Tag: Pitchfork

Live Footage: PUP’s Quarantine Session Version of “Anaphylaxis”

Formed back in 2015, Toronto-based punk act PUP — Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula and Steve Sladowski — quickly became punk scene darlings with their first two albums, which received critical applause from The New York Times, Pitchfork, NPR, Rolling Stone and a long list of others.

The band’s third and latest album, last year’s Morbid Stuff found the band maturing and further honing the approach and sound that won them international attention — by doubling down on the gang’s-all-here vocals, big power chord-driven choruses and lyrics about death. And as a result, the album’s material teeters between gleeful chaos and bleak oblivion while delving into Stefan Babcock’s struggles with depression. In some way, admitting his depression allowed him to take some control — and to laugh in its face.   The album was released to critical applause, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up making their late-night Stateside television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers. They also supported the album with a largely sold-out world tour that found them on the road for most of the year.

The band’s latest single, the breakneck  “Anaphylaxis” is the first batch of new material from the band this year and the single which features shouted, “the gang’s-all-in” vocals, rousing hooks, enormous power chords and thunderous drumming is the sort of song that’s simultaneously a mosh-pit friendly ripper and the “raise-a-beer-with-your-buddies-and-shout-along” anthem, centered around lyrics that balance sincerity with heavily winking irony. Everything is falling apart all around us — and holy shit, ain’t it kind of funny that it is?

“I got the idea for the song when I was at my partner’s cottage and her cousin got stung by a bee and his whole head started to swell up,” says singer Stefan Babcock. “His wife, although she was concerned, also thought it was pretty hilarious and started making fun of him even as they were headed to the hospital. He ended up being totally fine, but it was just funny to watch him freaking out and her just lighting him up at the same time. It reminded me of all the times I’ve started panicking for whatever reason and was convinced I was dying and the world was ending and no one would take me seriously. In retrospect, I always find those overreactions pretty funny. So we wrote a goofy song about being a hypochondriac and tried to make our guitars sound like bees at the beginning of it.”

The band got together — virtually — to record a live version of the song that features three of the members  playing in their houses or practice space with the band’s Stefan Babcock in the backseat of his van. “During our quarantine, I couldn’t go to our jam space,” the band’s Stefan Babcock says in press notes. “I also live in a small apartment and my neighbours understandably get very annoyed and/or concerned about my mental state when they hear me yelling my head off about getting stung by bees or killing my bandmates or whatever garbage these dumb songs are about. So I started making demos and recording in my car in a parking lot across the street from my house. Every few minutes, cops would slowly drive past to see what the unhinged kid in the busted up Ford Escape was doing. But I’m white, so lucky me, my biggest worry was that they’d judge my precious lyrics. White privilege is real. Defund the police.”

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New Audio: Sports Releases a Slinky New Single

Currently split between Los Angeles and Norman, OK, the acclaimed indie electro pop act Sports — Cale Chronister and Christian Theriot — can trace their origins back to when the duo met in grade school. Throughout their history together, they’ve honed and refined  their unique take on slinky and funky electro pop, with their first two albums, 2015’s Naked All The Time and 2016’s Can’t Stop Chillin, which featured a handful of critically applauded singles including “You Are the Right One,” “Panama,” “Whatever You Want:” and “Someone  You’d Rather Be Dating.” 

Building upon a growing profile, 2018’s Everyone’s Invited was released to critical praise from Pitchfork, Pigeons and Planes and Ones to Watch. The album also received airplay on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic and was playlisted on Spotify’s New Indie Mix playlist. 

The breezy yet slinky  “Tell You Something,” is the first bit of new material from the duo since Everyone’s Invited. Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous and propulsive bass line, copious amounts of cowbell-led percussion, an infectious hook and Chronister’s breathy vocals, the song finds the band blurring the lines between synth pop, funk, psych rock and Quiet Storm R&B in a way that reminds me of Currents-era Tame Impala. “It’s an anthem of uncertainty. I was taught how to socialize by television, and never learned how to verbalize my feelings,” Sports’ Cale Chronister explains in press notes. “I’m learning to say what’s on my mind, even when it’s uncomfortable . . . I’m celebrating the most ridiculously small feat just by admitting this.

