Words by Jordan Martich
A powerful thing about the new(ish) Oakland band Club Night is their hands-off, restless energy. It’s apparent in every element of their being — the gooey tones, the ceaseless rhythmic momentum and slushy vocals. Songs on their debut five-song tape Hell Ya from Tiny Engines resist shallow patterns for uncompromisingly spirited compositions that trawl along with a jumble of sincere emotions and esoteric narratives. These tracks convey the group’s fearless forward direction, illuminated by the shimmering, summery feelings that Club Night produces. “We don’t worry about that sounding too poppy or too weird – let’s follow intuition,” said singer Joshua Bertram. “We’re not caged in.”
Bertram’s honest, intimate storytelling in Club Night is made otherworldly by effects that land far south of cartoonish, stripped of that conceit to reveal a raw mysticism. What started out as a recording project with other local musicians — alongside Bertram are members of Unity, Meat Market, Twin Steps, Our Brother the Native, and more — soon transformed into something bigger. Club Night’s musical pedigree is surely impressive, but it ruptures into something even more fascinating when those musicians are in the same room. Even for guitarist Ian Tatum, the band quickly burst free from any expectations. “At the beginning it felt like I wasn’t agreeing to go join a band – it felt like I was agreeing to go play music for an afternoon,” said Tatum. “And then it quickly turned into this.”
The originality of their pastiche sound has translated well locally, and has also collected the attention of publications like Pitchfork and Impose. Club Night’s guitars have an air of math-rock jangle, but none of that genre’s delicate nature – instead these are full-bore romping rock songs with the body of layers to show for it. The triumph of these elements working together comes in part from a ‘consequence-free’ recording process, curated and nurtured by Bertram’s past engineering experience. “There’s a certain momentum to the songwriting that’s not an intellectual thing,” said Tatum. “Just go, just play. Sounds good.” Earlier this year they put their energy to use earning donations for the Oakland Warehouse Commission by releasing a special run of posters for their show with math rock legends Joan of Arc, as well as a split release with Joan of Arc member Bobby Burg’s Love of Everything project. Their growth caught the eye of Tiny Engines, who offered to release their first tape if they also signed on for a full-length record, the writing of which takes up the group’s time now.
When they speak of the whirlwind of success that they’ve encountered, Club Night is resoundingly modest. “All the stuff that’s happening right now, like with the label, is chance. I just wanted to start a new project that could be fun,” said Bertram. “I’m glued to it because I get to hang out with my five favorite people at least once a week.”
Club Night, Ziplock, Tabitha Dillinger, Same Girls
Eli’s Mile High Club
September 8, 2017
8pm, $5 (21+)
Disclosure: Jordan Martich is a member of the band Ziplock. They weren’t on the bill when he started writing this, we swear.
Jordan Martich is a writer and musician living in Oakland. He drinks too much coffee and doesn’t go to the beach enough.