Dance-rock five-piece Controller are a unique breed in the darker-by-the-day Brooklyn indie-rock scene. Their music splits the difference between pure-fun guitar pop and distorted, garage-tinged shredding, occupying a sweet spot that’s been left empty on the DIY circuit as similar outfits move up to the big leagues. It’s a space Controller fill easily, with big hooks and driving beats more complex than their catchiness would suggest.
In their new single, “Flame,” Controller address the grown-up angst of confronting your own maturity when you still have some spirit left. They deftly parse a paradox common to New York’s brand of delayed adulthood: How do you move through the world when you’re too young to give up completely but too old to be blindly optimistic? The globe continues to turn, so if you stay in your apartment for two weeks thinking about it, no one will probably notice, but don’t feel too sorry for yourself about it. As this peppy cut goes: “Fuck, that’s life.”
The track has the kind of soaring power-chord guitar riffs we associate with guilty-pleasure pop-punk, but a fuzzy, grimy edge keeps things in the more mature territory the lyrics cover. There are still glimmers of Fall Out Boy (don’t lie, you love/loved them, too), but the band sheds such whiners’ glossy simplicity in favor of a roughed-up one, paying dues to a more carefree sound and successfully forging their more-evolved own. Despite all of its depth, “Flame” is still a big summer singalong. You can ignore the more philosophical lyrics when you just need some instant joy.
What Controller have to say about “Flame”:
“?’Flame’ is about how easily a boring, uninteresting life can sneak up on you, and when you finally realize all the compromises you’ve made with yourself, it’s too late. It’s like a rousing battle anthem to do something interesting with your life that’s arrived five years too late to do anything about it. Or like running into that dude we all know who just wishes his friends could all hang out again like they used to before people grew up and got real jobs and had kids.
“We always thought this song kind of sounds like someone covering ‘Boys of Summer’ in the Port Authority bathroom. It’s got this over-the-top pop hook, but it’s also sort of deranged and weird….and that unpredictable combo of scuzz and pop is what we’re all about.”
Listen to “Flame” below:
Controller’s new EP drops on September 1, and their residency with Surrender the Spirit at Pianos runs July 7–July 28.