March 16, 2011

PREVIEW: PRIMITIVE WEAPONS AT SXSW

Primitive Weapons

NY quintet Primitive Weapons have barely been around for a year, but they sure as shit don't sound like it. Their name suggests their music is blunt, and while they've got a helluva whallop, they cloak their music with a shade of mystery and obtuseness. Being direct, while a virtue of hardcore, can only take you so far. There's an intangible to Primitive Weapons' noise - something that wants you to explore further, give the record a couple more spins to get a better understanding. The blend of throat-grabbing immediacy and nuanced mystique makes Primitive Weapons a captivating group.

Vocalist David Castillo grew up playing in the Long Island hardcore scene, but hadn't played music for three years prior to forming Primitive Weapons.

"I pretty much formed this band because I wanted to go back to the bands that made me excited when I was 16," he said. "I just started listening to a lot older hardcore like Integrity and Deadguy."

Integrity is a solid reference point for the kind of music Primitive Weapons bashes out. Guitarist Artie Shepherd, who is also in Gay for Johnny Depp, formerly played in Mind Over Matter, a Long Island band from the 90s. There's Integrity in his style because he used to play shows with bands like them.

"The way that he plays, the way he writes riffs - it has that 90sesque New York post-hardcore sound," Castillo said. "There's a certain feeling to his guitar playing that's not a throwbacky thing or an imitative thing. It's just how it comes out."

This year, Primitive Weapons released a self-titled 7". It contains three songs which range in quality from 'straight banger' to 'monster riffage.' "Politics and Oblivion" is a mix of melodic passages and rage, and overall, it serves as a neat summation of what the group is about. Castillo says the song deals with "the politics of death" and was inspired by the passing of a close friend.

"When someone passes away, there's a whole kind of thing that surrounds - funerals, and all these people get together and they may or may not have seen each other in a really long time," he said. "That brings up all these different feelings, like 'I would never want to see that person again' or 'Oh my God, I haven't seen you in ten years I can't believe we're meeting under the circumstance.'" Castillo also added that "the moodiness of the guitar playing and everything in that song brought a lot of those memories out."

"Cosmic Horror," as you may discern from the title, has a heavy Lovecraftian vibe. It's also the most "hardcore" of the songs, not letting up until you have to flip the record over. Inspired by the same time period that "Politics" was, Castillo said that the song is about how people deal - or not deal - with death.

"When it comes to death and dying, we don't know what's going on at all," he said.

The band stretches itself out on "Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons." Bassist Eric Odness brought his love of AmRep noise rock to the track, adding volatility to the song's seemingly vast space. Castillo says the song deals with leaving home and destruction as a necessary step for creation and moving forward.

"You have to give up certain parts of life to create new parts of life. It's a thing that most people experience in their lives," he said.

Castillo affirms that it's important for hardcore songs to have ideas behind them. Expressing ideas is his "function in the band."

"Hardcore music, when I got involved, there was always literature lying around, whether it was animal rights or - there was a lot of politics, a lot of ideas, it was a marketplace of idea," he said. "When you look at a band like Minor Threat, they wrote one song - 'Straight Edge' - and it sparked an entire movement. That's really powerful."

The engineer and recorder of the record is none other than Alex Newport. That name may not get most of our younger readers jilted with excitement, but if you were involved in heavy music in the early to mid 90s, you knew him from Fudge Tunnel. Castillo says that they had nothing but a great experience working with Newport.

"He's got an amazing idea of what any band that walks in should sort of be," he said. "He's the kind of guy who - it's not like a strong hand, in making the record, but it's like he takes you down this little road and I think he made us feel really comfortable. I think he achieved what we wanted to achieve."

If you dig the analog sounds of the 7", you can thank Newport for that. The album was recorded 100% to tape, 0% digitally.

"There's not many people in the United States that know how to do that - that can do that, all the way," Castillo said.

Primitive Weapons will be playing at Scoot Inn on Saturday with Eyehategod, Pentagram, Naam, Ancient VVisdom, and Cough. A limited amount of tickets will be sold at the door, so if you don't have a badge or wristband, don't be a dummy.

2 comments:

Sunset Sessions said...

What a great sound! If you think they did well at SXSW, have them check out an event called Sunset Sessions Rock! in June in San Diego. It gives indie alternative bands a chance to play in front of big radio stations from across the country, music supervisors from film, tv & ads, video game programmers, managers and record labels. It costs some dough to play like (2-8k), and you have to actually be good enough to get picked, but it's a once in a lifetime chance to get in front of all these music industry people that can completely launch a bands career. February's Sunset Session had 45 bands play to 800 music biz people. Check out info at www.sunsetsessions.org to see how to get your band, or a band you think has potential, in.

Ben Sommer said...

Meh - no zing in there for me. Oddly, the production seems the biggest problem. Loud. I'd like to see their soundcloud waveform.