bands for the last nearly 40 years. They’ve been labeled punk, post-punk, art rock, pop, and I’m sure countless otherwire genres throughout their massive career, all the while being a band that has influenced and inspired generations of alternative and indie bands that have -for all intents and purposes- found far greater fame and attention than Wire ever did. This hasn’t seemed to stop Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, and Matthew Simms from continuing the band’s pursuit of musical creation. Ever since 2011s Red Barked Tree the band has been on an artistic and creative streak with brand new full-length albums like Change Become Us and Wire; as well as the live The Black Session – Paris, 10 May 2011. Wire have returned once again with a brand new record called Nocturnal Koreans. Relatively lean at 8 songs clocking in at 26 minutes, the album is in and out and wastes no time in getting all heady and heavy. It’s Wire in Pink Flag form, but not nearly as mad. Or at least not mad at the same things.

They kick things off with the upbeat title track. Driving, propulsive pop with a touch of darkness. “Internal Exile” is soft spoken musically but packs a big punch. The Newman/Lewis songwriting team have always excelled at mixing art with catchy melodies and 40 years in that’s still the case. “Dead Weight” is another relatively quaint pop song with lots happening in the mix. “Forward Position” is a weightier track both in length(clocking in at nearly 5 minutes in comparison to the average 3 minute mark on most of the songs) and in sonically speaking. We’ve stumbled into 154 territory here. “Numbered” and its quirky vocals and jagged riffs pull out some Chairs Missing punches, showing those 30-somethings where the term “post-punk” really came from. “Fishes Bones” feels like a complicated puzzle being explained enthusiastically by a madman. It’s quirky and catchy and a little insane.

I’m sure there’s plenty of opinions on how far Wire’s winning streak goes, but there’s no question as to the genius and bulletproof status of their first three records. Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 are pretty much the beginning point of post-punk. They’re also the framework of what would become the alternative movement in the early 80s. For a band to continuously evolve and expand their creative and artistic horizons over the course of 40 years -especially in the stuffy and finicky world of alternative music- is a feat unto itself. While Wire have had their share of ups and downs, break ups, and solo records notwithstanding, they have remained vital and relevant throughout all that time. Nocturnal Koreans is further proof of that vitality.

7.8 out of 10

 

 

Kicking A Can Of Worms

Damn.

I don’t know what it is about Metz that really gets me wired up and ready to take on an army of replicant Ninjas with laser eyes, but I feel 10 feet tall, part man/part machine, and all jagged indifference when I listen to them. There’s an anxiety-driven angst in their music that pushes those special buttons in my brain that makes me want to drive on the freeway at 100 miles per hour before launching my rocket car into the atmosphere. This is bully ass whooping music folks. This isn’t machismo energy. This is the little guy transforming into a post-punk Avenger with the power of jagged guitar jangle, overblown bass, and exploding drum heads powering it. And the dorky guy in glasses playing the guitar for a room full of Budweiser-soaked meatheads, when he opens his mouth out comes years of alienation, disenchantment, and loner detachment that proceeds to blow those “brahs” on their designer jeans-covered asses. Metz make heavy music for the disenfranchised and fed up. It’s there in every note. It’s there in every scream. In every broken drum stick.

Anthems for the lost.

