Masked Intruder

By now you know the colorful backstory behind the ski-mask clad, punk rock felons in Masked Intruder. They met in prison, are constantly being thwarted by their court-appointed chaperone Officer Bradford and got really, really hot playing in those masks on last year’s Warped Tour. What you may not realize is the scope of their musical tastes and abilities, facts that are undeniable when it comes to their third full-length, Masked Intruder III. While the Ramones remain to be a touchstone for the band, this album sees them implementing elements of classic American pop, Doo-wop and rock with sonic hooks so sharp it’s a wonder that Officer Bradford hasn’t confiscated them as lethal weapons.

For Masked Intruder III, the band – Intruder Blue, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Yellow – recruited lead producer/engineer Roger Lima (who also plays bass in Less Than Jake) as well as co-producer Mike Kennerty (who plays guitar in some band called The All-American Rejects) and recorded the album at Lima’s studio, The Moat House in Gainesville, Florida. “We became a big fan of Mike through the work he did with Direct Hit and he’s such a great person to work with and such a workhorse,” Blue explains (adding that whoever stole Kennerty’s MTV Video Music Award was definitely unaffiliated with Masked Intruder). “Obviously Roger is also such a natural, music is running through his veins, so recording and doing pre-production with those guys was really cool. When we got to the studio a lot of guitar parts and harmonies started pouring out and it was really about capturing the best moments for this record and making them as polished as possible.”

Correspondingly, like the eighties VHS movies that inspired Masked Intruder III‘s album art, there’s something both nostalgic and action-packed about this collection of songs, from the fuzzed-out pop perfection of “Mine All Mine” to the arena-rock riffing on “Please Come Back To Me” and Thin Lizzy-meets-Weezer grandiosity of “Stay With Me Tonight.” “A lot of these songs sound like they come from some other era of pop rock to me, which is what I like about writing music,” Blue explains. “I enjoy trying to come up with stuff that sounds like a classic.” While he admits that the level of musical diversity on the album is more evident than on 2014’s M.I., it’s a welcomed shift that shows the musical depth the four of them have developed as they’ve criss-crossed the country and honed the skills they needed in order to craft these timeless tunes.

Lyrically, Masked Intruder III is mainly about love or robbing banks – and in the case of “Just So You Know” it’s about both. However at their core, these songs are about are the universal need for human connection as experienced through love, heartbreak and an uncomfortable level of creepiness when it comes to personal boundaries (which is also a hallmark of many traditional love songs). The album kicks off with the band trying to beat rap on the upbeat, down-picked opener “No Case” and like the aforementioned movies that it was inspired by, Masked Intruder III ends on cliffhanger as the band are once again being taken back into custody. Will they escape? Will they ever find love? Do they ever wash those ski masks? The album leaves us with more questions than answers.

What is clear is the fact that the band’s debut on Pure Noise Records is their most infectious and fully realized album to date. With a list of musical inspirations than ranges from the Mr. T Experience and the Misfits to Boston and Journey, Masked Intruder III is the kind of album that would sound as apt in a basement as it would a packed arena. Speaking of which, the band are most excited to take these songs out on the road and perform them in all of their harmony-driven power for their fans this year. “Obviously we played these songs a lot in the studio, but there’s a whole other life that these songs get when we perform them live that makes them evolve in a totally different way,” Blue explains. “We are trying to get around the world as much as we can in 2019 to support this record because it’s fun and we are just really excited to see what happens to these songs when we have our crowd interacting with us.”

When it comes to Masked Intruder, it’s easy to let their unique backstory overshadow the music but Masked Intruder III proves that their songwriting chops are the real talking point when it comes to the band. “Our songs aren’t just about the feelings and situations that they describe but they’re supposed to hopefully help other people think about and reflect about their own situations,” Blue summarizes. Whether it comes to stealing hearts or wallets, Masked Intruder have upped their game on Masked Intruder III and it seems as if even Officer Bradford can’t hold them back, although we’re sure he’ll try.

