Cymbals Eat Guitars

Cymbals Eat Guitars released their debut album Why There Are Mountains in 2009, receiving a response that far exceeded the band’s expectations. Two years have gone by since that early hype cycle began, and a lot has changed. Half of the musicians that played on Why There Are Mountains came and went before major touring began, replaced by Brian Hamilton on keys and Matthew Whipple on bass. Hamilton and Whipple joined singer/songwriter/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino and drummer Matt Miller to take the show on the road, finally solidifying the lineup. An official release of Why There Are Mountains on the band’s own imprint, extensive US touring with the likes of Bear in Heaven, Los Campesinos!, and The Thermals; European dates with The Flaming Lips and The Hold Steady; and festival performances including Lollapalooza and Glastonbury kept the band quite busy. All the while, they were using whatever free time was afforded to them to write songs for a planned follow-up.

After signing to Barsuk Records in early 2011, the band settled down in Whipple’s basement in New Jersey to finish writing that follow-up. Rehearsing and recording demos in a suburban home allowed for a lot of freedom the band hadn’t enjoyed in the past.

Shared Brooklyn rehearsal spaces had always meant long commutes, scheduling difficulties, parking tickets. Decamping to the suburbs meant fewer distractions and more time to explore the outer reaches of song structure and melody, and to edit, reign in, and refine those same elements. That refinement and clarity of purpose came in no small part with the guidance of producer John Agnello, and together they set out to craft an album that re-contextualized the band’s favored sounds and highlighted underexplored strengths.

Lenses Alien, the result of these collaborative explorations, is a stunning example of a band growing into itself – learning to collaborate, becoming more confident. Why There Are Mountains was a record that Joseph D’Agostino made largely on his own, with help from Matt Miller and some other friends and acquaintances that came and went. Lenses Alien is a record that Joseph D’Agostino, Brian Hamilton, Matt Miller, and Matthew Whipple made together, as a band.

At its core, Lenses Alien is a marriage of classic pop forms and ambient haze that makes for a stark, dusky psychedelia. D’Agostino’s vocals, now with support from Hamilton and Whipple, sit daringly at the forefront, and his lyrics are dark, strange, and affecting as ever. Miller and Whipple move the songs as a singular, powerful unit while ornate guitars and Hamilton’s celestial organ and chiming pianos whirl across the sonic landscape.

Songs like ‘Definite Darkness’ and ‘Keep Me Waiting’ move with the frenetic urgency of romance that seemingly begins and ends all at once, and ‘Secret Family’ and ‘Wavelengths’ combine Motown-esque turns with impressionistic visions of lost youth and the struggle to retain it. A relentlessly complex listen, Lenses Alien strikes a balance between the archaic and the inviting and is as much a document of doubts and contradictions as of irreverent joy. It’s a varied collection of songs that feels handmade – built from the ground up – and it’s precisely the album Cymbals Eat Guitars was built to make.

Stagnant Pools

Following the release of their debut full-length Temporary Room in the fall of 2012, Stagnant Pools embarked on several high profile tours supporting the likes of David Bazan, Maximo Park, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and more.

All that time spent on the road exposed brothers Bryan (guitar/vocals) and Douglass Enas (drums) to a world outside their Indiana-based upbringing and introduced them to a slew of like-minded people. The experience of playing so many shows also gave the sibling duo a fresh perspective on their strengths and weaknesses as a band, feedback the pair took to heart while spending last year working on a new material.

Inspiration, they soon discovered, came in bursts — sometimes five demos would be recorded in an afternoon, sometimes months would pass without playing a note. Eventually, though, the itch to return to the touring life became too strong and plans were made to enter the studio and turn the collection of songs they had amassed into their next full-length.

And so, in January the siblings traveled two hours from their hometown of Indianapolis to the Champaign, IL-based studio run by Hum guitarist/vocalist Matt Talbott — a short trip that quickly grew hazardous when a blizzard blanketed the region with snow, temperatures dipped further below zero than they had in decades, and roadsides became littered with stranded vehicles.

After braving this grueling display of nature to arrive intact, the band hunkered down to finish their sophomore release, Geist. Four days later, they emerged having spent two days recording and two days mixing the record — all completely analog.

The result is ten songs that refine and expand on a shoegaze-meets-noise pop sound that has previously drawn comparisons to Joy Divison, Sonic Youth, and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Lead single “Intentions” continues in this tradition of pushing droning guitars barely over the edge into melody and amping up the fuzz and distortion without becoming submerged in it.

Geist is anchored by “Filed Down,” a track that showcases increased vocal variety and spastic drumming, and highlighted by “Dots and Lines,” where a sunny guitar line shines brightly on a soaring chorus and persistent drum beat.

Recording the album live to tape will surely prove to have been good practice, because now that the album’s complete all that’s left to do is pile back in the van and hit the road again. “There’s something affirming about touring a lot,” says Douglass. “It’s kind of a concrete way of knowing that you are in forward motion.”

Despite what their name might suggest, it certainly appears that Stagnant Pools aren’t looking to stay in any one place for too long.

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Cymbals Eat Guitars with Stagnant Pools

Tuesday, November 19 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Bishop