Story / Mea Cohen
Photos / Jessica Gurewitz
Punk music has a long history of creating cultural shockwaves. In the genre’s heyday, every emerging band offered a new and ground-shaking sound. Somewhere along Punk’s trajectory that sensational excitement became base and commercialized. The scene became possessed by the architecture of rebel aesthetic. What started out as an anti-conformist movement of sound became a caricature of itself, an army of coat hangers wearing 1978 as a costume, an inflated setting for checkerboard sneaker promotion.
With their delivery of unapologetic garage chaos, New York-based Gnarcissists avoids this late cliche in their self-titled debut EP. Sonically speaking, the band’s sound is physical and unrestrained. Overdriven and distorted strings, fused with pummeling drums, craft a rough texture of dirty riffs. Taking cues from the best of the 80’s punk bands, the tracks are urgent and manic, clocking in at around two minutes each. Lead vocalist and lyricist Matthew Orr pushes a hot dose of riotous, sarcastic lyrics through a medium of raucous, guttural vocals.
“The band didn’t really know what I was saying in the songs until we went to record,” says Orr, “and that was after several shows and like six months of building a semi-comfortable dynamic and developing my voice in front of them. When that happened, it kind of shook me up again and I think the songs we wrote after became a bit more of a collaboration. I still think the lyrics are pretty personal to me and are an attempt to reflect what was going on in my life or head at the time, as silly as they may be.”
In October, Gnarcissists released their EP online and as a 7” record through their Bliss NYC 2018 imprint. The record will also be available in Japan and Norway, which Orr notes is “absurd and exciting.”
Consistent crowd pleasers include: “Fentanyl,” a thrashy and feverish number that teases with a false finish and reignites with renewed fervor, and the single “We All Just Wanna,” arguably the most engaging and candid song on the record singing, “we all just wanna live in New York City / We all just wanna get by / We all just wanna get high.” The EP in its entirety is a rowdy cyclone, and listeners will undoubtedly keep the record spinning.
Those who have had the grimy pleasure of experiencing Gnarcissists live can attest to the group’s gritty charisma. Those who haven’t can catch them in December at Elsewhere, where they’ll be opening for The Black Lips. Gyrating with visceral and vital energy, this band could incite a mosh pit at your family dinner table. Their unrelenting and reckless stage presence is truly all-consuming. Orr describes his performance mentality as an “adrenaline-fueled autopilot,” a state of uncompromised euphoria. That elation is a quick contagion, sure to infect a mass of ears on tours to come.
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