DSC04902I’ve been going back and revisiting some records from last year. METZ II was one that I felt got overshadowed by a slew of albums that all came out at the same time. I preordered it as soon as I could through Sub Pop, and when it arrived I was enamored by it for about a week then something else came out and that pretty blue vinyl got put off to the side. This is something that happens a lot when you buy too many a good amount of vinyl. But the nice thing about this “set aside” process is that you revisit those records in the future and it’s like discovering them all over again. This happens all the time for me, as I’m sure it does to you as well. METZ II was pulled out last week and it hasn’t left the turntable since. Goddamn what a good record. I was equally enthused with their debut METZ back in 2012. That album was as heavy as anything can be without hailing from Norway or a steel processing plant. I’ve always been a fan of heavy music, but I had my limits. Vocals that gurgle, growl, and sound like an elongated belch just aren’t for me(sorry Cannibal Corpse.) But screaming and blood-soaked squalls are okay. Alex Edkins has a way of sounding both melodic and on the fringe of a nervous breakdown. It’s like Jello Biafra and Kurt Cobain somehow became one being and were angry about it. His guitar playing is a constant sonic assault that seems to be chords slowly coming apart, like a rope fraying as it seems to be the only thing keeping you from falling 2,000 feet to your death. Bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies are a rhythm section to be reckoned with. That’s the backbone, man. Without a solid drummer and bass player, well you’re just Jack White and his ex-wife. Who wants to be that? Sure, there’s some heavy bands that are guitar and bass. And a few that are good, too. But nothing beats a great and gnarly-sounding trio. Metz are that.

DSC04904So METZ II. On first listen you think, “Okay. They’re not changing up the recipe and that’s fine. Why change it when all the ingredients are leveled just perfect?” So you listen and you smile and say “Cool”, and you move on. But going back and revisiting this record you start to hear some things that you missed. Like just how fucking heavy this album really is. It’s far gnarlier and jagged than their debut. There’s grainier production, the drums sound like they’re on the verge of exploding into a white light and disappearing into the ether all together. The bass and guitar become more of this “beast with two heads” as opposed to complete separate entities. Instead of working alone they come together to form this unhealthy noise union designed to give you tinnitus before the record ends. It’s truly beautiful. You’v got songs like “Acetate”, “The Swimmer”, “Spit You Out”, and “I.O.U.” that to my ears are just as heavy as putting on Snakes For The Divine or Seasons In The Abyss. They just go at heaviness from a different angle. It’s like if someone’s pissed off Id separated from their body and decided to cut a pop album. It’s sure not the kind of pop you hear on the radio(does that exist anymore?), but there is a pop sensibility in the blown speaker crackle of METZ II. It’s a relentless barrage of spittle and buzzing amps. There was no “Hey, lets add some piano and acoustic guitars this time around. Maybe we can break into some new markets.” No, instead they just trashed the place and set their instruments on fire which was all captured and put onto vinyl for us to savor for years to come.

DSC04903There’s a certain transcendence to music that is heavy and angst ridden. Metz make music that sounds like the middle of a nervous breakdown. It’s a white noise you begin to fall into and lose all sense of your surroundings. Much like their album covers, there’s a sense of stark black and white. No golden hues or bright moments of chipper technicolor. It’s all grey bleeding into black and white. Throughout all of their releases(both full-lengths and a bevy of 7″ singles and splits since 2009) these three Canadians have never wavered from their mission statement to annihilate the listeners senses. There’s no breaks or letting up. There’s no calm before the storm. The storm is in your face every moment. METZ II feels like a perfect sense of blistered presence. “Kicking A Can Of Worms” is the last song on Metz’ follow up and it really sums up them as a band. No story, no sense of some sort of singalong. It’s just this stark scene from some nihilistic film. Something Alex Cox would’ve directed. Edkins sings “It’s such a shame/Broken speakers at your finger tips/Caught in the rain/There’s no easy fix“, followed by “Still holding on/Caught you staring at your feet again/It won’t be long/Kick a can of worms“. Nothing doing. Just surrounded by broken shit, wasting time. You could do something about it maybe, but why?

Metz. Keeping shit real. And keeping it real loud.

 

 

DSC04906

 

A.M. Nice : An Interview With Adam Nice

A.M. Nice are a post-punk  band out of Cincinnatt, Ohio. Well actually they’re a “melodic” post-punk band according to their Bandcamp page. After listening to their great new self-titled LP I get that added adjective. There’s plenty of angular riffs and jagged stabs of guitar; as well as a rhythm section that grounds the tunes which allows room for controlled ear drum annihilation. But there’s also a ton of great melodious moments. It’s not all doomy post-punk and angst. There’s some hope within the jagged lines.

