Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Now that Brooklyn loft-rock is leaning towards toward beach-y, garage-y, tape-damaged nostalgiasmush, we should thank the stars that Talk Normal have arrived to keep it ugly. The best thing to lurch out of BK noise-punk in years, Talk Normal take the Swans-iest tendencies of Liars and stretch them out for maximum syncopation, hypnosis, and unease. Guitarist Sarah Register pokes and slashes, pushing the These Are Powers dictum of “ghost punk” to even more haunting and slimy regions. Drummer Andrya Ambro plays skittery, tricky rhythms that pit-and-pat with mix of aggression and grace. Their debut LP, Sugarland, is out today on Rare Book Room Records; it’s like if Sightings tried to make a dubstep record, all bowel-loosening tones, 20 shades of grey, and voices poking out at you from the fog. “In A Strangeland” is one of the record’s catchiest songs, all PiL Flowers Of Romance pound mixed with good old fashioned New York noise–no surprise Talk Normal opened for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks earlier this month (they’re also set to open for Sonic Youth in November). The track’s stark video, directed by Pastor Alvarado and Genn Leong and premiering right here, is a performance piece that candidly shows the muscle behind the grit.
What is this song about?
Andrya Ambro: It’s about the kindness and coldness of strangers? Perhaps it’s about rejection or displacement. Or maybe the danger of not being present for others. To be honest, I was inspired after reading James Baldwin. He often incorporates the lyrics from classic blues songs in his writing. I wanted something simple that cut to the point.
Sarah Register: Often our lyrics are an amalgamation of words from the both of us, but for this song they’re all from Andrya, including the masked “senor”s that may or may not be audible.
What was the inspiration for the music?
Ambro: The Creatures were a conscious influence at the time–a minimal, driving beat that stayed stagnant yet huge. Also, the repetitive style of Brooklyn’s Knyfe Hyts was channeled.
How did you concoct the unique drum-beat here?
Ambro: It started with the brain. It’s only good if I can make it my own, and then I’m excited to play it. I have to get beats to this point. I have to be engaged.
Tell me about shooting this video.
Ambro: We wanted something simple. Something that showed how we do things live. No fancy themes, concepts, or plot lines. The footage is intense and unrelenting–two adjectives we get a lot. All live footage took place in the back room of a post house studio in Brooklyn. The staff there was on deadline and in for the weekend. We had to scream “DANGER!” so many times I think they’re desensitized to the warning call.
Register: The kitchen was stocked with spicy Doritos, Peanut M&M’s, and frozen eggrolls. Heaven. When the fogger was jammed and we weren’t getting enough smoke for some final images at the end of the day, a kind person came out of the woodwork and offered to smoke any ol’ thing, just off camera, and blow it into the shot.
What’s your most memorable New York show?
Ambro: Definitely opening for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Boss Hog.
Register: At the Teenage Jesus show Lydia Lunch turned to Andrya and said, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel uncomfortable, not me, not anyone,” which I thought was truly amazing.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Ambro: I like Souen–experimenting with a macrobiotic diet these days. That said, come to my kitchen. I’m getting pretty good in there.
Register: I’m in love with the food bar at Whole Foods. I just bike over the bridge and eat like a king for $5 or less. But, really in Brooklyn, I’m always fond of getting treats at Marlow & Sons.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2009