TO BE CONTINUED…

If you’re surprised that Direct Hit Is dropping their second full-length in three years (with a killer split LP wedged in between), you might not be alone: The Milwaukee quartet’s third album, Crown Of Nothing, was largely constructed in the shadows, with little information of its creation being shared with the public. Frontman Nick Woods has a reason for that. “I feel like artists these days talk too much—myself included,” Woods remarks. “No one’s short on ideas, but very few put the work in to actually execute. So it was a deliberate choice to produce something and let the music do the talking this time around, instead of our collective ego.” The music of which Woods is referencing is his band’s new, 14-track collection Crown Of Nothing, which is Direct Hit’s most challenging, elaborate and downright catchy work to date—and it’s built around the idea that heaven and hell might very well be the same place.

“Crown Of Nothing describes the relationship between a vengeful angel, put to death by a demon she then torments in the afterlife for eternity,” Woods begins. “Day after day, for an unknowable amount of time, he wakes up, meets her again, and is systematically tortured and dismembered before being stitched up by a ‘heavenly’ host of characters and made to endure the same treatment upon revival. He deserves the punishment, and she deserves her vengeance, if heaven is indeed a place where righteous existence and tragic death is met with divine reward. But she eventually finds herself asking how meaningful that reward is in the face of infinite time—and that existential crisis eventually gives the demon the upper hand. Crown Of Nothing is about how the angel finds meaning in the afterlife beyond her vengeance, comes to terms with anger, and ascends beyond our human perception of death.”

Phew! punk rock’s come a long way since “Amoebaaaaaaa, amoebaaaaaaaa” hasn’t it? But just because the album’s concept is that deep and heavy doesn’t mean the music surrounding it is any less than top notch. Crown Of Nothing continues Direct Hit’s unique strain of “fuck you, get pumped” party punk they’ve been honing throughout their decade-long career. Album opener “Different Universe” has a killer new-wave vibe; “Pain/Boredom” is a guaranteed circle pit starter that evokes labelmates Pears; “Bad Answer” is loaded with fuzz bass, a disco beat and a sax solo that would make the Big Man smile from beyond the grave; “Disassemble” is so catchy, it could be something John Feldmann would write for Goldfinger and then sell to Blink-182. (There’s also a flute on the track.) Direct Hit pinballs from style to style over Crown Of Nothing’s 44-minute runtime, but it never feels schizophrenic—more accurately, it feels like the best mix CD ever. There’s a reason why no two Direct Hit songs ever sound quite the same, too.

“We all have very severe cases of musical attention deficit disorder,” Woods explains. “We don’t get bored of certain sounds—we revisit different records we all like, all the time—but it becomes easier to pick out what we don’t like about something when we hear it repeated ad nauseum. We’d all rather continue to enjoy what we enjoy rather than spoil it for ourselves. It’s tough enough that Direct Hit consumes so much of our time, as joyful of an experience as this band has been; we’d hate to ruin it and make it unfun if we felt obligated to write the same shit over and over and over again.”

The band returned to producer Mike Kennerty (Masked Intruder, Screeching Weasel), who’s captured just about every note Direct Hit has played in the past five years. That doesn’t mean the band was complacent in the studio, though. “Mike has done a really good job of teaching us how making different-sounding music doesn’t come from putting the first idea you have down on tape,” Woods says. “We tried to take that ethos to an extreme this time around. We deliberately worked in a way that made us uncomfortable, by giving up control of the process earlier on and not working toward a light at the end of a tunnel. It was a much more harrowing process than we thought it’d be. I can’t speak for the other guys in my band, but I learned a lot about how to deal with self-doubt, discovery, acceptance and identity by working on this record. I don’t know if other people are really going to think it’s any good, but I’m confident in saying that it’s at least different—and interesting.”

Final question, Nick: Is it sheer coincidence that an album about the problems of religion has a title that can be conveniently shortened to CON? “Sheer coincidence,” he admits. “I’m the product of 12 years of Catholic schools, and I have no clue whether God exists. I’m not an anti-religious person, though. You do what you gotta do to fall asleep at night—I don’t begrudge anyone that comfort. But don’t take yourself too seriously, because you don’t know the answer, not to anything truly important.”

The Young Rochelles

The Young Rochelles were born in Long Beach, New York in January 2013. The pop-punk trio has recorded several EPs including Cannibal Island, Know the Code, and Organ Trade, as well as various splits and compilation tracks - their latest release being a full-length CD/LP for Sounds Rad.

The band aims to deliver levity through short bursts that rarely pass the two-minute mark and remain in your head long after they've ended.

$16.50 - $20.00

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