There is still something dark, uncertain in the song, which is left intentionally unknown, and I guess it reflects the lingering anxiety the person on the other side of this conversation could be feeling – still waiting to hear what I have to say.”

New Video: I Break Horses Releases a Brooding and Lonely Visual for “Depression Tourist”

Led by frontwoman Maria Linden and featuring Fredrik Balak, the Stockholm-based indie act I Break Horses have released two critically applauded albums: 2011’s full-length debut Hearts received praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for material that possessed a luxurious grandeur and 2014’s Chiaroscuro, which found Linden crafting ambitious material with a cool, self-assuredness. Building upon a growing profile, Linden and Balak toured with M83 and Sigur Ros— and U2 played “Winter Beats” before their stage entrance during 2018’s Experience + Innocence tour.

Released yesterday through Bella Union, I Break Horses’ long-awaited third album Warnings was centered around Linden’s desire to take the time to make something entirely different — crafting martial with a strong emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music.  Much of the album’s material can trace its origins back to Linden watching a collection of her favorite films on her computer with the sound muted. As she did so, she began to make her own soundtrack sketches — and those initial sketches gradually evolved int songs. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” Linden says, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.

Sonically, the album’s material consists of lush and sumptuously layered soundscapes featuring dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analog synths and layered vocals meant to create an immersive, dramatic tension on multiple levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album’s creative process was also centered around several different dramas of its own:  “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…” Linden says in press notes.

Warnings also finds Linden collaborating with producer and mixing engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House and TV on the Radio. But his experience and expertise with dense and cinematic sound wasn’t the only reason Linden recruited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

“Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén adds. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient.’ I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

Now, as you may recall, I wrote about “Neon Lights,” Warnings third single, a lush and cinematic track that managed to recall Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and the Stranger Things soundtrack with a much-needed we-re-all-in-this-together air.  “Depression Tourist,” Warnings’ latest single is an eerie and atmospheric track, centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering and ethereal synths and Linden’s voice fed through vocoder and other effects. And as a result, the song feels intimate and lonely, yet otherworldly. 

“I wanted this song to sound as if it was broadcasted from space, the loneliest place I could imagine,” Linden explains. “As I obviously couldn’t perform it up there I filmed this version in the loneliest field I could find in Malta.” Shot in black and white, the recently released live session features Linden and a synthesizer in the middle of a windswept corn field. The concept my be simple but it’s gorgeous and evocative. 

New Video: Acclaimed Indie Artist Soccer Mommy Goes on a Virtual 8-Bit Tour

Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded indie rock project Soccer Mommy.  Allison first picked up guitar when she was six — and as a teenager, she attended Nashville School of the Arts, where she studied guitar and played in the school’s swing band. By 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded songs as Soccer Mommy to Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about head off to New York University, where she studied music business at the University’sSteinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. 

While she was in college, Allison played her first Soccer Mommy show at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. She caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal — and after spending two years at NYU, she returned to Nashville to pursue a full-time career in music. Upon her return to Nashville, the acclaimed Swiss-born artist wrote and released two Soccer Mommy albums — 2016’s For Young Hearts through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection through Fat Possum Records. Her proper, full-length debut, 2018’s Clean was released to widespread critical acclaim, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Alison has wound up touring with Stephen Malkmus, Mitski, Kacey Musgraves, Jay Som, Slowdive, Frankie Cosmos, Liz Phair, Phoebe Bridgers, Paramore, Foster the People, Vampire Weekend, and Wilco.  

