LVL UP, Dude York, Turtlenecked – Tickets – Star Theater – Portland, OR – September 21st, 2017

LVL UP, Dude York, Turtlenecked

True West Presents at the Star:


Dude York


Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Star Theater

Portland, OR

$12 ADV / $14 DOS

This event is 21 and over

͞Hidden Driver,͟ the opening track of LVL UP’s third album and Sub Pop debut Return to Love, never stops moving. What starts with unassuming guitars and vocals adds new lines, depths, and intensity, until its unrestrained, triumphant finish. ͞God is peeking, softly speaking,͟ repeats the chorus, working through the relationship between spirituality and creative inspiration, and introducing a band that is always pushing further.LVL UP -- guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin -- is a true collaboration, a band that takes the stylistically distinct ideas of four members and brings them together into something new. Caridi, Benton, and Corbo write and sing equally, bringing their work to the group to be fully realized, resulting in an album built on different perspectives but a common drive. ͞We have very different inspirations across the board,͟ says Benton, noting his own admiration for the writer and documentarian Astra Taylor, Corbo’s interest in the mystical and the occult, and Caridi’s attention to personal storytelling. The music itself grows from a shared melodic and experimental sensibility, as well as a nod to iconic influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie. But each songwriter has a different vision every step of the way, and there isn’t always alignment--it shouldn’t make sense, but in the end it does.LVL UP was formed in 2011 at SUNY Purchase as a recording project between Caridi, Benton, and their friend Ben Smith, with the original intention of releasing a split cassette with Corbo’s then-solo material. They instead released that album, Space Brothers, as one band, and Rutkin joined shortly afterwards for the group’s first show. Smith left the band for personal reasons just before the release of second album Hoodwink’d, a joint release on Caridi and Benton’s label Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound. DDW also put out records from other artists in the tight-knit community that launched the band.͞There's not really a town associated with the school, so there's no bar or club that you could go play in easily,͟says Corbo. ͞But there was a student center on campus that was all student run. That was a great place to play, and also take care of a lot of practical issues like a place to put your stuff and a place to practice weekly. It was almost like an incubator situation for us and a lot of other bands -- it gave us a little bit of experience and confidence, so it wasn’t as scary when we decided to go on tour for the first time.͟Also part of that university community was Return to Love’sproducer Mike Ditrio, who mixed LVL UP’s previous records and ͞was basically a fifth member of the band,͟ says Corbo. ͞He played a huge role in developing the sound, without butting in too much. He also navigated our personal dynamic really nicely.͟That sound is marked by reverb, harmony and tape distortion, with a keen balance of pop and experimentation. From the fast yet flowing lines of ͞Blur͟ to the all-consuming wall of guitar in ͞The Closing Door,͟ each song pushes and pulls in compelling, unexpected ways. There’s deliberation as well as spontaneity -- the latter developed with the help of a song-a-day project, which pushed Caridi and Corbo to write and record full songs in a single day. Some of that material, including ͞Naked in the River with the Creator,͟ made it onto the album.
Dude York
Dude York
Dude York͛s Sincerely opens with a blast—the massive opening chords of ͞Black Jack,͟ a squealing track that blends the swagger of glam with the heavy riffing and ringing hooks of arena rock. The Seattle-based trio—Peter Richards on guitar and vocals, Claire England on bass and vocals, and Andrew Hall on drums—is announcing itself with an album that couches its themes of anxiety and eroding mental health in rock tracks that amp up the sweetly melodic crunch of powerpop with massive distortion and bashed-to-heck drums. Sincerely is a loud, sweaty rebuke to those moments in life when it seems like nothing͛s working, a testament to the power of friendship, staring problems directly in the face, and finding solace in art. Richards, England, and Hall have been through a lot during their four years of playing together, and tracks like the speedy, dark ͞Paralyzed,͟ the Creedence-echoing ͞Twin Moons,͟ and the frustrated yet ebullient ͞Something in The Way͟ combines lyrics that play on the trio͛s travails with jumpy, riff-heavy distorto-pop. England handles lead vocal duties on the zinging kiss-off ͞Tonight͟ and the slowly grinding ͞Love Is,͟ the first time she͛s done so on a Dude York record. ͞Times Not on My Side,͟ an intimate farewell note sung atop jangling acoustic, caps the album. A first pass at a home-recorded version of Sincerely led to the band being told that there was ͞drywall in every piece of [the record],͟ says Hall, and they had to go back to the drawing board. Longtime Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill producer John Goodmanson and JR Slayer (aka The Blood Brothers͛ Cody Votolato) helped Dude York craft a record that captured the energy of their live show while finding new ways to expand upon its ideas. The band͛s thoughtful approach to putting together Sincerely͛s songs echoes the album͛s overarching themes of almost-punishing inward focus. ͞I feel like it͛s about losing perspective—a spiraling-inward perspective despite what may be ready support networks around you,͟ adds Richards. ͞It͛s like, ͚I don͛t need anybody͛s help. I should be able to do this myself, because it͛s just, like, living.͛͟Bringing England͛s straightforward drawl into the mix underscores that idea, and its contrast to Richards͛ excited yelp heightens the tension on Sincerely, a chaotic, yet ultimately triumphant album that͛s a vital tonic for these increasingly confused times. ͞Your back͛s against the wall,͟ says Richards, ͞so all you can do is fight.
With Vulture, Turtlenecked's Harrison Smith has created a beautiful art punk album that
envelops listeners in a world of manic romanticism. The first track, “Boys Club,” the apogee of Vulture,
begins with delicate harp and harmonizing, building to staccato yelps that are ultimately interceded by the
strained, but still melodic screams of Smith, decreeing his effeminacy and disgust with other bands’ toxic
masculinity. A pseudo-self awareness that, coming from a 20 year old, should be insufferable. But,
regardless of if it’s Smith’s prolific nature, his undeniable musical ability or the standalone catchiness of
the songs themselves, there’s something about Turtlenecked that makes any lyric or musical composition
nearing self-indulgence or bourgeoisie instead steer into charming and charismatic territory.
Even the hardest elements of the album (histrionic vocals, harsh guitars, images of death and
despondence, cacophonous drums) are cut with sweetness and pop melodies, giving the impression that
Smith is using hysteria to feign a much deeper melancholy and a multi-faceted emotional competency he
may not even be aware of owning. “I like music that’s accessible and fun....” Smith says, in the same
breath condemning “happy albums.” This dichotomy is ever present on Vulture, both sonically and
thematically. Smith moves from Big Black-esque severity, singing of wanting to “black out and sleep in
my vomit” while using another song, one twee and simple, to wonder “am I the only one who wants a
movie romance?” The movement between Smith’s perpetual disgust and tender optimism is seamless, as
is the change in sound track by track. Smith’s influences are genre spanning, but the album sounds
holistic and jointed—even on more experimental tracks like the 6 minute long dance song sung from the
perspective of a serial killer.
As Smith grows, so does Turtlenecked. Despite being recorded entirely in Smith’s living room,
Vulture sounds big, theatrical and developed. Keeping the post-punk sensibility and texture heard on past
releases, Smith has removed any blemish from his sound without losing his edge or delight in the abject.
On “Boys Club” Smith sings of his “delusions of grandeur,” but the only thing diluted about Vulture and
Turtlenecked is that statement itself. The album is an ambitious, compassionate work of baroque and roll
that further asserts Turtlenecked as an ever growing entity, one very much deserving of attention.