Nearly 15 years after it was recorded, Bush Tetras’ 1998 album Happy is finally getting a release. The band, an under-famous staple of the New York post-punk scene, formed in 1979, breaking up and reuniting several times, most recently getting together in 2007. The record, produced by Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, The Screaming Trees), fell into release-and-copyright hell when original distributor Mercury was sold.
In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals who caught our ears with some serious jams.
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Since the release of their last studio album, Another Sound is Dying, the boys of Brooklyn-based dub-metal band Dub Trio have been busy touring extensively as well as working as the backing band for acts such as Matisyahu. But in that time, they’ve managed to get back in the studio to continue crafting their own distinct songs.
IV, the band’s latest release, is possibly their heaviest and most experimental album yet. It waxes and wanes between raw, thrashing metal and chilled-out ambience, highlighting the band’s versatility. And though the sound is far from reggae, it never fully departs from the dub genre. Listeners of IV should expect to hear “dub,” rather, as a concept: compositions are mangled and manipulated to explore different ideas and emotions.
Bassist Stu Brooks and drummer Joe Tomino took time out of their touring schedule to speak with ALARM about their latest album and about the evolution of their sound.
You’ve mentioned that much of the songwriting for this album was done on the road. What was that process like?
Joe Tomino: The first batch of songs for IV were written in Chavagne, France at the start of one of our previous European tours. We had a few days off before we started the tour, so we set up our equipment in a house and played all day. The next batch of songs was written several months later in Brooklyn. We rented a rehearsal space in for a few weeks and worked on more material. Finally, the last couple of songs were written in the studio. [We] actually wrote, recorded, and mixed in the same day. It was an interesting approach of having this discipline of going in to the studio with an idea and needing to come out with two completely finished songs within one day.
Though Another Sound is Dying took a noticeably heavier direction, IV is even more packed with riffs. Has the band’s hefty tour itinerary led to songs that have more live energy?
JT: As with all our tours, the songs we play from night to night are always evolving. There is enough inherent improvisation in our music that we can subtly change things from night to night or tour to tour. We always try to give the audience as much of a visceral experience as possible from stage. Since there are no lyrics or front-man talking between songs, we rely on energy to propel the performance. A Dub Trio show is like an emotional rollercoaster of sound.
There are fewer full-on dub moments on IV, but you added a few tracks that are completely different, including a “Dub Trio take” on dubstep, a minimalist percussion piece, and a nine-minute tune that starts with toy piano and goes ambient at the end. What else do you want to try that you haven’t yet?
JT: Not sure. We’ve covered a lot of ground, musically, between our four studio albums. These days we’re really enjoying playing a good, old-fashioned blues jam at sound check every chance we get. The other day we played a twelve-bar blues [piece] with some sub-bass keyboards, distorted and effected guitars, and some dubstep-sounding drum samples. We try not to set any limits on where the music will take us when we are composing new songs.
Long car rides, too much gas-station coffee, and being surrounded by incompetent drivers on the California interstate have made the members of Dub Trio a little restless this afternoon, but the good-natured band from Brooklyn is taking it in stride.
Crooner Jeffery Osbourne’s 1982 R&B hit “On the Wings of Love” plays over satellite radio, a device, the band agrees, that has infinitely improved road trips. “Oh my god, yeah—it’s a beautiful thing!” guitarist DP Holmes exclaims.
The band is at the tail end of its West Coast tour with Helmet. Next week it’s back east to take off again with fellow New Yorkers and friends Gogol Bordello. Relentless touring is the life of an up-and-coming, hard-working band.