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was gearing up to be a massive year for the young and rising singer/songwriter and guitarist: she began the year by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and had joined a list of contemporary artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Allison’s highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical applause — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Nashville-based artist had been gearing up for a massive year: she was about to embark one a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance, along with that, she had lined up appearances across the global festival circuit that included a stop at Glastonbury. Additionally, she was supposed to make her late-night, nationally televised debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With touring being on an indefinite half for the music industry, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist recognized that this was a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas. Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend it. The concert was so popular, that her fans crashed the platform’s servers, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Allison has also performed a number of live streams events, including  NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork’s IG Live Series. And she also recently released her own Zoom background images. 

Recently, Allison and company embarked on a an Bella Clark-directed 8-bit virtual, music video tour in which the band plays some of the cities she was meant to be passing through — Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of virtually playing at the more common tourist locations or a traditional music venue, the members of the band are mischievously placed in unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto area subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge and more. Interestingly, the video four features the virtual band playing the album’s latest single “crawling in my skin.” Centered around looping and shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line, shuffling drumming and subtly shifting tempos, the track reveals a remarkably self-assured young songwriter, who has an unerring knack for pairing earnest songwriting with an infectious hook. (Oh, and you’ll see the band adhering to social distancing rules while virtually performing!)  

“It’s really hard having our tour be postponed because I was really excited to play all of the songs on color theory for everyone, ‘crawling in my skin’ in particular,” Allison says. “I hope this little 8-bit performance can hold everyone over until the tour can happen.”

New Video: Toronto’s PUP Releases a Hilarious Claymation Video for Breakneck Anthem “Anaphylaxis”

Formed back in 2015, Toronto-based punk act PUP — Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula and Steve Sladowski — quickly became punk scene darlings with their first two albums, which received critical applause from The New York Times, Pitchfork, NPR, Rolling Stone and a long list of others. 

The band’s third and latest album, last year’s Morbid Stuff found the band maturing and further honing the approach and sound that won them international attention — by doubling down on the gang’s-all-here vocals, big power chord-driven choruses and lyrics about death. And as a result, the album’s material teeters between gleeful chaos and bleak oblivion while delving into Stefan Babcock’s struggles with depression. In some way, admitting his depression allowed him to take some control — and to laugh in its face.    The album was released to critical applause, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up making their late-night television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers. They also supported the album with a largely sold-out world tour that found them on the road for most of the year. 

The band’s latest single, the breakneck  “Anaphylaxis” is the first batch of new material from the band this year and the single which features shouted, “the gang’s-all-in” vocals, rousing hooks, enormous power chords and thunderous drumming is the sort of song that’s simultaneously a mosh-pit friendly ripper and the “raise-a-beer-with-your-buddies-and-shout-along” anthem, centered around lyrics that balance sincerity with heavily winking irony. Everything is falling apart all around us — and holy shit, ain’t it kind of funny that it is?

“I got the idea for the song when I was at my partner’s cottage and her cousin got stung by a bee and his whole head started to swell up,” says singer Stefan Babcock. “His wife, although she was concerned, also thought it was pretty hilarious and started making fun of him even as they were headed to the hospital. He ended up being totally fine, but it was just funny to watch him freaking out and her just lighting him up at the same time. It reminded me of all the times I’ve started panicking for whatever reason and was convinced I was dying and the world was ending and no one would take me seriously. In retrospect, I always find those overreactions pretty funny. So we wrote a goofy song about being a hypochondriac and tried to make our guitars sound like bees at the beginning of it.”

Directed by Callum Scott-Dyson, the recently released claymation video for “Anaphylaxis” features a hero — or perhaps an anti-hero — whose paranoia has him envision a world in which the bees are out to get revenge. Of course, the bees do get him. And the subsequent allergic reaction causes him to freak out and imagine the very worse. 

New Video: GUM Releases a Hazy and Feverish Visual for Shimmering and Bold New Single “Don’t Let It Go Out”

Jay Watson is a Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who creatively splits his time as a member of acclaimed psych rock acts and JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND — and with his acclaimed solo recording project GUM.

