Upbeat songs, downbeat lyrics not a ruse
Retro indie rock seeped in inner contemplations is not the typical trope of a pop band’s debut album. Bent Shapes, who have already released a handful of 7-inch vinyls, tapes and undergone a name change (originally named Girlfriends) in their four-year existence, aren’t a typical pop band though.
Upbeat, jangly tunes and downbeat lyrics characterize Feels Weird, which comes out on Tuesday via Father/Daughter Records. Locally Amped chatted with the three-piece in advance of the album about growing out of the DIY scene… and how playing live shows reinforces existential crises.
Metro: So when did Girlfriends come together?
Ben Potrykus (vocals): That was in late summer of 2009. I had just finished a tour that I was in with another band and I wanted to do something else. I had met Andy [Sadoway, drums] playing in like a holiday one-off band — we were playing covers and stuff.
Metro: Girlfriends was definitely a mainstay in the Boston DIY scene. How have things changed since the police crackdown in April?
A.S.: There’s changeover, it’s a college town. There’s new kids and there’s new houses — and recently there’s been more of a crackdown on house shows.
B.P.: Alternative venues are really important to provide a space for people who might not have anywhere else to play. It’s exciting when bands continue to hang on to the motivation to play new and exciting spaces. At the same time, we don’t need to try to force our band on any of the kids in college now. The younger kids that have the energy to put on these shows and risk eviction or getting their shows shut down by the cops, they should book the people that they want to book.
Metro: Most of the songs off your upcoming album are re-recorded versions of previously self-released songs. How has that development shaped or changed them?
A.S.: Some of them are a little closer to the previous recordings. But there’s one on the record, “Bites and Scratches” — one of the first Girlfriends songs — and it’s totally different. We changed parts of it beforehand, but we really used the studio as a way of writing which we had never done before.
Supriya Gunda (bass): Some of them just needed to be put to bed properly.
Metro: You guys recently put out the single “Behead Yrself: Pt. 2” (streaming below). It’s a surprisingly upbeat song considering the title. What’s the story behind that?
B.P.: I can only write upbeat music and I can’t write upbeat lyrics. Andy and Supriya might be able to teach me some minor chords and then my form and content might match up, but until that happens people are going to be confused.
A.S.: That’s the juxtaposition of Ben’s music. I feel like that’s how life feels to me — there’ s a lot of stuff that’s less fun and you try to make sense of it by contextualizing it in a way that you can process… rather than wanting to die all of the time.
Metro: I’m sure that during your live shows, you’re not thinking about that, though.
B.P.: Thinking about dying?
S.G.: That’s probably the peak of existential crisis time. When those two drink tickets are gone, what else is there?
B.P.: You’re facing the firing squad.
A.S.: No, we have a good time.
B.P.: You can have a good time and think about death. The French term for orgasm is ‘petit morte,’ or little death.
Metro: A couple of years ago in an interview with the Weekly Dig, Ben called the Boston bands that remain in Boston the ‘original gangsters.’ Still a gangster, huh?
B.P.: We’re going to keep it gangster.
Listen to Behead Yrself: Pt. 2 and see Bent Shapes live on Sunday at Great Scott in Boston, 8/24 at Cake Shop and 8/29 at Silent Barn in New York.
This is part of a Metro Boston and New York music column called Locally Amped. Follow us on Twitter @LocallyAmped.