photo by Josh Goleman
Cymbals Eat Guitars are one of those bands often tagged as something-something-“sensations…”
I suppose this is warranted since their brand of indie rock is not necessarily a casual listen. No, it’s more like walking slow-motion through vociferous waterfalls, slip sliding over the rocky, capriciously changing song progressions and rocky/pointed melodies. And Cymbals Eat Guitars want to slip, want you to fall in. They want your ears to thrum and your eyes bleary and you gurgling air bubbles as you doggy paddle into their cresting melody waves. To be washed away in echoes, sweet and startling sonorousness, chest-thumping rhythms and lyrics so verbose it’d make any headphone-diving indie fan reach for their thesaurus as often as any aspiring bird-watcher grips their zooming binoculars.
More often than that, this Staten Island-based quartet are tagged as “sensations” by scads of zines and blogs because they seem to make every half-cocked journo/freelancer want to connect their sound to a bygone ostensible golden-age of 90’s indie-rock. And their flourished guitars, intricate and dazzling rhythms and heady lyrics, all swollen together with bolstered baroque-esque aspirations, admittedly affect that dizzying space rock aesthetic.
Last year they released their second proper LP, “Lenses Alien” – more of the mystic sunset to the ebullient sunrise of their debut “Why There Are Mountains” (the former having been a self-released effort that wound up garnering them their fateful ticket to the launch pads of numerous influential culture websites). With blogs refraining that “they put it out on their own and “just went for it, man” is another reason they’re sensations. But, in 2012, going free has become commonplace.
“[“Lenses Alien”] is…darker and denser. I don’t think Joe’s lyrics are entirely or even mostly confessional, but there’s a certain amount of semi-autobiographical catharsis happening.”
“The free availability of music on the internet is a good thing,” said CEG bassist Matt Whipple, and going that route initially “was the only way that made sense” with “Mountains.”
“Obviously we wish we could sell more records and be able to approach some sort of fair compensation for all the work,” Whipple said. “Having everything be widely available for free is certainly an obstacle to that, but the fact is that no one would have ever heard of our band if that wasn’t the way things were, so we’re grateful people have shown interest at all.”
Going free, Whipple said, would have been their preference again with “Lenses,” had their label (the Death Cab For Cutie king-makers Barsuk) been up for it as well. As it happened, endemic to the unruly Internet, “Lenses” wound up leaking early anyway, which was simultaneously “a bummer” Whipple said, since it showed up without cover art, “but also exciting …just because people were really excited about it.”
In response to their latest batch weaving darker sonic blankets, musically and lyrically, Whipple admits, “it is…darker and denser. I don’t think (singer/guitarist) Joe (Joseph D’Agostino)’s lyrics are entirely or even mostly confessional, but there’s a certain amount of semi-autobiographical catharsis happening. Expressing yourself is healthy! Most of the time…”
For those knotty, eloquent word whirls that D’Agostino serenades, it’s likely best for each listener to mine what they may from repeated listens – because if CEG do share anything with indie-rock icons like Built To Spill or Modest Mouse, it’s achieving through a guitar-splattered minor-anthem an understated cerebral quality: wide-eyed wanderlust for deeper meaning hidden in an otherwise cynical world.
“Lenses” was, says Whipple, “mostly pretty painstaking,” but a step-up and forward for them as a unit, with this being “the first time we had all been together in a room, (along with drummer Matthew Miller/bassist Brian Hamilton) writing a record.” Thus, they’ve evolved from what was once more “a studio project” into an actual band.
And yes, when they’re not touring Europe (as they in January), they’re back home in New York enjoying the same eerily mild/warm winter (or fake-winter) weather as us Michiganders. “That’s completely welcome since last year was such a disaster. We’re just enjoying being home with friends and family now and working on a couple new songs – but with no big rush to finish or release anything.”
No rush crafting any new epic studio soundscapes since this interview came days before they were about to pack back into the van and hit the road. And now, these sensations are coming to Ann Arbor.
See Cymbals Eat Guitars live at 9 p.m. on March 27 at Blind Pig with Cursive and The Conduits. For tickets and more information, visit blindpigmusic.com.