The Noisecore Warmth of White Suns


Improvising savant Weasel Walter is a magnet for bustling action: terrorizing local venues with his gazillion slickly self-categorized projects (the Flying Luttenbachers are “brutal prog,” while “punk jazz” suits No Mor Musik) and using his label ugEXPLODE mostly as an outlet for his own records, which he trumpets as the few things worth a damn.

Now he has at least found other people to praise. Brooklyn’s White Suns modestly describe themselves as “three tall, thin, white guys” (per vocalist/guitarist Kevin Barry), but the trio’s violently intense mixture of noise, No Wave, and hardcore is so diabolically dirty and singular that Walter has invented a new term for them, too: “noisecore.” Drummer/electronics annihilator Dana Matthiessen is fine with that, actually. “I’ve always struggled describing White Suns,” he explains over PBR at Willamsburg hole Subway Bar. “But ‘noisecore’ is fine. Weasel needed to call us something.”

A troika of goofy misfits who cooked up White Suns half a decade ago in the bowels of Connecticut while cruising the streets with the Luttenbachers’ 2004 record The Void blaring from the car stereo, it’s a given that these noise-benders (rounded out by guitarist/fellow electronics annihilator Rick Visser) are psyched to have landed on ugEXPLODE for 2011’s inaugural noise-bleeding, face-melting salvo, the Ben Greenberg–recorded Waking in the Reservoir, after only a couple cassettes and a slew of gigs. Barry credits NYC’s annual noise-rock bacchanal, No Fun Fest, as an inspiration. “No Fun was the basis of our reason to form a band,” he says. “But when you watch noise live, not much goes on. For me, that was a bummer. Hardcore and punk had a physical experience noise sometimes doesn’t have. But at the same time, there’s total disregard of all musical rules in noise you don’t find in hardcore and punk. Those are the two elements of those two disparate genres that we try to put together, and going to No Fun Fest solidified that basic idea.”

Regardless of the drunken euphoria greeting the release of their debut slab, it’s not all happy-go-lucky: Reality sets in via the record’s maniacal aggression, thick-assed discordant crashes, and trapped-in-a-coffin screams. These dudes don’t fall into the trust-fund-kid bracket: They’re juggling odd jobs and facing unemployment. Barry can’t fathom the scene. “We live in a country where George W. Bush got elected twice. Nothing more needs to be said about what people can be upset about. I don’t identify with the shut-your-eyes-and-pretend-nothing-is-happening mindset, like the chillwave bullshit going on right now. We live in NYC, where there’s homeless, people facing tough times making ends meet, and the economy is shitty. For someone to sit in their room and make bedroom pop music that isn’t about anything outside of some girl who doesn’t like them, I think that’s irresponsible when you have a large audience.”

Despite the brazen jargon and pent-up anger vented through their music (Matthiessen chalks it up to “a generalized hatred of society rather than a specific political group”), don’t mistake White Suns for Dischord-style activist punks. Before Walter scooped them up, their goal was just to get something out on vinyl; now they joke about hiring an intern to ease Visser and Matthiessen’s multitasking. “Dana is essentially doing two things at once with the electronics and the drums, and so am I, fucking with feedback loops and noisemakers,” says Visser. “That’s four musicians right there.” Matthiessen offers a solution: “Maybe we can get a No Age–style extra guy that just hits the buttons for us.”

Despite White Suns’ bass-less blast and their hankering to root out the “beachy joy” bastards, Barry is not above lightening up, albeit briefly. “I hope people like us,” he says. “There’s a certain pleasure we get out of antagonizing an audience and being loud. But at the same time, it would be nice to sell a couple records. We’re not trying to fail, but to bring our music to more people. . . . It sounds weird saying that. Forget it.”

White Suns play Death by Audio with Sightings on January 28

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 26, 2011

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