Let’s face it, this coming weekend is pretty much guaranteed to be a wash of regret and sorrow. But there’s a light at the end of this vortex of darkness (just the first in a long series of them throughout the holiday season): PC Worship‘s Basement Hysteria release party is happening at Palisades next week. We first spoke (extensively, too) with Justin Frye back in September when the band’s new release was still a fairly far-off thing. Now that the four-track EP is finally out we had some new questions for Mr. Frye. (Oh, and don’t go straight to the disappointed sighs– Basement Hysteria may be an EP, but it clocks in at over 40 minutes.)
PC Worship is an amorphous sort of noise-rock band with many moving parts. Presently there are three “core members,” but Frye, who’s been living in Bushwick on and off for over 10 years has always been, and remains still the nucleus of it all. For a good chunk of that time, he’s been shacked up at a place called The Wallet– an artists’ loft where various well-known figures in the Brooklyn DIY rock scene have laid their heads at one time or another (including members of The Dreebs, Tonstartssbandht, and one Mac DeMarco himself, who admitted he was “probably the pussy of the crew”). The Wallet has provided not just cheap living quarters, but a host of willing, part-time PC participants who have contributed to the fact that the band’s output (and even live shows, for that matter) is always surprising.
After we last spoke with Justin, he left for a quick, but relentless European tour in which the band played nearly every day for weeks on end, with just one brief break. Needless to say, by the end of it all they were pretty fried. But PC Worship returned to find some shows waiting for them, including their official stateside EP release party at Palisades on Friday, December 4.
Elder Ones is playing, which is this girl Amirtha Kidambi, which is kind of this earthy drone with minimalist, kind of spiritualist, free-jazz vibes. It’s really cool, with harmony and really beautiful singing. There’s upright bass and sax and drums. This dude Gary War is playing, he’s a pretty intense synth, hyper-pop dude. And then Arto Lindsay, who used to be in DNA, is playing as well.
Yeah, Germany and France were probably the best places for us. Paris and Leon were really fun. We played in Switzerland and the UK and stuff too, which was cool. I think the UK is a lot more like touring the Midwest here. It can be kind of bleak, but you meet cool people and do weird shit.
We had a British car the whole time, so we were driving backwards the whole trip, which was kind of disorienting. It was a good trip.
We played a couple songs from Basement Hysteria, but there’s a couple songs we didn’t play. Then we played an assortment of stuff from our last five years of the band, a lot of that involves more stretched out improvising sections. Sometimes we played for 25 or 30 minutes, but there were some nights on tour where we played sets for an hour and a half to two hours.
I’ve read a couple of em, yeah. Maybe there’s more, I’m not sure. It’s been received pretty similarly to other records I’ve done– where people think it’s more, like, experimental than I do. For me, it errs on the side of convention in terms of experimentalism because it is a rock band and whatnot. Sometimes reviews make it sound like it’s totally alien music.
That is a big theme across all the PC Worship reviews I’ve read over the years, and critics have generally interpreted your music as having become progressively less rock-n’-roll and more experimental.
I dunno, it just depends on your perspective. Maybe for some people it’s really weird and out-there, but for some people it’s not so out-of-the-box. I feel like the EP, it has some pretty accessible moments. But I guess I can see what some reviews are getting at, for sure.
Another thing everyone who writes about your music seems to agree on is the emotional pull of PC Worship and particularly with this EP– there’s a certain kind of darkness to it all, and I saw the word “doom” used a lot in relation to this release specifically. Do you feel that way too? Do you think your music is really dark?
That’s kind of interesting. I dunno. I think it can be pretty cathartic in that the heavier, darker tendencies of PC Worship are more like an exorcism of those feelings. I feel like my disposition is a little more chill than that. I think sometimes it’s just a byproduct of the aesthetic influence, or that I’m trying to write heavy music in a new way or something.
I’d have to count— but it was recorded mainly with the core group: Michael Etten and Shannon Sigley, on bass and drums. Mike also plays the majority of the sax parts, but my friend Andrew Bernstein (he plays in Horse Lords) he plays all the sax on the intro, right in the beginning of the album. It’s kind of just a quick snippet. He was just hanging out in the studio one day.
This dude Jordan Bernstein, who usually plays bass, did a couple of guitar-solo overdubs on this one and then my friend Dan [aka “Boston Bongo Dan”/ Daniel Rineer] played bongos on two songs. Jess Papitto sang on one of them as well. There’s a guy, Pat [Spadine of Ashcan Orchestra] who does a lot of electronics and the noisier elements in PC Worship. He didn’t play on this record but built a couple of the instruments I used to do those parts. So kind of in a way he played, but [it’s more like] I more played his on instruments.
There’s a particular moment on one of the Basement Hysteria tracks, “Done,” I wanted to ask you about. It’s just barely below audible, but it reminds me of a televangelist preacher or something. There are moments that sound like someone’s delivering a speech intermittently filled with polemics and soft entreaties. What’s that all about? What was the source for that sound?
That day I was just browsing around the radio, not necessarily aiming to put it on the record. But I came across these vintage Christian sermons on AM radio. The whole vibe of the record is based on mental illness in a way, or I don’t even know about “mental illness,” but like mental instability or something. One of the sermons was just immediately relevant to that. So I just recorded it.
One of the statements is about “the noise of an army,” so it felt good on that section that’s a little more sound collage-y. It just felt good and like it had a home there.
Yeah, for sure. All the rest of my recordings from The Wallet [the artists loft/ informal collective in Bushwick] and Market Hotel [Justin said he “lived there for a winter, years ago”] the M train is right outside the window, so there’s a train screeching on almost every other record. I feel like that’s a big part of the recording process, is that it ends up being a part of it, for sure.
For a couple of weeks straight I was in the studio until like 5 am or something. It sort of references those moments where you’re totally disconnected and have a strange hysteria. You have this weird kind of of ecstatic-ism and strange disconnection from the outside world, just from being in there and working on something for so long. And the lyrical content of the album is based on revelations of the mind and how it works differently and questioning moments where different things happen.
It’s not about mental illness or my own experience with any kind of mental illness specifically, but it’s about the general experience of it. The lyrical content of the EP is based on that assumption, or a compulsion where you don’t have a grasp for reality anymore. On the back cover there’s a pretty warped, doctored picture of Brian Wilson performing– that’s supposed to kind of reference that as well. And I guess in a way, the intro of the album references that in a weird way too.