Premiere: ARMS, “Heat & Hot Water”


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Brooklyn trio ARMS (all caps, please) is the tasteful, affable, basement-brewed indie-pop guise of Harlem Shakes guitarist Todd Goldstein. Before breaking up in September of last year, Harlem Shakes was the buzz band du jour, full of TVOTR studio motorik, sunshiney harmonies, jaunty keys, and garage rock churn. But behind the scenes, Goldstein was busy crafting a darker animal. ARMS is decidedly moodier, sulking and soaring in reverb-soaked bursts, like Grizzly Bear covering late-’80s Cure, or Phosphorescent trading Johnny Cash’s black for Peter Murphy’s Bauhaus black. Their upcoming five song record, called the Arms EP, follows their 2009 debut with a five-song cycle that tells a story about relationships and monsters. “Heat & Hot Water” appears in the middle, Goldstein’s muted baritone cawing with intensity, his band perfectly mirroring his glacial changes in energy.

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ARMS frontman Todd Goldstein on “Heat & Hot Water”

What is “Heat & Hot Water” about?

It’s hard to explain in a nutshell, since all the new ARMS songs are continuations of each other, narrative-wise. You can lay them together, end-to-end, and make a semi-linear story. But suffice it to say that “Heat & Hot Water” takes place after the record’s protagonist and his girlfriend are expelled from a sort of post-apocalypse-type world, and find themselves home again in the suburbs. They think everything’s OK, back to normal until they realize that this beast has followed them back from the other world. Panicking, they stick it in the basement, and feed it to keep it docile. The couple starts fighting a lot, and the beast starts growing and changing. They whisper to it at night, telling it things about the other and trying to get it on their side, but the beast keeps getting bigger and stranger and more dangerous. And then things get really freaky.

What inspired the song and/or its recording?

This is the first song we wrote together as a trio. We had all this moody, weird material of mine that we were playing together, but we decided we wanted something that was both moody and a little more upbeat, so we hunkered down and out popped this thing. I was in the process of breaking up with my longtime girlfriend at the time, so I’m sure that played into the lyrics somehow.

What record has your favorite reverb sound of all time?

Scott Walker’s Scott 4 is my reverb bible. The song “It’s Raining Today”? Fuggedaboudit. That, and Arthur Russell’s “World of Echo,” which sounds like it was recorded in a terrarium full of ghost lizards.

Tell me how you approach ARMS different than Harlem Shakes.

Harlem Shakes and ARMS have always existed on two different poles. The Shakes was a carefully formulated group collaboration, where everyone’s voice had to be heard and every detail had to be fought over and decided upon until it was perfect. ARMS was all me, working alone in my bedroom and doing all that agonizing over songs by myself. Now that it’s just me and ARMS, I’ve turned the solo thingy into a three-person band, and it’s been a shockingly positive experience so far, given my past bands. It’s still my show, but all three of us contribute song ideas and filter it through my voice and frontmannery. It’s like I was doing before, only now I have the power of three excited, creative brains at my disposal instead of one insecure, kind of fatigued brain. A relief and a pleasure.

What’s been the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?

Selling out Bowery Ballroom with Harlem Shakes, the last show we ever played actually, was a solid end to what was ultimately a satisfying mini-career. Playing ARMS’ third-ever show at Terminal 5 with Passion Pit was pretty insane, too.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

The bagel place near the corner of Metropolitan and Graham. Ungodly tasty whitefish salad.

ARMS plays Pianos tonight with Choir of Young Believers. And on Saturday, Todd Goldstein plays solo at Le Poisson Rouge w/ Jarrod Gorbel aka The Honorary Title, 7pm, $12.

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