We last heard from SF’s Violent Change in October when the band dropped its debut EP Suck On The Gun via city-based label Melters. The excellent 7-inch was moderately successful, initially moving quickly off local record store shelves and garnering attention from a handful of media outlets.
At the end of March, Violent Change returned with its first full-length via Catholic Guilt Records. The record is something of a departure from Suck On The Gun, not necessarily in terms of the songwriting (which remains just as choice as on the EP), but more in terms of its overall sonic qualities. Catholic Guilt’s website explains that frontman Matt Bleyle (who often signs correspondence as Gladys) assembled the album from cassette recordings made between the autumn of 2011 and summer 2012, recording most of the tracks by himself, with only a few full-band recordings.
In fact, when Violent Change hits the record button, it’s typically just Bleyle all by his lonesome. “On the records it’s usually just me crying alone,” he recently joked over email. “I don’t think it sounds THAT bad. I think it sounds cleaner than a lot of recording I’ve done in the past. To be honest, going into a studio isn’t an option just because I could never be able to do that whole singing with the head phones thing in front of people. That shit is embarrassing. I have to plug the 8-track out into an amp just so I can sing at the practice space when I’m recording so the metal dudes don’t hear me in between shred sessions.”
Sure it’s lo-fi, but no, it doesn’t sound that bad. In fact, through all the sludge and fuzz of the bedroom cassette recordings, Bleyle’s penchant for fresh guitars and punk-pop melodies can still be heard, as can prevalent lyrical themes of disenchantment with and numbness resulting from the state of modern society.
“I think the best way to let a song exist is to pretend the person that wrote it isn’t there so that meaning can breathe a little more,” explained Bleyle. “You can make it mean whatever you want that way. But yeah, I think that as we move closer to post industrialization there is tons of great nostalgia and I find a lot of happiness. Its kinda like how insurance companies have privatized fear and paranoia except replace that with 20th century nostalgia.”
Of the album’s 16 tracks, four were recorded with a full band consisting of Bleyle, Tony Molina, Sterling Mackinnon, and Rohit Rao – “I Don’t Know Why” and “Detention Camp”, as well as the Molina-penned songs “Word Around Town” and “No One Left To Blame.” Mackinnon also contributed accordion on “Sleeping Fuhrer”, but the rest were just Bleyle.
“I always liked the way demo recordings and live recordings sound,” he told me. “I think that this record has a lot of different kinds of songs on it and the production quality is what solidifies the songs into a larger whole. Also, recording is domestication. A quality demo recording of a song allows it to be a bit more free form live.”
Catholic Guilt’s website proffers influences ranging from UK ’77 and Killed By Death compilations to bands like Guided By Voices and even The Bee Gees, but the band’s frontman remains facetious about his influences: “Weed and the feeling you get when you hear ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’. I only really listen to Vertical Slit and the first two Idle Race albums.”
Stream Violent Change in its entirety below (via SoundCloud), and pick up a copy on vinyl over on Catholic Guilt’s website.
Violent Change in its current live form – with Bleyle, Mackinnon (guitar), Jake Bayley (bass), Blaine Patrick (drums) – is playing the Hemlock Tavern this Saturday, June 8 in support of Wet Illustrated, along with Pure Bliss and Tony Molina Band. Keep an ear out for a potentially deep batch of throwback Scandinavian covers – Bleyle mentioned the likes of Andy McCoy’s projects Hanoi Rocks and Briard, as well as legendary Swedish punks PF Commando.
Wet Illustrated, Violent Change, Pure Bliss, Tony Molina Band
June 8, 2013