Music: Wired to Wow

Music: Wired to Wow

An interview with post-punks Merchandise

Touring new-wave band Merchandise stops in the Bay Area this week for shows in Santa Rosa and San Francisco.

By Charlie Swanson

Florida’s premiere new-wave misanthropes Merchandise make the most of their post-punk sound on the band’s latest album, A Corpse Wired for Sound. Shimmering guitars, dour vocals, electronic drum beats and a psychedelic synthesizer all combine for a sound that melts expectations and swirls with seductive sonic intensity. Currently touring the U.S. with Brooklyn rockers B Boys, Merchandise’s Dave Vassalotti (guitar, electronics) talks about the band’s roots and style.

Charlie Swanson: You guys formed in Tampa. What’s the scene there like and how do you fit in?

Dave Vassalotti: Tampa has a strong history of what I guess could be called ‘extreme music’ (death metal, thrash, punk, hardcore). That’s the stuff we all grew up on and what got us into playing in bands. As time passes, I personally feel more disconnected from any sort of scene. I’m on the fringes these days. Most people think we’re a British band anyway.

C.S.: You’ve been through several lineup and style changes since forming in 2008—how did you approach the new album?

D.V.: We tried the ‘full band’ thing for the previous LP (After the End) and, while it did work well in some aspects, it wasn’t as natural for us as we had expected. The new LP was cut in a similar fashion to how we did the old records; just lots of work on building the songs in the studio with little regard for how to play them live. Less cooks in the kitchen.

C.S.: Do you guys feel locked in sonically now? Or does the band continue to experiment?

D.V.: We’ve always tried to fight being locked into any particular sound, but it can be hard. We still have a lot of the new-wave/“Y’all sound like the Smiths” thing going on even though we try actively to avoid it. We want to move away from ‘songs’ in the traditional sense, but not in a knee-jerk reactionary way. It should all come from a natural development and evolution. We’re taking things slow.

Merchandise, Monday, June 5, Arlene Francis Center (99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa; 7pm; $10-$12; 707/528-3009); Tuesday, June 6, Swedish American Hall, (2174 Market St., San Francisco; 7pm; $13-$15; 415/375-3370).

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