I received the request to premiere the debut EP from Atlanta shoegazers After Care somewhat at the last minute, and I had every intention of turning them down or putting it off to the future. But then I heard the the warm, emotive crush of “Swallow Pills” and quickly changed my mind. Recorded live at American Sushi Recording Studios by Aaron Hendrickson, American Sushi Sessions is a glorious maelstrom of finely textured guitars and moody songcraft that is fast becoming one of my favorite local EPs so far this year.
Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Lande, guitarist/vocalist Joseph McMichen (ex-Fox Wound), bassist/vocalist James Cramer (Nowhere Safe), and drummer Matthew Karoglou (Dropout), After Care initially came together in the summer of 2016 as a side project without any specific agenda. But as the group started practicing and writing their first songs, it increasingly became clear that they were connecting on both a personal and creative level. “When we first started playing I wasn’t too sure how it would pan out as far as focus,” admits McMichen. “Now it occupies most of my time and I couldn’t be happier with it. We call each other up multiple times a week to write together, brainstorm ideas, and just hang out. I genuinely feel as though I’m at my happiest when we are all together.”
Built on a familiar template of stormy fuzz, breathy vocals, and soaring melodies, American Sushi Sessions might be written off in some quarters as too comfortably reliable. But give it some time and you may discover an underlying tension here that grips you firmly, a dark, pensive gloom that is as thoughtful as it is beautiful. It’s a record that relies on tiny fluctuations and impromptu detours — a propulsive drum roll here, an unexpected chord change there — to carve out its unique path, but even when the band is content to thrust forward on a thick jetstream blur of guitar, the ride fells dauntless and unpredictable. Despite their ever-present heaviness, these songs don’t so much crush as they swerve and swoon.
Although the EP is meant to function as a sort of preview for a larger collection of music the group is working on, the band wanted to create a sense of unity for the three tracks that make up American Sushi Sessions. As such, the record is dedicated to David Lynch whose work maintains a strong influence on the group. “A lot of our music and themes in our music is inspired by his movies,” says McMichen. “The songs loosely act as diary entries in a weird way. They’re very personal feelings that all the members are trying to work through.”
“Depressing shit,” Lande elaborates, which while true, is only part of the story. The EP may have its lyrical roots in sadness and pain, but the music is too majestically sweeping and alluring to allow the listener to stay down for long.
After Care will perform tonight at a housewarming show for McMichen. Also performing will be Dropout and Nowhere Safe. Doors open at 8 p.m.