“Let Us Have Madness Openly”: LUNCH Interview and Review!
LUNCH is a damn good postpunk band from Portland, Oregon that, like a lot of the best bands in the postpunk scene nowadays, has a direct tie into the underground DIY hardcore/punk movement. PDX has especially been ahead of the curve in this regard, what with formerly hardcore bands like The Estranged, Deathcharge, and garagey punk bands like The Observers paving the way last decade for other bands to look back to the postpunk, UK “positive punk,” and American deathrock scenes of yesteryear for inspiration for novel ways to move forward.
LUNCH are an especially interesting and an especially American band. Whereas Joy Division and the early Factory Records roster provides the template for so many of the newer dark postpunk acts, with LUNCH there is a welcome turn towards US bands like the Gun Club and the Wipers. In fact, these are the bands that serve as LUNCH’s primary sonic inspiration on their new Let Us Have Madness Openly LP, out soon on Mass Media Records in the USA and Taken By Surprise in Europe. The whiskey-soaked noir Americana of visionaries like Jeffrey Lee Pierce feels very much alive in Lunch’s new effort.
None of this is to say that the influences of British or other styles of postpunk don’t weigh in here. There are strains of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Sound in the sound, too. Singer Prometheus Wolf states, “I really admire bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, who were able to produce several albums’ worth of really engaging, diverse post punk music. I like that they weren’t afraid to mix that garage-y sound of ‘the past’ in with the stark, post-punk future music of the era.”
“Let Us Have Madness Openly” opens with the track “Marble Foyer,” a classic moody, mid-tempo postpunk rocker that actually sounds like it could be from the Spectres 2010 Last Days recording sessions. Prometheus Wolf’s vocals sound like Spectres’ singer Brian‘s disaffected style; in turn, Brian’s style reminded of the vocals used in early Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, so I guess there’s a comparison there, too. But I don’t want to overstate the comparison; LUNCH are not a Spectres clone band or anything remotely like that. They have a unique spin on the genre that sets them apart from the other Pacific Northwest bands that are otherwise in the same musical milieu.
The guitar work is especially impressive – at turns bright and chiming, sometimes jangly, distorted in just the right, slightly-gritty-and-dirty way that I think would have made someone like Greg Sage cream his pants. Track 7, “Pouring Light,” saunters forth with an ambient sax and unexpectedly conjures up the ghost of Rowland S. Howard; or imagine if The Sound and Gun Club had had a jam session together – you might get something like this song. There’s some good old fashioned reverberating American twang in there. Kudos to guitarist DJ Barnes for nailing the sleazy, noir surf sound that Mr. Pierce and company developed into a science (it’s no secret that the Gun Club casts a strong and influential shadow over LUNCH; their Johnny Pineapple EP features one of the best Gun Club covers ever made. And see the interview below, too).
So, whereas a lot of newer postpunk revivalist bands try to achieve a cold, distant, despondent European sound – the sounds of grey and rainy Manchester, England circa 1979, perhaps – LUNCH actually have a warm, even subtly sexual, intonation to their songs. They’re still as gloomy and introspective as the best of them, but LUNCH do this in an interesting way that at once pulls elements from bands like The Chameleons (“Script of the Bridge”), The Sound (“From the Lion’s Mouth”), the Wipers, the Gun Club, and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry (“Talk About the Weather”), with the American influences especially at the fore. Not a bad set of comparisons at all, I would submit. In more contemporary terms, the influence of the Spectres (“Last Days”), the Estranged, Bellicose Minds (“The Spine” – Nick Bellicose’s vocals seem to especially loom large over the vocal delivery here), and even Shadowhouse seem to figure into the mix, although Shadowhouse vocalist Shane’s deep vox are more Glenn Danzig-y than what Promoetheus Wolf has going on here. Wolf’s vocals are earnest and impassioned, desperate without being overly melodramatic. “We all have a very broad range of influences which I feel comes out in our music,” drummer Matthew mentions in the interview below. “Everything from old country, jazz and bluegrass to a huge influence from most of the ‘classic’ post punk, goth and Anarcho punk bands out there.”
As an aside, I thought 2012 would be the peak of all the new, but welcome sonic excavation from the past, the revisiting by punk bands of a side of the punk scene that hardcore groups had all too often ignored (see “2012: The Year Goth-Punk Broke” and also “The New Postpunk” from 2011, where I wrote about a lot of the newer dark punk and postpunk bands and tried to sketch out a canon of sorts). Lunch didn’t even exist when I wrote those pieces; they formed in 2013. What I did not expect back then was that bands would keep getting better and better, honing and fine tuning the sound, but also becoming more diverse in their approach – crafting such good and timeless songs (the way LUNCH do here on “Let Us Have Madness Openly”) and effectively re-inserting the moodier punk rock of bands like Saccharine Trust, 100 Flowers, Under Two Flags, and the aforementioned Wipers into a scene that last decade had become overly saturated with indistinguishable, by-the-numbers d-beat and neo-crust clones that seemed to think music began and ended with Discharge or Deviated Instinct (two bands I love to death, too, by the way).
