Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The boys in Male Bonding were caravanning around the country with the Vivian Girls during and prior to the month of March this year and just a few days before they descended on Austin, Texas, they stopped in for this session on a Sunday afternoon. Twas a short stay before a gig at Grinnell College about two hours away, but it wasn't an uneventful stay (a broken out window on a van was patched up by engineer Pat following the taping). From the Twitter activity and all other in-person and offline reports, the two traveling parties fell in love with our studio and turned their time here into a madcap campfire set, everyone sitting in with everyone else and abnormally stripping back some of the electrification and over-driven amplification to put out something drastically different than what's heard on the band's Sub Pop debut, "Nothing Hurts," released two weeks ago. There's no pressure in a Male Bonding song, as heard on this session, just an as-luck-would-have-it ease that's maybe owed more to the acoustic guitar than anything else and to having this be the first time the trio had ever performed their songs in such a manner. It's a simple root beer float or margarita feeling to these four songs, two of which appear on the album and two that don't appear anywhere else. From the outset, they set out not to harsh any mellows, but rather intensify those mellows into something that, if it were being chewed, would be as thick and tough as burlap and beef jerky to get through to the other side of. Lead singer John Arthur Webb casts a sense of years drawing shorter and eyes getting heavier, these characters that he writes about feeling as if there's no reconciliation between what that time's doing to them and what they're doing to time. There's a great instinct that let's us believe that these are the sole concerns of the young and those experiencing those growing pains that have nothing to do with muscles, joints and bones, but of the mental and mind-scrambling features that tend to get the best of us most of the time. These are the concerns of nearly all, without age discrimination - these follies always and continually barking at us until we just cannot stand it any longer. Webb sings on "Worse To Come" - one of the songs that the Girls join the males on -- "Your words just hang around/That way they let you know you let them down," and it's a reminder that everything that you say at one point in your life can cost you and continue to haunt, like a scar or birth mark. You can't run away from anything anymore. Maybe you never could. Webb, Robin Silas Christian and Kevin Charles Hendrix, in playing the songs in the way that they play them here, put the focus on the plain realities, instead of getting caught up in what the realities are going to be doing. The songs sound beachy and sandy and not all that treacherous, just pieces of an unpleasant turn of events that can't be helped so…let's just chill about it. You, me, them, the Girls, all of us. Let's chill into the gloom.
Sub Pop Records