A.M. Nice are Adam Nice on guitars and vocals, Nick Hill on bass, and George Marshall Jenkins IV on drums. As I said, they’re a Cincinnatt outfit but they like to take the band on the road when they can. A.M. Nice will be playing in Fort Wayne tonight(April 1st…no joke)at Bob Vila’s This Old House with the always rambunctious Flamingo Nosebleed, The Snarks, and another Cincinnati band called Bi. It’s all ages, so there’s no excuse not to go kids.

I sat down with Adam to talk about the band, influences, the self-titled, and whatever else came to mind.

J. Hubner: Hey Adam, it’s nice to meet you. Let’s talk about the band. How did A.M. Nice come together?

Adam Nice: We have all played in other bands around Cincinnati.  I lived in Long Island as a teenager and played in punk and hardcore bands there in the 90s, and was heavily influenced by that scene.  Nick is known for being in the most amount of bands, and is currently in an unknown multitude of bands, he is a great songwriter and guitar player as well.  George lived in Louisville as a teen and was heavily influenced by that scene in the 90s.  He has always been in bands and in terms of touring and working with labels George is the most experienced. He’ll let you know that too, I dare you to ask him.  We are lucky to have so many bands to look up to in Cincinnati, for example Knife the Symphony, Ampline, and The Ready Stance.

J. Hubner: What other bands have you been in prior to A.M. Nice? Did you grow up in the Cincinnati area? Were there any other local bands you guys looked up to?

Adam Nice: We have all played in other bands around Cincinnati.  I lived in Long Island as a teenager and played in punk and hardcore bands there in the 90s, and was heavily influenced by that scene.  Nick is known for being in the most amount of bands, and is currently in an unknown multitude of bands, he is a great songwriter and guitar player as well.  George lived in Louisville as a teen and was heavily influenced by that scene in the 90s.  He has always been in bands and in terms of touring and working with labels George is the most experienced. He’ll let you know that too, I dare you to ask him.  We are lucky to have so many bands to look up to in Cincinnati, for example Knife the Symphony, Ampline, and The Ready Stance.

J. Hubner: Growing up what bands were influences on you? Listening to the self-titled I hear some Mission of Burma in there, as well as some more modern sounds like Protomartyr. 

Adam Nice: It is great to draw those comparisons.  Outside of contemporary bands, our influences as individuals are really different.  I know Nick likes Sonic Youth a lot, something he calls “proto-punk”, and any Nels Cline records.  George was big into west coast punk bands as a kid, but he is also into the old Louisville stuff like Slint and the Shipping News.  I spent a lot of time listening to east coast hardcore and punk bands, like Kill Your Idols or Kid Dynamite, but on the other end of the spectrum I also listened to stuff like Faraquet or Joan of Arc.  In between all of that we have some common ground, but its fun playing with these guys because we are always teaching each other about new music and different bands past and present.  We really consume a lot of music of all types.

J. Hubner: Are you the main songwriter or is the songwriting more of a group effort? 

Adam Nice: I always bring a fairly complete song idea, and then I sort of present it to George and Nick to do whatever they want to do with the song.

nice twoJ. Hubner:  How was the recording process with the self-titled debut? Did you guys go in with a solid knowledge of the songs or was there any reworking once you got in to record? 

Adam Nice: We knew we had limited time, we were recording live to tape, and wanted to crank out as much as reasonably possible in one day.  We had 6 songs rehearsed and in mind for the record, we were thinking about a 7″.  We ended up adding the song 4H at the end of the day.  Some small decisions were made day of recording, like will we all start at once? or drum intro?  Some songs were cleaner and slower when we rehearsed them but we were getting a dirtier sound, so we let that sound make some decisions for us too.  It is really just a live take, no punch-ins or edits, there is only a couple of extra over-dubs.  We had our minds set on just documenting a live performance.

