With a bevy of groups using their fondness of the C86 “sound” as an excuse to mask their barely there songs or shoddy musicianship in layers of distracting hiss and static, it’s refreshing to find a group that actually uses those sounds as a complementary accessory. On their full-length debut for Slumberland Records—a label that knows a little something about that storied NME compilation—San Francisco’s Weekend adorn their take on tried and true post-punk with bracing sheets of noise that could’ve come straight from the worked-over amps used by either Kevin Shields or the Reid brothers, a heady mixture that earned the trio plenty of good press and an opening slot on Wire’s most recent tour. Their upcoming EP Red eases up on the fuzz a bit, but not at the expense of what the band does best. This week, they’re hitting the town for two headlining dates at Glasslands (on Sept. 3) and the Mercury Lounge (on Sept. 4). We talked with Weekend singer / bassist Shaun Durkan last week about the new EP, his family’s musical pedigree, how to piss off a punk rock institution, and a certain up-and-coming indie-approved R&B act.
The new EP is a definite change of pace from your first LP. Is this just a stopgap release to tide things over until the next LP gets recorded, or the start of a new direction for the band?
I think we view the EP as its own release. A lot of bands release EPs that basically have a single and a bunch of B-sides and that’s something we didn’t want to do. We wanted to write & record something that sorta represented we all were as people & musicians. So, yeah, all of the songs were written in the past six months, post-Sports. I guess it is sort of where we are, but also a sign of things to come.
You used the same producer (Monte Vallier) for the EP as you did with Sports. Given the shift in your sound, was there a purpose behind not making a change behind the boards?
Well, it would’ve been easy for us to basically do the same thing that we did on the LP again, especially since we used the same producer. But I think we asked Monte to come on board again as a means of bridging the gap between the two releases. [We used a] similar approach to recording the songs, & obviously the same equipment,we recorded in same studio; we just had different goals for this EP. We wanted it to be a little more immediate, as far as the listeners’ experience. I think you get that in not only the production—you know, the quality of the recording—but also the content. I think it’s a little more confrontational, a little more direct. We could’ve taken any one of the songs from the LP & just remixed it, basically, and it would’ve sounded like a new release. The LP had such a definitive, really heavily directed sound, as far as what we were going for. We just really wanted to take to the next logical step, which was stepping out of the haze a little bit.
Your dad was the singer in an ’80s post-punk band, Half Church. How did you find out about your dad’s musical past? Was it something he kept secret from you?
As far as I can remember, it’s always been a huge part of my understanding of him. Ever since I was a kid, he would play me records, & give me records, and he bought me my first guitar. Music & performing was always a part of my relationship with him, so it was definitely never a secret. I have live videos of him playing & stuff like that. I think it was something he was proud of, and I certainly am now. [ED NOTE: Vallier played bass in Half Church.]
How did your tour with Wire earlier this year go? I saw you guys in Boston, and you both sounded great.
Thanks; that was a frantic show. I think we showed up about an hour late, and then an amp blew up on stage, so that was a bit of an odd show.
Really? It did seem like there was more of a “wall of static” thing happening than I expected. Was that because the amp blew?
Yeah, probably. (laughs) Touring with Wire was cool. That was our first step into the “professional” touring world—we had a tour manager, a merch guy, a sound guy. And obviously Wire’s been doing that for over 30 years now, so it was a really quick introduction, because we basically had to get with the program really quickly. So there were some stumbling moments, like when I borrowed [Wire bassist] Graham [Lewis]’s bass rig and didn’t set the settings back, and he got up on stage and sounded all fucked up. (laughs). That was the first night we played with them. He came upstairs in the venue in Edinburgh & chewed me out in front of everyone. It was a pretty memorable moment. (laughs)
Did he seriously chew you out, or did he do it in a joking manner?
No, no, seriously. He was like, “the next time you borrow something of mine, give it back the way you borrowed it; you really fucked me up tonight.” Yeah, so there were a couple of those experiences, but overall it was positive. We all ended on a good note. We’re really thankful for them taking us on tour.
Did they give you any advice, other than, “Don’t fuck with our shit?”
(laughs) You know, we didn’t do a whole lot of talking. It was just at the venue, before the show … I’m not the right guy to talk to; Kevin had a few more conversations with Colin [Newman] & Graham. I learned a lot in general about being a touring band, and what that requires, and obviously what not to do in certain situations. (laughs)
Given that The Weeknd have made a name for themselves this year, have you had to deal with folks confusing Weekend with them?
(laughs) We’ve definitely joked about him doing a remix of one of our songs; I think that would be really great. But I think most of the confusion gets intercepted before we see it. I know our old PR guy would get emails all the time asking about The Weeknd. I think there’s a lot of confusion as far as people inquiring about it, and there’s all sorts of mistagged YouTube videos and all that shit. (laughs) If he’s interested in really confusing people, tell him to e-mail us and we could work on some stuff together.