Slated for a June 12, 2020 release through Spinning Top Music, Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World is the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s The Underdog, which was released to critical applause from Pitchfork, who called the album “a dark-night-of-the-soul reckoning embedded in a hazy fog of Floydian psych and quiet-storm R&B,” as well as several others. Written and recorded in between  his commitments with POND and Tame Impala at his Fremantle-based home studio and while on the road, Out In The World continues Watson’s long-held reputation for his voracious taste for styles, sounds and eras — paired with his ongoing quest to make sense of modern life.  Driven by untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of way too much awareness, the album is reportedly the most boundary pushing effort of his growing catalog, “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his forthcoming album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”

“Don’t Let It Go Out,” Out In The World’s second and latest single features a glistening, arpeggio guitar riff, jangling acoustic guitar, propulsive four-on-the-floor-like drumming, shimmering synths, a supple bass line, Watson’s plaintive vocals and a rousing and infectious hook. Interestingly, the track finds Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction. Interestingly, “Don’t Let It Go Out” can trace its origins to initially being laid down at home but arranged, edited, chopped and screwed while on the road — and as a result, it adds to a further blurring of the song’s overall sound. “My music for years was an obvious sum of its influences but it’s getting harder and harder to pick,” Watson says of the song, “‘Don’t Let It Go Out’ is about our modern desire to capture or record and keep every moment. The ease, not only to do all this, but then to lose it forever down the track inspires and disturbs me.”

Directed by Laura-Lynn Petrick, the recently released video for “Don’t Let It Go Out” follows a lonely, trench coat wearing Watson as he wanders around  — and the video evokes the fever dream of traveling, complete with the odd feeling of places endlessly blurring in a way that’s familiar yet alien. 

 

Lyric Video: Stockholm’s I Break Horses Releases a Shimmering and Cinematic New Single

Led by frontwoman Maria Linden and featuring Fredrik Balak, the Stockholm-based indie act I Break Horses have released two critically applauded albums: 2011’s full-length debut Hearts received praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for material that possessed luxurious grandeur and 2014’s Chiaroscuro, which found Linden crafting ambitious material with a cool, self-assuredness. Building upon a growing profile, Linden wound up touring with M83 and Sigur Ros– and U2 played “Winter Beats” before their stage entrance during 2018’s Experience + Innocence tour. 

Slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Bella Union, I Break Horses’ long-awaited third album Warnings is reportedly centered around Linden’s desire to take the time to make something different — by crafting material with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of her favorite films on her computer with the sound mute, she began to make her own soundtrack sketches, with those sketches gradually evolving into songs. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

Sonically, the album’s material is centered around lush and sumptuous soundscapes — dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analog synths and layered lyrics paired together to create an immersive, dramatic tension on multiple levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”  Interestingly, the album’s creative process involved several different dramas on its own right: “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…” Linden says in press notes.

Warnings also finds Linden collaborating with producer and mixing engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House and TV on the Radio. But his experience and expertise with dense and cinematic sound wasn’t the only reason Linden recruited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

Adds Linden, “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

“Neon Lights,” Warnings’  third and latest single is a lush and cinematic track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a motorik groove, thumping beats, a rousingly anthemic hook and Linden’s plaintive and expressive vocals. And while recalling Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and the Stranger Things soundtrack, the song has a much-needed we’re-in-this-together air. The track as Linden explains is “anthem for all of us who have ever felt like we didn’t fit in. It is trying to give a glimpse of hope to all outsiders who feel like they can’t find their way and to show the world that being a ‘misfit’ is a beautiful thing, not something to be pushed aside.”

