Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Local sludgemos Drunkdriver make bleak, desolate blasts of nu-pigfuck that hearken back to the days of Jesus Lizard. Needless to say, they are one of New York’s best live acts, a barrel of knock-down, drag-out energy that comes in spurts: vocalist Michael Berdan sends his body into spasms, barking with the calming grace of a street-corner doomsdayer; guitarist Kristy Greene digs into her guitar like she’s burrowing from prison with a guitar pick; and Jeremy Villalobos hits his drums harder than pretty much any working drummer in Brooklyn. Their shows have resulted in more than a few pulled muscles, broken knuckles, and basement show fisticuffs. The band’s just-released second 7″, “Fire Sale” b/w “It Never Happened” (Fashionable Idiots Records) shows two opposing sides of the band–the A-side, a spazzy punkfuck monster cracking up like an AmRep demolition derby, the B-side, a lumbering wounded animal, limping along until it reaches its terrifying death throes.
What is “It Never Happened” about?
Michael Berdan, vocalist: That’s more than a bit embarrassing from my end. The lyrics to this song came about after the foiled assassination plot by two neo-Nazis of then-candidate Obama. It was close to the election and the general mood of the country was tense. I was–and still am–a fairly fervent Obama supporter, as were most in my immediate age, educational, and economic demographic. From the apolitical to the anarcho, those who would typically never rally around a person or movement such as this took up a kind of emotional arms in the hope that there would be some kind of a light at the end of the tunnel that was eight years of George Bush. The song is about how I would have felt had those two neo-Nazis been successful. It’s since changed to take on different meanings for me regarding false expectations and dashed hopes, but that was the initial inspiration.
What were you trying to do with the music here?
Berdan: We were trying to write a more spacious, empty song. The drums are repetitive and don’t waver much and the guitar is mostly drone and feedback. The only thing that really changes until the end of the song is the vocals. We really wanted to make something more claustrophobic that what we’d done in the past.
Why are you drawn to physical exertion as part of your art?
Kristy Greene, guitarist: Ha ha, art. Anyway, It’s kind of all or nothing with us. Why bother if you don’t go for it all the way? I almost feel like it’s some kind of old-fashioned American work ethic thing with us. There is nothing worse than going to a show and seeing people stand around looking anemic and bored, like they don’t want to be playing music.
Berdan: It really all depends on the show. I’m always exceedingly nervous before we play. The more on edge I feel, the harder I tend to exert myself. It’s important for me to project physically what’s going on inside of me.
At the Music Hall show, Mike got a very stern talking to from the sound guy. What happened?
Berdan: I had that talking to coming to me. At one point during our set I took the microphone and let it feedback against a speaker. I’m used to playing very small rooms and DIY spaces where this behavior is accepted, if not sometimes encouraged. This isn’t the case with larger venues. If there is a professional sound engineer on hand, that person will dislike me–if not the whole band–and vice versa. It’s become a semi regular occurrence with few exceptions. To be honest, I see why they don’t like me very much and I try to curb some of my behavior when I play these rooms, but it doesn’t always work out. I’m not trying to be deliberately antagonistic, but it might seem that way.
Jeremy Villalobos, drums: It only happens when we play places where the PA doesn’t belong to the soundman. Go figure.
Greene: I don’t think we have ever had a single show where we could actually hear Berdan for a whole set. Even at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which had the best sound system we’ve ever used, he managed to alienate the sound guys and get unplugged. Berdan eats microphones.
What’s the biggest misconception about your band?
Greene: A couple of times, people have been like, “I was totally afraid of you, I was afraid to talk to you.” But then I end up talking to them about kittens and lipstick or something.
Has anyone ever hurt themselves on stage?
Villalobos: I have fractured ribs and broken knuckles, but Berdan takes most of the beatings.
Berdan: I regularly take semi-serious falls, get punched in the face or hit with bottles, etc. At one show I threw out every muscle on the right side of my torso, from the bottom of my rib cage through my lower neck. That was a terrifying moment. I was afraid that i wouldn’t be able to play the same way again. Fortunately enough, I bounced back quickly.
Greene: I haven’t gotten hurt on stage, but once a 14-year-old boy elbowed me in the face while some other band was playing. I had a black eye for a month and I looked tough.
What’s been your most memorable New York show?
Berdan: The one that sticks out in my head the most is the collaborative set we played with [Basque noise musician] Mattin at Silent Barn in early January. The room was packed past capacity and there was a highly negative sensation radiating throughout. Mattin suffered a severe head wound–either from my microphone or from a flying bottle–and wandered around the crowd in a daze, wiping his blood on people and screaming. More than a few fights broke out. A large PA speaker fell down and almost crushed my friend who was in a walker. Another friend suffered whiplash from getting hit. It was a hard night and wouldn’t say it was our best show by far, but it sticks out the most.
Greene: Our first show was the most memorable, for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. This is my first band, so that was literally my first show. Ever. While we were playing there was some kind of short-out with my guitar, and it was crunching in and out. I didn’t know what to do, so I just played as hard as I could. I shredded up my thumb and it was bleeding all over my guitar… My friends were cheering me on like it was great.
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
Greene: I love eating in Queens… Roosevelt Blvd for Thai and Filipino. Flushing for Chinese. There’s a crazy fluorescent-lit mall basement with hot pot noodles, some lamb burger things. My roommate works at Diner, so Diner for breakfast… or dinner.
Berdan: My diet doesn’t extend much further than the realm of pizza. I live down the street from both Tony’s and Carmine’s and go back and forth between the two places. I eat like a 10-year-old left to his own devices.
Are you an emerging local band who has an upcoming 7″, MP3, or album? Are you not totally fucking terrible like 90% of the bands in this city? Then please send us an email at email@example.com. Links and YSIs only. No attachments please!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 8, 2009