Thursday, September 18, 2014

Square Zeros #27: GYMSHORTS (Sessile, The Unwritten End, Hayworth, Thee Yo-Yo's, Jonee Earthquake Band, Seaborgium)

"Nine songs. We wrote them very quickly. And we recorded them very quickly. And we just wanted to get an album out and then travel. So that's what we did."

That's how Gymshorts Telecaster wizard Devin G. summed up his scuzzy surf-punk outfit's origins. And it's perfectly accurate. The four-piece has been on top of their game since day one. But at the same time, it totally undersells what Devin, singer-guitarist Sarah Greenwell, drummer Chris Faulkner, and bassist Chris Annunziato have accomplished in the year or so since Gymshorts formed.

It started as a bit of a gag — Devin and Sarah initially wanted to write punk rock for kids and tour elementary schools — but it quickly evolved into something snottier and more dangerous. From their home base in Providence, they banged out a batch of songs for their debut record No Backsies, which they released on cassette, digital, and CD in February (it comes out on wax next month through Manimal Vinyl). From there, things really took off. They've maintained an almost constant presence on the East Coast DIY circuit, sharing stages with an array of other great bands in Brooklyn, Boston, Philly and elsewhere. If you live anywhere in the mid-Atlantic or New England, you've probably had at least one opportunity to see them in 2014. If not, don't worry, they recently hit the road on a seven-week cross-country tour — go support them!

Also, did I mention Gymshorts' album is a driving, disgustingly catchy rock n roll adventure that fucking rips? And that their live show is noisy, beer-soaked punk bliss? And that they're a friendly group offstage? Consider it mentioned.

Square Zeros had them over to the studio to get a sense of what they did long before they converged into the four-piece they are now. Jon was out, so I flew solo on this episode, which is packed with music from their younger, sloppier, NOFX-tinged years.

Bassist Chris, like a lot of us, used music to help escape the hateful tedium of high school. He started a band called Sessile (later Full Of It), which his father, himself an accomplished musician, recorded and produced for a teenage Chris. Sessile cut an impressive, if innocent, cover of "Runaround Sue" by Dion And The Belmonts that's part doo-wop, part Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. He also brought in one of their more Fat Wreck Chords-influenced originals, "In Vain." Classic.

Devin was reared on the over-the-top shredding of Van Halen, Scorpions, Warrant, and the other gods of hair metal, and you get a touch of that in his wild riffs in Gymshorts. He brought in "Punk Rock Love" from his high school band The Unwritten End, which features some of his early attempts at lead lines. They definitely would have played with Sessile at the local American Legion. Devin also played bass in a Fall Of Troy-esque (remember those guys?) project called Hayworth. Their choice cut is "My Leg Got Bit Off By A Shark," which contains some of the longest pauses we've come across, as well as maybe the most creative use of a film quote we've heard.

Drummer Chris was cooler than all of us as a kid. One of his early bands, Thee Yo-Yo's, drew from the garage revivalists of the 80s, and the members had a mutual love for The Stooges. The first track he shared is an airtight cover of "Search And Destroy" — kinda mindblowing that a bunch of 16-year-olds got it so right. Chris also played drums up until recently with the underground garage legends Jonee Earthquake Band. They've been around since 1979 and they're a bit like New England's Dead Moon. Chris treated us to a song called "Where The Wild Things Are," which marked his first appearance on vinyl.

Finally, we got a really nice artifact from Sarah's musical past. While she was attending school in New York, she spent some time busking in subway stations, playing on the platforms almost every day for an entire winter. She recorded some of her experiments from the time under the name Seaborgium (a synthetic element whose symbol in the periodic table is Sg, which happens to be her initials). "Litmus Paper" is a beautifully haunting track.

Huge thanks to Gymshorts for spending a sweaty, boozy afternoon in the studio!

New Yorkers: Gymshorts are coming to Don Pedro on Oct. 10 to play with The Mad Doctors, The Rizzos and Big Huge. Talk about a stacked bill. DO NOT MISS THAT SHOW. Everyone else: check out Gymshorts' tour dates to see when they're playing near you.


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