Brooklyn indie rockers Crying have a couple things working against them. First, there’s the matter of that moniker. “People call Crying an emo band because of the name,” says guitarist Ryan Galloway, adding that they tend to be lumped in with Modern Baseball, Basement, and Mewithoutyou, other sensitive guitar acts on the same label, Run for Cover. (“There are a lot of sad men on Run for Cover,” Galloway jokes.) Then there’s the fact that Crying are best known for using Gameboys as instruments in their songs, which screams “novelty act.” But with their debut album, Beyond the Fleeting Gales (out today), Crying have become an altogether different-sounding — and gimmick-free — band.
Founded in 2013 at SUNY Purchase, Crying released two EPs the following year — Get Olde and Get Olde/Second Wind — both of which employed Gameboy samples loud in the mix. Because the trio used vintage video game sounds, Crying have been categorized as a so-called chiptune band, though that wasn’t their original intent. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘I want to be in a chiptune band,’” recalls Galloway, who programmed the Gameboy. “I was thinking, ‘I want to be in a band. I don’t know anyone who is good at keyboard, this [Gameboy program] is like $100, and you can just press play.’”
But on Gales, Crying have abandoned Nintendo’s handheld device altogether. “I started to make Gameboy music again [after the EPs], and then one day I had this sound in my head that I was trying to make on Gameboy, and it just wasn’t working,” Galloway explains. “Crying is my only outlet for music, so why should I not try to do all the things that I want to do? Why should I keep a rule that’s like, ‘You must only use Gameboy no matter how painful that is?’”
Today, Crying are a chaotic power-pop group. “That’s kind of a theme of the record, going back to go forward,” says singer Eliaza Santos, addressing the sonic shift. “‘Gales’ is a word that I’ve used that goes in two directions: wind or the sound of laughter. There’s a lot of transience on the record because we’re at a transitional point in our lives.”
She’s referring to her band’s new sound, but also hinting at something much more personal. One of Santos’ favorite new songs, “Origin,” was inspired by two intimate graphic novels by women. “The track is directly influenced by Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? and one panel in [Marjane Satrapi’s] The Complete Persepolis where parents are like, ‘This is how it works: Parents take care of their children until they’re old enough to take care of themselves, and then they take care of us.’ All of the songs are — because I’m obnoxious — reflections on myself, but they’re universal.”
Run for Cover founder Jeff Casazza thinks all this change has made Crying – whose lineup is rounded out by drummer Nick Carbo of Sub Pop act LVL UP – not so much a different act than a just plain better one. The chiptune element, Casazza insists, “didn’t really define the band as much as Elaiza’s vocals or the quality of songwriting, or Ryan’s guitar playing.” As evidenced by the new album, he says, “the Gameboy wasn’t something they relied on or needed.” Still, there are some sounds that harken back to the EPs; the fierce bleeps and bloops of “There Was a Door” could be mistaken for Nintendo tech, but are actually synth sounds programmed using Apple products.
Catch Crying Tuesday, October 18, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on a bill with Joyce Manor and The Hotelier. You’ll see what Galloway describes as the band “we were always supposed to be.” And expect to hear those chiptune recordings reimagined for 2016. “When we play the old songs live,” he says, “it’s really a rock show.”