General Admission Standing Room Only
PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH
“Turn the lights off when I’m still in the room / I’m only bright next to you, out of sight.” — “Out Of Sight”
The opening couplet on Pianos Become The Teeth’s fifth full-length album Drift is as captivating as it is haunting, a statement which can also be said of the album as a whole. “For me, this record feels like one long night,” frontman Kyle Durfey explains. “Out Of Sight'' parallels that feeling musically via layered vocals, atmospheric instrumentation and percussion accents that sound like a crackling fire before the song carefully crescendos into a hypnotic blend of distorted bass and melodic guitar line that’s strangely satisfying and completely unexpected. But Pianos Become The Teeth have never been the type of act to follow conventions. The Baltimore, D.C., five-piece—which also features guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik—originally started out as a screamo band and gained an enthusiastic fanbase via 2009’s Old Pride and 2011’s The Lack Long After. However shortly afterward Durfey stopped screaming and the band transitioned into a post-rock act who expanded their sound on 2014’s Keep You and 2018’s Wait For Love. Drift is the culmination of the band’s penchant for redefining and transcending their sound and it does so in a way that stays true to their artistic and aesthetic vision.
Despite some sonic differences from the band’s early recordings, Drift is a return to form in the sense that it sees Pianos Become The Teeth reuniting with producer Kevin Bernsten (Integrity, PIg Destroyer) who recorded their first two albums over a decade ago. “Kevin knows where we come from and really knew what we were trying to do with this record—and he was down to get weird with us,”
Durfey says with a laugh, adding that this was the first album that came together in the studio and allowed the band to explore unorthodox ideas that might not be possible in the practice space. Despite Bernsten’s pedigree for working with aggressive acts, his history with Pianos Become The Teeth allowed him to help solidify the band’s musical ideas into a cohesive album that continually pushes the band toward the future without abandoning their past. “Kevin knows who we used to be and he knows who we are now and he was really down to experiment and try anything in the studio to see how it would work,” Durfey says. That environment of comfort and creativity is evident on Drift and at times it’s difficult to decipher where one song ends and the next one begins. This is by design; the album may feel like one long night but like the moon, it has overlapping phases.
The album's first single “Genevieve” is a perfect encapsulation of this sentiment. Although it’s less than five minutes long, the song feels like it goes through countless gradients as the tempo almost imperceptibly builds from a spacious ballad to an explosive anthem. Simultaneously the song sees Durfey questioning his self-worth via his poetic lyrics, which he prefers to keep ambiguous in order for the listeners to not have any preconceived notions about his imagery. From being just close enough to watch things slip away on “The Tricks” to likening himself to “flood damage in the dark” on the minimalist, Portishead-inspired ballad “Skiv,” Drift’s lyrics mirror the moody nature of the music, both of which sometimes need multiple listens to decipher. “I refer to a song like ‘Buckley’ as “heavy blue” because there are heavy parts in there but they are really deliberate,” Durfey says. Pianos Become The Teeth started out touring alongside peers like Touché Amoré and La Dispute—and although their sound has shifted over the years, the inherent aggression is still there on “Hate Chase” or lurking just under the surface of cinematic soundscapes such as “Mouth.” However maybe most impressive is the fact that the band’s virtuosic musicianship and collective ambition keeps any singular moment not only from sounding out of place, but making it hard to imagine the songs any other way.
“Everything for me on this record is so personal and so specific even if people have no idea what I’m talking about,” Durfey explains. “I know it’s asking for a lot but I just hope that people sit and listen to the record as a whole because to me this record is like one piece. It’s not individual songs, it’s a journey and then you come out of it.” The ebb and flow of these songs is conscious and like all great albums, listeners will inevitably find themselves getting stuck on certain moments on Drift that get lodged in their subconscious and keep bringing them back, whether it’s one of Haik’s unexpected drum fills or Sewell’s masterfully minimalist bass lines. Does the striking crimson color of the album art symbolize the colors right before the darkness or right after it and does it make a difference? Ultimately Drift is filled with as many questions as it answers but one thing is for certain, Pianos Become The Teeth are one of the few bands who have toured with everyone from The Menzingers to Coheed And Cambria while sonically referencing The National or Radiohead without any of it sounded forced or inauthentic. Drift a difficult album to reduce into soundbytes because its beauty lies in its spaciousness, so we invite you to turn it up and explore one of the most transfixing albums in recent memory.
