Trying to pin a label on Atlanta’s Crispin Wah is pretty futile. You can surmise their brand of instrumental rock as psychedelic, but even that is just a characterization of the temporal-fold-shift feeling that resonates from guitarist Monochrome Sweatsuit and Se’nam Palmer’s loops sounding like anything but guitars.
Last year, When the band released their double debut album, Mineral Mountain One and Two, they created the label ‘shredgaze’ to define their sound. Since then, the group has stuck with the term, even going so far as to use it as a type of umbrella or ethos that all of the members’ solo work is housed under.
Recorded on two separate trips at a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains, Mineral Mountain One was not only the first time the band recorded, but that they actually played together. While Monochrome Sweatsuit, percussionist King Fractal, and bassist Bruther Brown had played together in the hip-hop project iNDEEDface, no one had a master plan on what would come from the tucked away recording session with Palmer and keyboardist Loud Loyd.
After recording, Fractal and Brown got to work on the production, treating the recorded loops like recently discovered stems. The result is truly unique — and quintessentially Atlanta — as hip-hop shines as the founding DNA to each song’s journey.
We caught up with Monochrome Sweatsuit and Bruther Brown as the band was rehearsing for their first live show (slated for early May at 529) to find out more on how they will translate such quick, ADD-centric songs into a live format.
You describe the music of Crispin Wah as shredgaze. How do you define that term?
Monochrome Sweatsuit: One of the things that I can definitely say is true: the further we move forward and the more music we are making, shredgaze is the blanket term for the sound that we are making that doesn’t fit into other scenes. You can take elements of what we’re doing and they can vive with the psych scene and they’d probably dig it. A hip-hop crowd, they’d probably dig it. If you solely put us in one of those categories, we wouldn’t fit in necessarily. We’re kind of outsiders a little bit. When we’re playing moments that we’re excited to play — that’s a shred moment. It doesn’t mean that someone has to be playing a Steve Via (for the love of God) guitar solo on stage for it to have a shred connotation. It’s not really about that. It’s more about an attitude.
Bruther Brown: It’s like how you’re obsessed with pedals. Someone can be like, “Oh, you play shoegaze.” But you’re way farther than that. You’re in the shred category, but you’re not even in that category. It’s the perfect mesh of someone being obsessed with hardware and still being at the level to play as all these metal guitarists. Just not playing metal.
How do you see the collective concept of shredgaze. Is it just Crispin Wah members or does it branch into something further?
BB: It is essentially gonna be an Odd Future but not hip-hop. Wu Tang, but not hip-hop. We’re using that formula. We’re at this beautiful time in music where you might not like all of it, but guys like Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert are the new rock stars. They’re the ones selling out these huge shows and the music is not even there essentially, but people fuck with the brand so hard that they’re going to go to all these shows. We’re just trying to ride that wave.
Mineral Mountain One was the first recording session as a band. Going in were there any concrete ideas that were being worked on, or was this closer to an experiment?
BB: It was supposed to be us four originally. Lou wanted to go along to observe and do art. Anything we do, he’s doing the visuals for. He was petty much coming along to get inspired and start drawing. We rented this cabin that was not what we expected.
MC: Like you could get murdered there. It was behind a hill. Think about that for a second.
BB: The rest of the crew had met Se’nam that same day. That was how we went into it. Never played together. Fractal set up his drums on the first day; we were going through Garage Band. One solid wav form. We didn’t even split everything up. We don’t know what we’re doing…
MC: But the ambition was there. The energy was strange, but I knew we had accomplished something at the end, but I wasn’t sure what. We had this looming feeling that we didn’t get shit done. So we went back to Atlanta, said goodbye to Fractal and Lou, and I flew back to Colorado. A little time went by and [Bruther Brown] sent me a clip, and it totally blew my expectation of what I was expecting to get back.
How do you approach doing these songs live? Most of the songs are under three minutes and feel closer to heavy, layered tag music for a TV show.
BB: Essentially we’re deconstructing the song from a live standpoint and adding in these big blocks of really interesting things to tie everything together. So it’s not like, “Ah, shit this is grooving!” for 30 seconds and then it’s an outro. We’re going to make it more listener friendly. Really just an experience adding in these nice chunks to make it nothing like the record. Everything seems to come back to creating stems and making an album out of that. [Then] taking those same stems and making a live set around them. So the harmonic content will be similar but everything else will be different. So if you really like the album, you’ll like a little bit of the show.
The first two sessions ended up with a double album. Is the third album going to be released in parts as well?
MC: That’s a really good question because we’re doing more on it right now. It’s unclear how many will be on the final chopping table. What I will say is we are probably prepared to make as much content as if we are preparing to do another double side.
Even with the term shredgaze, describing what the band sounds like is a fun challenge. What are the stranger ways that you’ve heard your music described as?
BB: If Parliament was spun and mashed up through a Funkmaster Flex set.
MC: What I hear a lot… I think a lot people don’t want to offend us trying to draw comparison, so they’ll be like, “I could see this in a movie.”