Normally, you’d be forgiven for missing an opening act on a midweek evening during a particularly packed month of live music.
However, if you have tickets to one of the two highly anticipated — and sold-out — shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks this week, we strongly recommended that you get there before the former Pavement frontman plugs in.
Lithics, an intriguing post-punk quartet from Portland, OR, will take the stage to offer up their primal and nuanced soundscape. And while their songs are full of sharp angles, Lithics is mysteriously danceable. Their new album, ‘Mating Surfaces’ (released May 25, 2018 on Kill Rock Stars) is a tightly-wound minimalist gem.
New Pulp City interviewed all four members of Lithics days before the beginning of their North American tour. They’ll be supporting the Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks tour throughout June.
While guitarist and singer Aubrey Hornor mixes deadpan vocal intensity with fierce and frenetic guitar playing, the real excitement of listening to and watching this band comes from the clear collaborative approach so evident among these four musicians. The airtight rhythm section of bassist Bob Desaulniers and drummer Wiley Hickson allows the frenetic and fiendish swirl of dual guitar work by Hornor and Mason Crumley to create an infectiously raw groove.
For those of you unable to get tickets to the Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks shows, you’re still in luck. Lithics will headline at Union Pool on Wednesday, June 13. And yes, tickets are currently available.
Lithics spoke about their influences, Stephen Malkmus, and their peculiar performance on a public access show in Portland.
Donny Levit, New Pulp City: It’s been about four years since you started playing together as Lithics. Before that, you were playing in different bands throughout Portland. Why do you think this particular group has stuck together?
Bob Desaulniers, bass: We have a good group dynamic with surprisingly little pettiness and drama.
Aubrey Hornor, guitar and vocals: I think we are all still excited about what we are working on and how it’s changed over the years. We also try to keep in mind that everyone has a life outside of the band and try not to be too demanding of one another’s time, which I think helps with longevity.
DL: Please tell us how this public access clip came about. It’s strangely addictive. Who are those amazing people behind you?
Aubrey: This person Ross Brackett emailed us to be on his public access show. We had never seen it before but thought it would be fun to not just perform on it, but bring a concept with us. I honestly don’t know how we got all those people to show up at the same time, but basically, we just thought of different tasks our friends could be doing behind us to add some visual interest, like applying hand sanitizer, cutting hair, painting, applying lipstick, etc. Not everything was completely worked out beforehand, we just said, “show up and bring a thing to do and if you don’t have a thing, we’ll give you one.”
DL: ‘Mating Surfaces’ is tightly wound, crisp, and airtight. Was the songwriting and recording process as uncluttered as the sound of the album?
Wiley Hickson, drums: Recalling the process of writing individual songs always starts to get a little blurry for us. Often the bulk of a song will spur out of a jam at practice or an idea someone had at home. We may spend several practices fumbling through an idea until it starts to take shape. Other songs might be kept fairly similar to some spur-of-the-moment messing around. Our recording process was also pretty similar to our first record. Our friend Evan Mersky, who recorded our last album, engineered this one as well. The process was fairly uncluttered in the sense that we didn’t use a bunch of extra tracks to layer up the songs. In general, we appreciate capturing the energy of a live recording.
DL: What happens to your songs when you perform them live? Do you they change or adjust as you tour? While “Excuse Generator” or “Specs” may stick closely to the recording track, I could see songs such as “Boyce” and “Dancing Guy” adjusting in performance.
Mason Crumley, guitar: I think any environment impacts how we perform, but mainly we are trying to play the songs as best we can in the moment more than match how it sounds on the recording. We definitely leave space for improvisation in “Boyce” and “Dancing Guy,” and I notice that other songs will fluctuate in tone or speed over time, but maybe not in ways that are that noticeable to other people.
DL: The album has echoes of The Fall, Wire, early Sonic Youth… I was reminded of my Atlanta years and hearing old Pylon records. What are some bands, albums or songs you like that may surprise Lithics fans?
Bob: The most interesting thing about post-punk as a movement or era was the concepts that informed it. It was almost a visual art process applied to rock music as raw material. The results from band to band were always different and inspiring. Wire, The Minutemen and Raincoats, to name a few, were all very conceptual and thought hard about how and why they made music. I think we were as influenced by that as we were by the actual sound of the bands.
DL: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks with Lithics is an exciting musical pairing. Your music is different, yet there are strong intersections as well. Do you see a connection between your sound and Malkmus’ guitar playing and songwriting (with either Pavement or the Jicks)?
Bob: I was and am a big Pavement/Malkmus fan. On the surface, we may not sound very similar but it was because of Pavement that I first sought out The Fall and Swell Maps, who are more direct influences. We are very excited and honored to be invited onto this tour.
Who: Lithics, with support from Straw Pipes and Gustaf
When: Wednesday, June 13. Doors at 8pm.
Where: Union Pool, 484 Union Avenue, Brooklyn
Tickets: $10-$12, available here
Who: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, with support from Lithics
When: Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. Doors at 8pm. Show at 9pm.
Where: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn
Tickets for both shows are sold out.