New Audio: Philly’s Control Top Releases the Anthemic Single We All Need Now

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.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Hot Snakes Releases a Defiant Anti-Work Anthem

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite about the acclaimed — and downright legendary — punk act Hot Snakes, and as you may recall the act can trace its origins to when its then-San Diego, CA-based founder Swami John Reis founded the band in 1999: that year, Reis’ primary gig Rocket from the Crypt went on hiatus after longtime drummer Atom Willard left the band. Coincidentally, the band was also in between labels. And as the story goes, while searching for a new label and drummer for Rocket from the Crypt, Reis started his own label Swami Records and began experimenting with other musicians, which eventually led to the formation of two acclaimed side projects — Sultans and Hot Snakes. 

Interestingly, Hot Snakes began in earnest when Reis recorded a batch of material with Delta 72′s Jason Kourkounis. Reis then recruited his former Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu bandmate and collaborator Rick Froberg to contribute vocals. Most of the material that they recorded wound up comprising their full-length debut Automatic Midnight. Although Reis and Froberg had collaborated together for years, Hot Snakes proved to be a logical challenge: Reis was in San Diego, Froberg had relocated in New York to start a career as a visual artist and illustrator, and Kourkounis was based in Philadelphia. As a result, the members of the band had sporadic and intense recording and touring schedules, which featured Beehive and the Barracudas’, Tanner’s and Fishwife’s Gar Wood on bass. 

And while Hot Snakes’ sonically and aesthetically bears some similarities to Reis’ and Froberg’s previous work, the band’s sound leaned towards a more primal, garage rock sound, influenced by Wipers, Suicide, and Michael Yonkers Band. Along with that, the band developed a now, long-held reputation for a completely DIY approach to recording, touring and merchandise — with the band releasing their earliest material through Reis’ Swami Records. (Unsurprisingly, Hot Snakes’ debut Automatic Midnight was the first release through Reis’ label.)

After the release of 2002’s Suicide Invoice and 2004’s Audit in Progress, the band split up in 2005. In 2011, they reunited for a world tour, which eventually set the stage for the band’s fourth album, 2018’s Jericho Sirens, which was coincidentally, their first album in over 14 years. Recorded in short bursts in San Diego and Philadelphia during 2017 and features Reis and Froberg collaborating with Wood and drummers Kourkounis and Rubalcaba — both of whom have been on prior Hot Snakes albums but never on the same one until now. And as Reis explained in press notes for the album, one of the most rewarding aspects was continuing his  collaboration and creative partnership with Froberg. “Our perspectives are similar. Our tastes are similar. He is my family. And what more is there to say? My favorite part of making this record was hearing him find his voice and direction for this record. I came hard,” Reis says.

Thematically, Jericho Sirens’ material commiserates with the frustration and apathy of our daily lives while pointing out that generally we haven’t had a fucking clue about anything. As the band’s Froberg said at the time, “Songs like ‘Death Camp Fantasy’ and ‘Jericho Sirens’ are about that. No matter where you look, there’re always people saying the world’s about to end. Every movie is a disaster movie. I’m super fascinated by it. It is hysterical, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It snowballs, like feedback, or my balls on the windshield.” Sonically, the album found the band incorporating some of the most extreme fringes of their sound while staying true to their long standing influences. including AC/DC.

Late last year, the band released “Checkmate,” a decidedly AC/DC-like track, centered around booze-soaked power chords, howled lyrics and a chugging yet forceful rhythm section. Interestingly, while being the first bit of new material from the band after the release of Jericho Sirens, the track was the first of a series of four 7 inch singles that will lead up to the band’s highly-awaited fifth album; so each single is a seasonal release. Hot Snakes begins 2020 with their Spring 7 inch installment, the defiant anti-work/anti-working for the man anthem “I Shall Be Free.” Centered around slashing, face-melting power chords and chugging rhythms, the track continues a run of decidedly AC/DC-like singles with a boozy air. 

The recently released video features some trippy, line animation by Swami John Reis’ 13-year-old son Tiger Reis that morphs into stick figures, tanks, rockets, a skeleton and even airplanes that move and undulating to the accompanying music.