Open Your Mind, Put This Band in Your Cocktail
By Nick Schwab
If music is alchemy, then why should one regress? It’s a simple but mind-boggling answer.
Musical devolution or streamlining a common sound gets you fame and fortune. Progression often gets head scratching or falls on deaf ears.
However, at least those who progress reveal their soul. Those who streamline a common sound often look down on the rest of society from their empire of dirt, only to travel into homes on entertainment gossip shows proclaiming they are just like you … if only much, much richer and more deserving.
While Absinthe Junk straddles a line between uniqueness and straight-forward commercialism, correspondence with the band’s members reveals the elegant rhetoric of one member and the easy-going personality of another.
Junk member Blair Verte will answer an email interview revealingly and with precision, just like their art, which is reflected in their one-part misnomer and second part double entendre band name.
First, a history lesson: Absinthe was the popular drink in the late 1800s/ early 1900s in the Bohemian Revolution. Much like in America with marijuana, it was deemed illegal due to strong propaganda that claimed that it was more harmful (even psychotic-inducing) than it actually is.
“Basically it was banned by junk science,” explains Verte, who then adds about the reflection in their music. “The ideals of pushing boundaries, defying the mainstream commercialism, and just playing what we want, how we want, whether the world thinks it’s trash or not, embodies what we’re about.”
So, what exactly does she say they are about?
“I have no interest in sounding like the all the bands down the street … if we don‘t test our limits as artists, what right do we have to call ourselves such?” asks Verte of her craft. “I know it’s a cliché to say that boundaries were made to be pushed and broken, but it’s absolutely true.” Then later, in a phone interview with member Patrick Himes, he instantly reveals the easy-going aspect of the group by being chirpy and gracious, despite the interview being conducted when he had a free moment at the hospital while supporting one of his loved ones.
While admittedly somewhat scant on detail about the music, it becomes quickly apparent that he loves what he does.
“We try to make the best records we can and stay on the road as much as possible, and get an audience the old fashioned way,” shares Himes. “We take each song as they come and craft them as best as we can.”
He then continues about their sense of odd, albeit refined and accessible sound.
“Some people think we write some really weird arrangements, but I don’t think we do,” he says. “[Certain songs] are sing-along anthems that people sing along to at our shows.”
Verte also adds her insight into these lyrics.
“On our next record, Death In the Afternoon, the most piercing idea of the song may be surrounded by peppy instrumentation, making it almost comical,” Verte explains. “Life’s too short to be so damn serious. Adding an element of comedy to make the music a little more tongue-in-cheek has been one of my favorite changes that we’ve made.”
Absinthe Junk is all about playing with boundaries and expanding and switching up their sound. On this new album they have less of a world-music element to their more “dark and brooding” and “instrumentally epic” elements.
“That particular aspect of our music has slowly worked itself out of being a defining factor of our sound,” says Verte. “[The album], while lacking much of the global flair, is far more melodic and edgy, while taking careful steps [in the studio] in adding full orchestration and effects that complement these tones.”
Moreover, it is imperative to Absinthe Junk to be sincere.
“I’m way more interested in underground, independent music because it’s generally more thought provoking and original,” says Verte. “I think this preference more comes out of me just liking weird and new forms of media in general — from a more unrefined perspective. It’s more real that way.”
In closing, Verte tells of Absinthe’s Junk’s future, “The new album may not be the hippest thing to hit the streets, [and] it definitely won’t be perfect.” It is then that the artist in her comes again to the surface. “But it will be real, identifiable, and it will be epic.”
Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at NickSchwab@DaytonCityPaper.com.
[Photo: Ron Macaluso]