J. Hubner: The album was recorded direct to 8-track tape. Was it self-recorded or did you record in a studio?

Adam Nice: We recorded at a friend’s rehearsal space, Shane Chaney of Swear Jar fame.  He engineered and mastered the recording.  His space is a 12’x12′ room in this old warehouse with all of these rooms built out of plywood that are rented out to bands, oppressively hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter, a real crap hole.  We played a show the night before, and went down in the morning and played the songs that we knew the best.  Shane was three feet away from the drum set with these headphones he built out of these shooting range earmuffs.  When we walked in there I was skeptical to say the least, I was used to recording in studios with isolation booths, personal headphone mixers, and whatnot, I’m still kinda shocked at the way the recording sounds.  The recording method was really George’s idea, and Jerry Dirr [Phratry Records] joined in and supported the idea, they came up with Shane as the right guy for this type of record.

J. Hubner: How is the local music scene in Cincinnati? Is there a decent punk/post-punk scene? 

Adam Nice: Cincinnati definitely has a great music scene, there are a lot of punk bands and post-punk bands, a good combination of established bands and lots of new bands popping up all the time that are amazing.  There are great independent labels like Phratry Records.  There are D.I.Y. spots, house shows, and lots of traditional venues and bars.  Anytime I talk to a local musician I end up learning about a handful of other local bands or artists that I haven’t seen or heard yet.  I would guess you could find a show to attend 6 nights a week.

J. Hubner: You’re playing a show at Bob Vila’s This Old House in Fort Wayne on April 1st with Flamingo Nosebleed and Snarks. How did you get this show together?

Adam Nice: I knew we were playing in Chicago the night before so I started looking for shows that other friends played in the region, I came across the Snarks on a couple of bills and started looking them up, I read a couple blog entries that you did actually, and watched some videos, and just reached out to them cold.  They were immediately helpful and super kind.  I’m really looking forward to hanging out and meeting them in person.  I found out that Flamingo Nosebleed was on the bill much later, which is amazing, I heard them maybe a year ago for the first time.  They played Cincinnati with some friends over the winter and I didn’t go because of this nasty snow storm that came through. I really regretted missing that show so I’m stoked to play with them.  And this band Bi is on the bill, they are also from Cincinnati, but that is a good example of what I was talking about before.  We’ve never played with them,  I’m yet to see them, and from what I’ve heard online they sound great- two piece, drum, bass, vocals, dirty, grungy and melodic.

J. Hubner: What time do things start Friday night? Where else are A.M. Nice playing this weekend?

Adam Nice: The show starts at 7 pm, its earlier as it is a house show, all ages, 5$.  We are playing The Mutiny in Chicago the night before with Horrible Things and Jap Herron, and playing in Madison, Indiana the night after at this all ages venue wth Kid Stardust [cincinnati] and Underwater Treehouse, it should be a really fun weekend!

J. Hubner: What’s the plan for the rest of 2016 for A.M. Nice?

Adam Nice: We have monthly local shows lined up throughout most of the summer, and we are scheming on a tour in July, likely to head to upstate NY and into NYC.  We also always try to play the cities a a couple hours outside of Cincinnati once a month, little weekend trips.

We’ve got a good collection of new songs that we are working on and we will record them in 2016, but we’ll see if it turns into a full length.  We like the idea of some split releases a lot, we’ll see.  It is lining up to be a fun and busy year.

So you need to head out tonight, Friday April 1st, to Bob Vila’s This Old House and see what is sure to be one hell of a show. A.M. Nice, Flamingo Nosebleed, The Snarks, and Bi. 7pm sharp, and only $5 of your hard-earned paycheck. Get out there and welcome these Cincinnati bands(as well as our hometown lovelies) with open arms. Or a hearty handshake. Your call.

