Thursday, January 23, 2014

Square Zeros #5: Aileen Brophy (The Space Merchants, The Violent Against Themselves And Others)

At some point, just about every musician asks herself, Would the teenage version of me like/appreciate/be interested in what I'm playing now? For Aileen Brophy, the answer's a fairly straightforward "yes." 

When you're a member of The Space Merchants, you've got a lot to be proud of. Aileen plays bass and sings for the Brooklyn-based four-piece, which dropped a series of killer singles in 2013 and brought its dreamy psychedelia to the local circuit. 

What stands out about the band is its ability to achieve a big, lush sound without a lot of production bells and whistles. The songs are carefully crafted, vacillating between sparse bass- and drum-driven verses and Hawkwindian descents into guitar and Farfisa shredding. On top are super tight vocal harmonies that call up early Jefferson Airplane. Almost in spite of all that, the band maintains a distinctly live feel, making maximum use of every voice and instrument. Earlier this week they released a video for their latest single, "1000 Years Of Boredom" (which opens our podcast) — check it out.

Aileen got her start in Boston in the mid-90s during her first year at Harvard. Whatever the bright center of the city's music scene was at the time, she was far from it, and that was fine by her. She was busy beating on a guitar and screaming out vocals in the basement of a freshman dorm with her band, The Violent Against Themselves And Others. They were short-lived and barely played shows, but they left behind some wonderfully unrefined and raucous recordings that remind us of why we all started playing punk rock in the first place.

Aileen shared three tracks from those sessions, the first of which is a sub-2-minute ripper called "Identity Crisis." She says she and the other members bonded over their love of Minor Threat, and you can hear it — sounds right out of the early Dischord playbook.

The second is "Rebel And React," which fits five tempo changes into a minute and a half and features a seriously unhinged Aileen splitting vocal duties. That closing shriek... yes.

She also brought us "Comeuppance," which she describes as a diatribe against an ex-friend who backstabbed her and lied to her about a scholarship. Listen close to the banter at the end — "Did you say 'whore' in that song?"

Big thanks to Aileen for talking with Square Zeros and letting some of her earliest recordings out into the open. (By the way, what was the bright center of the Boston music scene in 1996? We never quite figured that one out.)

The Space Merchants are playing PSYCH OUT! at Coco66 on Friday 1/24 with Black Valleys (two-thirds of White Hills) and Weird Owl. Also, keep an eye out for a new record by The Space Merchants in the coming months. In the meantime, give them a listen here:


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