CITY OF CATERPILLAR
20 years is a long time between records. Few people know that better than the members of City Of Caterpillar, who are about to release their second album two decades after their first.
When guitarist/vocalist Brandon Evans, guitarist Jeff Kane, drummer Ryan Parrish and bassist/vocalist Kevin Longendyke unveiled their self-titled debut in 2002, their emotional, frenzied and often cinematic music was at the vanguard of the burgeoning screamo movement. Along with bands like Pg.99 (with whom they shared members), Majority Rule, Planes Mistaken For Stars and others, they helped develop a style of music that took hardcore into convulsive new territory.
Though they received their share of accolades, City Of Caterpillar often played in small venues to modest crowds. It’s only in hindsight that their legend has grown. “We didn’t get that much attention back then,” Evans acknowledges. “But the whole scene was cool. It was tight, it was a community, but it’s not like it was big. People got exposed to us afterwards, when the Internet blew up. It became like a cult thing.”
When City Of Caterpillar decided to play a reunion show in 2016, they figured they’d do something low-key in their hometown of Richmond, VA. Due to overwhelming demand, that show became an East Coast tour. Followed by a European tour. Followed by a Japanese tour. “We thought we’d do a show in Virginia and our friends would come,” Evans recalls. “When it turned into all this other stuff, it made me feel like the time and energy we put into this when we started was worth more than I ever could have known. We had no idea people cared.”
After years spent living in other parts of the country and playing in other bands—including Darkest Hour, Malady and Ghastly City Sleep—all four members were back in Richmond. Sure enough, the reunion shows snowballed into writing sessions. “We were having fun being around each other and making music again,” Evans explains. “What never changed is that we’re all still friends. We still enjoy similar music, though we’ve grown our palettes for sure. It became this challenge of, ‘Can we make something that would be just as impactful 20 years later and not feel redundant?’”
The answer is a resounding yes. City Of Caterpillar’s new album, Mystic Sisters, recaptures the magic of old while taking the band’s music into exciting new territory. “We’ve all been working on our craft, even though we weren’t a band for many years,” Kane says. “It feels a lot more focused and intentional than it was back in the day. Now we know how to play better and construct songs better, so this is the next step for us. We’re not doing it as a retro kind of thing.”
Tracked primarily at Montrose Recording in Richmond, Mystic Sisters was self-produced by the band and then mixed and mastered by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Bosse-de-Nage). “In the big picture, we’re trying to be deeper about our emotional choices within tones, textures, lyrics and vocals,” Evans explains. “But we’re trying to keep that energetic, youthful rawness. The idea is to make it show that 20 years have passed, but also make it seem like this record could’ve come out right after the other one.”
Of all the songs on Mystic Sisters, lead single “Decider” probably has the most in common with City Of Caterpillar circa 2002. Which makes sense, given that its lyrical content revolves around some of the band’s old friends and tour mates who have since passed. “It’s basically about Planes Mistaken For Stars, and Gared [O’Donnell] having cancer and dying and Matt [Bellinger] dying. Ryan came up with the concept and I helped him flesh it out. It’s about waking up one day, looking around and thinking, ‘Where did everybody go?’ You’re getting more and more alone as you get older. But Gared sparked it. We actually dedicated the record to him and Planes.”
The winding and atmospheric title track embodies City Of Caterpillar’s experimental side and features some noise violin from Evans’ former Pg. 99 bandmate Johnny Ward. “With this song, we’re creating longer dynamics and prettier parts within the spastic-ness,” he says. “It’s probably what people consider the ‘post-rock’ side of us. The song is a journey, though—you can get lost, come back, get lost and come back over and over. There’s a lot of texture and synth stuff, along with Johnny’s violin in the background. Lyrically, it’s about tapping into the ancient energy of the past and about how in the end we’re all more connected than we could ever know.”
The album’s second song, “Paranormaladies,” combines a supernatural experience with a nod to one of his bandmates’ other projects. “It’s about ghosts,” Evans says. “My stepdad came back to me once. I put on his shirt one day after I moved back to Richmond, and I just started feeling his presence. I also think the song has kind of a Malady vibe, the band that Jeff and Kevin and others were in after City of Caterpillar.”
Ultimately, City of Caterpillar are more concerned with creating a mood than telling a story. “The band is always focused on mood,” Evans confirms. “To me, that’s the most important thing. I don’t really want people dissecting what we’re trying to say, because it’s not really about us. It never has been. What we cared about 20 years ago was innocent, raw emotion, and that’s what we care about now.”