Meet Dub Thompson, A Punk Group With A Whole Lot of Soul
Attention, music critics: The jig is up. Dub Thompson reads your reviews and think you're full of shit. They believe you make up words—and subgenres—when you can't properly describe their restless blend of punk and garage rock. "That Pitchfork review was everything we wanted," Dub Thompson drummer Evan Laffer says of a write-up that rated the duo's debut album, 9 Songs, at 6.7. "It was sassy, it was sexy."
"Yeah," singer/vocalist Matt Pulos interjects. "I had to Google the word 'tutelage.'"
Released June 10, 9 Songs, is shifty, lo-fi, and bleak. It writhes with the same youthful agitation as Foxygen's 2013 breakthrough, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic—which, ironically, received Pitchfork's coveted "Best New Music" tag. Dub Thompson's album was overseen by Foxygen co-founder Jonathan Rado, who rented a house in Bloomington, Ind., in which Laffer and Pulos recorded 9 Songs on a diet of pasta, beer, and soda. "We woke up every day, hard-boiled eggs and stood on a porch," Pulos has said of the experience.
Dub Thompson is slated to play Black Cat's backstage tonight. In advance of the gig, I spoke with the California duo about its impressive debut album, the group's self-described blend of "trash music," and what they have planned for D.C. punks tonight.
Oh, and they did this interview while at the beach in Cali. They wanted me to tell you that.
WCP: What are people saying about the album so far?
Evan Laffer: People are saying that it sounds like other good music. They're like, "it sounds like other good albums, so I like this album." That's totally fine, I guess. They're like, "this album's great, but I'm waiting on the next one." It's been kind of a positive response, but mostly a lukewarm response.
Matt Pulos: Reviewers are like, "these guys have responsibilities."
EL: We're not the kind of artists who don't like to read reviews. I think we're pretty interested in what critics have to say. Every reviewer used a lot of terms—like 80 percent of the reviews use a lot of terms and descriptive adjectives that don't really exist. That was epic and cool, the fact that they had to make up words.
MP: The shit that the record makes people say says a lot about the record, maybe. They gave a fuck less than we do.
EL: Yeah, everything was, "oh, these guys are so young. Even though I didn't like some things about it, they're little kids."
What did you learn about yourselves while recording this album?
EL: The importance of nutrition. We also learned how to be super precious about the process of recording. At times, we just had to feel when things weren't absolutely perfect. We just had to press on and just keep recording. That kept us from getting too finicky.
MP: We learned how to remain neutral and not get too hyped. Things are gonna get in the way of what you think, because things are always gonna come between the idea and the realization of the idea.
How did you overcome that?
EL: If we did get caught up in that kind of thing, we wouldn't have made anything. We wouldn't have made a record at all. During this process, we knew that if we let a little thing catch us, and we got caught up on the drum sounding too fucked up on one song, we never would've made 9 Songs.
We talked about how others classify your music. How would you classify it?
MP: Trash music. It's like disposable punk. We call it "anti-glam." It's not a collage.
EL: Yeah, when people say it's a culmination of so many ideas, I don't think that's really true. We wanted to make each song its own planet. We try to give each song a sense of its own skin, teeth, and bones. Each song is like a different person. They all have the same DNA, but they're all individuals.
I read that the next album is gonna sound totally different. Is that still the case?
EL: It's the same band using a different tool. It's gonna be crispier.
MP: It's what everybody wants to hear, but no one wants to admit that they want to hear it.
EL: Yeah, we're making the perfect record. Us saying it's the perfect record, then you guys eventually hearing what we're talking about, you might get a sense of how fucked up we actually are.
How does the studio music translate to what you're planning to do live?
MP: The record kind of sounds like a tribute album to different sounds. [In our live show,] we'll sound like one band instead of multiple ones at once. The music is pretty urgent, pretty funky. It'll be a lot better with a capital B.
EL: Um? I don't know about better. Live, obviously, there's one entity that you're seeing doing all these songs. It'll be epic fun. We're forcing everyone to dance like it's an end of the world party jam.
Dub Thompson plays Black Cat's backstage at 8 p.m. tonight. Tickets $10-$12. 1811 14th St. NW. blackcatdc.com. 202-667-4490.