With the release of their full-length debut Covert Contracts, the Philadelphia-based post-punk trio Control Top — Ali Carter (vocals, bass), Al Creedon (guitar, sampler) and Alex Lichtenauer (drums) — exploded into the national scene: their debut landed on the Top Albums of 2019 lists of NPR, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Bandcamp Daily, Highsnobiety and others. and they were featured on Pitchfork Rising.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band’s latest single — the first bit of new material from the band this year, “One Good Day” is an anthemic and decidedly pop-leaning take on post-punk that’s energetic and much more optimistic while retaining the explosive guitar work, propulsive bass lines and thunderous drumming of their previously released work. Sonically, the song is like a seamless synthesis of The Go-Gos and Gang of Four. And although the band couldn’t have anticipated, the song’s “we can get through this together” air is absolutely necessary right now.
Control Top on “One Good Day”:
Alex Lichtenauer: “I’m grateful to be part of the growth of this project and see how it unfolds. Music should constantly evolve, and I think our progression as both musicians and people really shows in this song. We stepped out of our comfort zone and came up with a pop song that has more optimistic elements than our debut album. A band’s first album usually sets the tone for how they are going to sound, but that can get redundant. With this song, we stayed true to our punk background while also creating something new.”
Al Creedon: “‘One Good Day’ started as a rough sketch I made one day in the midst of cleaning our practice space. I brought it to the group and together we continued to evolve it well into the recording process. I had been listening to a lot of disco, particularly the Bee Gees. They are a band everyone claims to hate, so naturally the contrarian in me wanted to give them a chance. I got hooked immediately.
For ‘One Good Day’, I started with the idea of a back and forth between a syncopated verse in the vein of the Bee Gees’ ‘You Should Be Dancing’ and a driving chorus akin to some of our other songs. Guitar and bass weave in and out of each other, while the drums act as gravity holding the notes together. Ali wrote an ambitious pop vocal melody that really glued it all together. The three of us keep pushing ourselves to execute these types of ideas where all musical elements lean on each other for support. Take away one element and the song instantly loses all sense of cohesion.
I’ve started to incorporate my sampler more and more as we write our next record. On this song, I use it most prominently in the bridge to sample and effect both my guitar and Ali’s voice. I’m a big fan of the way Ichiro Agata from Melt Banana uses effects, and here I was able to apply my own take on his glitchy style. The sampler is also used subtly in the choruses. I sample myself during the verse and then run a small slice of that sample through pitch automation to create something that functions as a rhythm guitar part in the chorus.”
Ali Carter: “When Al showed us the beginnings of this song, I was instantly hooked by its upbeat feel. I set out to write a pop vocal melody with a positive message that didn’t sound trite, which is harder said than done. I ended up with ‘One Good Day,’ a song about about a few things: facing your flaws to become a better person for yourself and the people around you, getting outside of yourself to realize everyone has their own struggles and are doing the best they can, and above all trying to help each other even if what we do is imperfect.
Some problems we inherit, like mental health or substance abuse issues, and some problems stem from our environment, like home or working conditions. Some problems are individual and some problems are systemic, the product of entrenched social structures that favor one group over another. Whatever the cause, they are ours to deal with, and they will continue to disrupt our lives until we work through them. Problems are persistent and won’t let you ignore them for long. They can also be the greatest teachers. It is worthwhile to listen to them.
As frustrating as they can be, our problems–personal, local and global–bind us together. Many of us are facing very similar issues. We can’t solve all our problems alone. We depend on one another for support, but we can’t help each other if we can’t help ourselves. If we can show ourselves compassion, overcome shame and self-hate and allow ourselves to grow into the people we want to be, we can also develop empathy for one another. Cynicism is a coping mechanism of avoidance. It is difficult to be vulnerable, but it is the only way to access love.
This song feels especially relevant right now. We’re in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis with the coronavirus outbreak. Our lives have been completely suspended. We are forced to consider not only how we affect others but also how others affect us. In no uncertain terms, we see how much we depend on each other every day to survive. Workers in hospitals, pharmacies, groceries, waste management and more are working tirelessly to provide for their communities. The choice to self-quarantine is an act of self-protection as well as an act of kindness toward others who would be endangered by the disease.
People can’t go to work or leave their homes. All we can do is try to keep calm and make the best of this situation. What have we been missing due to the constant motion of our daily lives that we can return to in this period of stillness? Connection with friends and loved ones? Activities that make us happy? Deep spiritual reflection? How can we bring balance to this bleak landscape? Perhaps we take a cue from the people of Italy currently under lockdown, singing from their balconies to share a moment of joy in a moment of anxiety.
The fact is, we’re in this state of collective uncertainty and panic because our government has failed to act and communicate information in a timely and appropriate manner. It’s clear now more than ever that we need a president like Bernie Sanders who puts the needs of the American people above Wall Street bailouts, makes sure every single person gets quality healthcare and understands that our problems are not isolated or disconnected.”
Like countless touring bands across the world, most of the rising Philadelphia-based post-punk act’s upcoming dates are being rescheduled, but at the moment they’re still slated to play Calgary’s Sled Island Festival in June.