It’s been almost a year since Death Stuff recorded the tracks for their debut LP, but despite the shelf time the self-titled record sounds fresh and focused. Much has been said about the band’s visceral live shows and gloomy lyrics, but instead of following recent post-punk and deathrock trends, the band co-opts punk history for their own nihilistic ends.
With 14 tracks running just a little over thirty minutes, there’s not a hint of excess amidst the grit and grime. The band may have set out to write a noisy punk record, but for an album which was tracked within in a day, it’s remarkably well-balanced. This ability to revel in complexity and chaos without blunting their attack was one of the factors which attracted Corey Plump of Spray Paint and Monofonus Press to the band. After Spray Paint played a show with Death Stuff in early 2016, Monofonus decided to release a tape for the band, which is now finally seeing the light of day.
Recently, I met up with the trio and talked about the new record, their branded hot sauce, and the odd satisfaction of putting a flyer that says “death stuff” up on the wall of the Earl.
How did the band meet?
Lloyd Winger (Bass, Vocals): Jacob and I knew each other since high school, and when we were in Lucy Dreams, Trevor was kind of a band dad because he was older, like maybe 20.
Jacob Armando (Drums): This is me and Lloyd’s first go at a punk band, and I also feel like this is the band that we’ve done the most with, in a short amount of time.
What’s the story with the Death Stuff Hot Sauce?
JA: I just was doing hot sauce because at the time we didn’t have any merch, and I had some extra chiles. It was a fun project that I ended up turning it into a hobby. But since then we’ve done pickled pepper and strawberries. It doesn’t sell but people think it’s fun and some people think it’s cool. We usually end up giving it away to touring bands. It’s actually in a couple restaurants now, like Savage Pizza, so people like it.
How did the darker sound on the new album develop? Was it intentional?
LW: We had words for what we were trying to do, but it evolved on its own.
Trevor Vick (Guitar): We just wanted to be a weirdo punk band and make a bunch of noise. Then we realized that we needed a drummer and tricked Jacob into it. We told him we just needed him to record a demo.
Is it ever difficult to find unique territory considering how trendy post-punk is right now?
TV: Yeah, it’s all been done and we’re not doing anything crazy. People always have bands they compare us with.
What’s the weirdest comparison anyone has ever made?
LW: Someone said I sound like Sid Vicious, but Sid didn’t even sing in the Sex Pistols.
TV: One guy said we have a real Ramones vibe.
LW: I think the math rock comparison is weird.
JA: Yeah, it’s been listed in almost every review of us, from Creative Loafing to Vice, really everywhere. It’s not a bad thing to be math rock, but I just don’t see it.
LW: Yeah, when people say that I think they mean to say that we’re not complete shit at playing our instruments.
TV: I think it has to do with song structures.
JA: Well, it’s not A B C A B C, but everybody does that now. Can you think of a band today that’s writing normal song structures without being just a pop group?
You do have some pretty weird things going on in the record, especially the interludes.
LW: The first one, we were out on this weird bridge by this suburban development by Panola Mountain, and we had these big sticks and were just rhythmically banging on this bridge and it was making all these cool sounds. It was really fucking loud.
TV: We just recorded it on an iPhone and [producer] Graham [Tavel] chopped it up and added guitar feedback and spooky synths.
LW: The last interlude, Trevor and I were just sitting in the bathroom surrounded by candles.
VT: It’s like that album Voice is the Original Instrument. It was recorded by this woman making all these weird sounds. It’s like 45 minutes long and it’s really every human sound imaginable.
So was it a conscious effort to sound weird?
JA: I was pushing to try new things, but as far as the actual sound, I don’t think we really had a discussion about the sound of the record as a whole. The record was all live, we recorded all the takes in about two hours.
TV: It came together really fast and then we decided to throw some weird stuff in because why not.
LW: When we were recording, we weren’t sure if it would be an EP or an album.
TV: We had plans to go back and record with Graham, but then we played with Spray Paint in February and the day after Corey emailed us and said we should send him some recordings.
JA: That was what lit a fire under our ass, and we were like somebody who could put out a record is asking us about stuff. We almost have a full record, so let’s make sure we do it.
How was recording with Graham Tavel, did he have any creative input for the record?
TV: He helped out with the added noise.
LW: As for the recording of the instruments, it was really just live. Not tracking over anything.
TV: And it sounds pretty good considering it was live-tracked in a basement.
JA: I’m very self-conscious of it. Some of the drum fills are noticeably off, especially to me. If I had just had another go, but it’s really not that big of a deal, we’ll record more.
TV: It’s alright if it’s a little sloppy. It’s punk.
Are you already writing new material now?
LW: We have a few new songs, two for the Chunklet lathe cut in April.
TV: We might try to do something where we put the tracks out from the lathe cut and add other tracks on an EP. We talked to Monofonus about re-recording them and then releasing it.
JA: We’ll probably try to set up another recording session with Graham in March. But we have this big release in April so I guess we don’t need to worry about it.
LW: But you know we’re going to record this and it’s going to take like six months.
There’s a perception now that Atlanta punk is stronger than it used to be, even more unified. Do you see that?
JA: It’s always been segmented, but not in a bad way.
TV: There’s just a bunch of different scenes.
LW: It’s one of those Atlanta things that’s never going to die.
JA: I think a lot of the bands are willing to work really hard right now. There’s just so many bands that I haven’t even heard, because we’re all super busy.
JA: It’s definitely broadened a lot.
Do you think Atlanta punk is getting more recognition nationally?
JA: That’s hard to quantify, but there are a lot of bands from Atlanta that tour a shit ton, but I guess that’s just word on the street. A lot of our promotion is personal. I’ll post on social media but nobody looks at it. So we just talk to people, and I guess that’s something cool about the punk scene today.
Even your success getting this album out is all based on word of mouth.
JA: Yeah, Monofonus Press really doesn’t put that much stuff online.
TV: Corey got us on Brooklyn Vegan and Noisey, so that’s been cool.
LW: Now maybe people will take us seriously even though we’re named Death Stuff. Like a year ago, we were on a poster at the Earl and I was just like, “We got ’em, now ‘Death Stuff’ is on the wall of a public place.” It’s so silly.
Where did the name come from?
LW: I was saying that if I was going to start a goth band it would either be Down to Frown or Death Stuff. And then Trevor said Death Stuff was a great punk band name and we were like okay, fuck it. We really just don’t take ourselves very seriously.
TV: Yeah, all our press photos have been bullshit. The one we sent to Noisey, we just stood as far away from the camera as we could.
JA: Obviously it doesn’t matter because they put it on their website.
TV: And Brooklyn Vegan put up just a picture of Graham walking.
JA: The music just has to sound alright and then you pair it with a silly picture and you’re good to go.
It’s interesting that both Vice and Brooklyn Vegan focused on the morose and morbid aspects of the band.
LW: If you’ve never met us in person or seen us play live and you just listen to our music, we could come across like that, because the music is pretty dark.
TV: The “everything is terrible and everyone dies” title they used was taken from our bio.
LW: Yeah, Brooklyn Vegan said something about us playing in a gutter, but who actually plays in a gutter? Because your equipment has to exist.
That article made y’all sound fucking dangerous.
LW: Yeah we’re so dangerous.
JA: We’re pretty nihilistic but we’re also very silly.
TV: It’s all just a satire of punk rock.
Death Stuff’s self-titled LP is out today on cassette and digital via Monofonus Press.