Again pointing to the punk roots of the band, Stan Wright of Arctic Flowers and Buzz or Howl studios recorded the band, and Brad Boatwright of From Ashes Rise and others mastered the LP at Audiosiege. The production is crystal clear, nice and mid range-y, and suits the songs well; again, the guitar has an especially great sound on the LP that fans of Greg Sage, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, and the Birthday Party would enjoy. The songs echo with the influence of morose UK postpunk, but there is a distinctly American sound here: This is a West Coast American postpunk band in the best sense.
The US release is coming out on Mass Media Records, the California imprint that is increasingly the label-of-record for new deathrock, postpunk, and goth-punk sounds. In Europe it’s coming out on Taken By Surprise.
LUNCH interview below!
For those just coming across your band, can you tell readers where you’re from, who’s in the band, and what they play? When did you all start?
Matthew: Prometheus Wolf plays guitar and sings, I (Matthew Huffman) play drums, DJ Barnes plays lead guitar, and Jared Bird plays bass. We are all friends from back when we were teenagers in northern California. We all ended up in Portland apparently and formed the band in 2013. DJ and Adam have been playing music together since high school and Matt and Jared both played in their own teenage hardcore and punk bands in the area as well.
Probably a lot of listeners wonder why the name “Lunch” was chosen? It seems very nondescript. Who chose it, and why?
Matthew: We tell people we get our name from the Dead Boys’ song “I Need Lunch,” or an infatuation with Ms. Lydia Lunch. But most likely it’s from a misunderstanding of our old band’s name by drunk kids in basements…
Prometheus: As Matt said, while we have woven (and will continue to weave) all sorts of comically believable notations as to the origins of the band’s name, it was never really important to us. Lunch seemed as good (or bad) as anything else. We could care less what the band is called, really. Admiration for the Birthday Party or Wire never had anything to do with their names, you know?
Adam, you go by Promotheus Wolf, and I’ve seen that you also dj under that name. What’s the story behind it and why do you use it?
Prometheus: I woke up from a dream with the name stuck in my head. I don’t remember what the dream was about but the name wouldn’t leave my head and I decided to use it as a sort of pseudonym to use for artistic endeavors. I feel like most of my favorite musicians and writers did it. Creating a persona is just fun and it’s kind of empowering to pick your own name. It ends up feeling more important than your given name somehow (even if it’s ridiculous). Whether I’m drunkenly spinning punk records at the goth club or whining about how awful life is in a Lunch song, it’s more enjoyable if I can attribute it to Prometheus because I created Prometheus. It’s pure fiction of my own design, unlike Adam.
There’s an obvious Gun Club influence on the band; you did a cover of “Sex Beat” and I’ve seen references to the band and Jeffrey Lee Pierce elsewhere. Can you explain why Pierce holds such a fascination for you, what his music or writing means, and how that has had an impact on the music of Lunch?
Matthew: We grew all up around the punk scene and like a lot of the same bands. The Gun Club were a band we all happened to love so we decided to cover them and put it on our “Johnny Pineapple” 7″ (Resurrection // Jonnycat Records). “The House on Highland Ave” is one of my favorite songs of all time.
Prometheus: Jefferey Pierce was one of those infectious people (at least as a performer and songwriter). Like Nick Cave or Alan Vega or Lux or Iggy or even Kurt Cobain. He was the perfect combination of electrifyingly wild and sincerely believable. His works seem as much like an exorcism as they do a glamorously executed pop-formance. That’s what draws me in. I’m a sucker for performers like that, for people that seem like they NEED the art as much as it needs them. For people who pose like Gods on stage while openly wallowing in their own self-degradation. Plenty of people fake that, so it’s hard not to fall in love when you find someone who did it for real.
What are some other bands that you think have been an influence on the band’s sound? Who are some of individuals band members’ favorite bands and do those bands’ influence manifest themselves in any way in Lunch’s music, do you think?
Matthew: We all have a very broad range of influences which I feel comes out in our music. Everything from old country, jazz and bluegrass to a huge influence from most of the “classic” post punk, goth and Anarcho punk bands out there. You are as likely to find us listening to groups like The Flying Burrito Brothers, Scott Walker and Billy Bragg as bands like The Chameleons, Xmal Deutschland and UK Decay. Whether aesthetically, lyrically or musically an influence, the whole spectrum tends to come into play. Personally The Cure is probably my biggest influence, perfecting the blend of darkness and sadness with the perfect pop sensibility. I grew up also very much into a lot of Oi! and punk bands a la Blitz, Cock Sparrer and Angelic Upstarts, so that is probably another influence of mine. As a whole band, the one main common band we love tends to be The Grateful Dead, as unpunk as that is.