It’s Like…The Snarks, Man : A Conversation With The Snarks

Photo by Charlie Simmonds

 

Just a little over a year ago Fort Wayne’s The Snarks dropped their first E.P., the ominous sounding Night At Crystal Beach. From the title it could’ve been a live action Disney flick from the 70s starring Ike Eisenmann and Betty Davis, or a Judy Blume book. It was neither. Night At Crystal Beach was a fun and full-throated bark of an album filled post-punk jabs and hardcore punches that you had to listen to at least three times in a row in order to get your fill. Well almost a year later The Snarks are back with their second EP titled It’s Like…Carpe YOLO, Man(say that three times fast.) This time around the band is tighter than ever, with an even great expanse of sound and style. The punk is more aggressive and the dreamier, atmospheric moments are even more lost in the ether.

I sat down to pick the band’s brain about the new EP and how their songwriting process works.

J. Hubner: So how are things going in the Snarks universe? How’s the last year been?

Dan Kinnaley: Things are going well. We’ve been busy playing shows locally and have spent some time on the road playing in Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, and Dayton. When we aren’t out playing shows we’re writing music.

J. Hubner: Tell me about the new EP, It’s Like…Carpe YOLO, Man. Where did you record it?

Dan Kinnaley: We recorded the new EP with Jason Davis at his place, Off The Cuff, here in Fort Wayne. His studio is all analog which suits our sound perfectly. Recording straight to tape forced us to really nail our parts, since it’s a lot harder to go back and “fix it” when computers aren’t part of the process.

Bart Helms: We’ve wanted to work with Jason since day one, and not just because of his gear. You get the sense that he cares as much about the sound and your performance as you do.

J. Hubner: I have to ask, where did you guys come up with the album title? 

Kendra Johnson: The album title is the most annoying phrase I like to say all the time to agitate friends. Punctuating it properly to be said the way it was intended is the icing on the cake.

J. Hubner: And who did the artwork for the EP? 

Kendra Johnson: The album artwork was done by Jennifer Story. After seeing her art at different shows and events over the years we thought she would be great at making her interpretation of a snark.

J. Hubner: Well the EP sounds great. The band sounds as tight as ever. How often do The Snarks get together to practice and write?

Dan Kinnaley: Thanks! We try to get together at least twice a week and most months play two or three shows so we get a lot of opportunities to play together. The sound on the record is a result of all the practice and shows, as well as the analog recording which really did make us focus on playing everything as tight as we could.

J. Hubner: Is the songwriting process similar to what it was with Night At Crystal Beach? What inspired the writing this time around?

Dan Kinnaley: The songwriting is still collaborative. We all bring ideas and jam on them making tweaks and changes to the arrangements as a group. On ‘Night at Crystal Beach’ we were writing songs inspired by our favorite punk, surf, and rock and roll records, most of them from the 70s. Those influences are still there on Carpe YOLO, but I think now that we’ve settled in as a band we are just writing Snarks songs.

Bart Helms: Yeah, we’ve reached the point where no matter how much a new riff sounds like The Damned in your head, once you bring it to practice it’s going to come out like The Snarks. It’s a weird process to view from the inside. People have said they can’t tell who plays which guitar part, for example, and to us that’s baffling. Listening to us individually, Zach and I couldn’t be more different, but when you blend it all together, it’s just The Snarks.

J. Hubner: The release show was back in February. How did that go? Who else played that night?

Dan Kinnaley:  It was nice to see so many people come out to the Rail for the release show. We played the new EP from front to back, and followed it up with all new songs and a cover of Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads. Our friends Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and The Meatflowers shared the bill with us and they both played amazing sets.

J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2016 hold for The Snarks? 

Dan Kinnaley:  We’re going to try and play out as much as we can, and are currently working on writing a full length.


 

Keep up with everything Snarks-related at thesnarks.com. And check them out live on April 9th at CS3 with Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.