Download: Cleanteeth, “Collision Specialist”


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

Brooklyn avant-metal crew Cleanteeth are a fascinating mush of at least a dozen colors of abrasive. The sludge-pop soar of the Melvins and the misanthropic distorto-angles of ’90s AmRep goons like Hammerhead have long been lurking in similarly minded local metal bands like Made Out of Babies and Hull, but Cleanteeth up the ante with an ear for bursts of pure, unfiltered noise. Guitarist James O’Brien is no stranger to the stuff–he did time in long-standing experimental scuzzbeat crew Destructo Swarmbots, and injects songs like “Collision Specialist” with ear-scraping dollops of formless electronic misanthropy where a lesser bands would put a guitar solo. With the lineup filled out by bassist and vocalist Johnny McKinney (of North Carolina art-spazz crew Manhattan Project) and drummer Greg Collins (of–no shit?–art-funk stalwarts Radio 4), Cleanteeth are a deadly mix of meticulous aggression and the light, dreamy touch of O’Brien’s heroes the Cocteau Twins. Brendan Tobin of Made Out of Babies recorded a handful of songs in his Park Slope bunker, including “Collision Specialist,” showcasing a band who’s less about complicated riffs and more about finding unique ways to unpack them. “In a nutshell, we are all about tone,” says McKinney. “So when it comes to playing shows, we usually bring as much gear as we can manage, plus using house gear so we can ‘go big or go home.’ Our first show ever, we had three guys in the band and four full stacks on stage. It ruled.”

Download: Cleanteeth, “Collision Specialist”

Q&A: Cleanteeth

What is “Collision Specialist” about?

James O’Brien, guitarist: [Laughs] It’s actually about Dale Earnhardt. I got the idea when I was driving out to Queens one day to hang with my family. While motoring down the L.I.E. I saw one of those big old flatbed tow trucks with a gaudy paint job that said ‘Collision Specialist’ on it. I thought to myself that would be a sweet-ass name for a song. Johnny and I sat down and wrote up some lyrics that were inspired by that fateful day in which Mr. Earnhardt crashed. The lyric process came quite naturally to Johnny during this–after all, he is from the south.

What can you tell me about the noise breakdown in the bridge?

Johnny McKinney, bass and vocals: Really, we like to take steps away from formal song structures and dive into more abstract places. That particular part in the context of that song kind of fits in with the lyrics. It alludes to tones of things like tires screeching and glass shattering in a frenzied manner that starts off as pure chaos and slowly comes back to form as the ending to the song… Just kidding–we just like noise.
O’Brien: Yeah, what he said. Making noise is sort of my only role in the band.

What non-metal song released in 2010 has your favorite chorus?

O’Brien: That’s’ a really tough one. Either “Melody For Jaana” by Serena Maneesh or “Round and Round” by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
McKinney: “Modern Drift” by Efterklang.
Greg Collins, drums: “Heartbeat Song” by The Futureheads.

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

O’Brien: Union Pool with Dark Vibe and Colossus, I love that space. The stage is great, the sound is good–which is a rare thing in New York since CB’s closed–and that room is the perfect size for a show.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

O’Brien: Collectively, we all love Asia Dog, those hot dogs are amazing… but individually, La Superior.
McKinney: Pies and Thighs, obviously.
Collins: Caracas Arepa Bar.

Cleanteeth are no longer on the bill of the excellent Brooklyn Vegan/1000 Knives showcase at Cake Shop tonight. But Landmine Marathon, Salome and YIMBY veterans Batillus will all be there–so you should go anyway!

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