Prometheus: Matt is right that we pull from a pretty wide range of musical interests. We definitely all find a lot of overlap in the post punk stuff, though, so it’s the most prominent part of our sound, but we love painting with as many different strokes as we can get away with reasonably. I really admire bands like Echo & The Bunnymen who were able to produce several albums worth of really engaging, diverse post punk music. I like that they weren’t afraid to mix that garage-y sound of “the past” in with the stark, post-punk future music of the era. It’s nice when a band wears these diverse influences on its sleeve and it doesn’t sound forced or cheesy. I want Lunch to be like that. We’ll see, I suppose.
Who are some of your favorite current bands going right now? How would you describe them musically?
Matthew: As will happen, most of our favorite bands right now are made up of friends. The new Soft Kill LP is gonna be amazing, going by the songs we’ve heard so far. Underpass from Vancouver, BC/Olympia, WA are one of my favorite current bands, live and on record. They play with that Faith-era Cure emotion in a way that is almost overwhelming. Every song is really stuck-in-year-head-able. Super catchy. Shadowhouse are great friends of ours and their LP was one of the better of last year. Moth from Copenhagen also put out one of my favorite LPs of last year.
Prometheus: Everything Matt mentioned for sure. Shadowhouse, Underpass and Soft Kill are just incredibly good bands and I’m honored we have the chance to play with them as much as we do. We play with Shadowhouse like twice a month it seems, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. They are the best people and I still want to cry every time I see them. No joke. It’s powerful stuff. I’m pretty bad at listening to new bands overall though. I think we all are. It’s hard when there is such overwhelming access to these gems from the past. Punk has had that problem for a long time I think. There are so many bands in punk’s history and plenty of them are good. I listen to more modern hip hop than punk probably. I’m addicted to that dark trap sound that’s been popular for a bit. I’m listening to Night Lovell right now and you should, too. Do it. Get high then put on Night Lovell. You’re welcome.
What are your feelings on the postpunk, darkwave, and deathrock type revival coming from the current punk scene? WHy do you think it’s happening and is it a good or bad thing? How does it relate to the existing mainstream goth scene that seems (to me, anyway) heavily industrial dance music focused, to the point where it’s turned into a lot of cybergoth rave music?
Prometheus: We have no problems with the current “revival” of postpunk, goth, darkwave, ect. There will always be revivals. Everything is cyclical and people are always looking for influences from the past. Why not? If it was good then, why pretend it won’t be good now? Plus, revivals spark huge pools of interest and support that produce loads of great albums all at once. How many awesome post punk albums came out in 1995? Not as many as 2014, that’s for sure.
There is plenty of garbage that gets lugged around with each revival but heaps of great bands as well. It doesn’t matter ultimately. Good bands will be good, regardless. The NW has a very close dark punk, goth, post punk scene. We just played the first annual “Out From The Shadows” Festival a few days back and it was an amazing time. It is put together by Dave Cantrell, who has an amazing radio show locally called “Songs From Under The Floorboard.” Everyone in the NW post-punk/darkwave scene tends to create a unique enough take on the genre, which makes for a really enjpyable atmosphere. You have a band like Arctic Flowers, who play a deathrock influenced anarcho post punk, alongside a band like Vice Device who use a synth-heavy, industrial approach to their dark punk. The Estranged have a different take than Shadowhouse and we take a slightly different approach than a band like Underpass or Soft Kill. This whole scene is mostly completely separate from the raver goth scene (that was actually having their own rave in the downstairs of the OFTS fest’s venue at the same time). You see a little overlap at some goth nights or the goth bar or whatever but we don’t see it on a day to day.
What releases do you all have coming up and where can folks go to get them? What label(s) will they be on?
Prometheus: Our LP Let Us Have Madness Openly should be available very soon on Mass Media Records in the USA (massmediarecords.bigcartel.com) and Taken By Surprise Records in Europe (takenbysurprise.net/store). We will also have copies locally and on tour if you happen to catch us.
Who did the music video that you all made? What was this experience like and was there anything especially strange, awkward, or welcome about it?
Matthew: The music video was a brainchild of two rad friends, Brenton Salo and Everett Nate Yockey. They work doing video and photography for some fancy advertising agency in Portland. Like, their office has a fully stocked bar with multiple local beers on tap and there are only like 20 people that work there. Fancy (and disgustingly Portland). Anyway, we went to their studio in town late one night and simply drank way too much and played around with $60,000 cameras. Then they made a video out of it. We are blessed to have people like that around.
If there’s anything else you’d like to promote or give a shout out to, do so here! Thanks so much for the time, guys!!!
Prometheus and Matthew: Thanks to Sean and everyone with CVLT Nation for being even slightly intrigued with our music. Thanks to Stan Wright (Buzz Or Howl Studios) for making our record sound amazing. Thanks to Brad at Audiosiege for the fantastic job mastering. Thanks to Tricia, Cameron (Mass Media) and Michl (Taken By Surprise) for their time and efforts in releasing the record. Thanks to all of our great friends who supported us in the making of our music. And lastly, thank you Oliver for the interview.
Lunch have a Bandcamp page here.
They also have a helpful, informative, and frequently updated Blogspot account here.