Kill The Sexplayers!
Post-punk heroes Girls Against Boys ride into Prague.
Girls Against Boys
Sunday, October 27th at Futurum
Zborovská 7 in P5
The noise furnished by New York City quartet Girls Against Boys has consistently defied comparison and categorization. Dangling somewhere between the distorted melancholic intensity of early ’90s Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, Picasso Trigger) and the harder edges of Washington, D.C., punk (which makes sense, as these guys originally played in the Dischord band Soul Side), their most recent releases have thrown electronica into the mix. This is polluted, metallic East Coast artcore at its grittiest; music that leaves behind alternarock angst in favor of a tempered, sexy coolness that pervades on every level, from the thumping double-bass foundation to the three-pack-a-day habit of singer-guitarist Scott McCloud, whose raspy vocals infrequently crescendo into a monstrous subhuman roar.
Girls Against Boys’ history goes back to Washington, D.C., in 1988. The original band was formed by McCloud and bassist Eli Janney, who were jamming with Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty. After only a few practices and one recording session, the original group disbanded and reformed two years later in New York City with their current line-up. Alexis Fleisig took the place of Canty, but it was the addition of Johnny Temple as a second bass player that made these guys stand out from the post-punk pack.
Throughout the ’90s, Girls Against Boys defined their unique sound through numerous singles and three LPs. Their debut album, Tropic of Scorpio, was released on Adult Swim, and the now-classic House of GVSB bears the Touch and Go imprint, putting GVSB in the same family of acid punk legends The Butthole Surfers and Big Black. They were then picked up by Geffen as part of the indie rock explosion of smaller bands being given major label deals. They spent more than a year working on material for their Geffen debut, 1998’s excellent Freak*on*ica. But like a lot of bands from that short-lived era, the relationship with their new label fizzled fast, prompting a return to the indie world.
“It was very good for us to end things with Geffen last year,” Temple said in a recent interview. “Now we’re back in control of our own machine. We got stuck there for a while, so it was a big relief to finally get in the studio and record our new album. We’re all pretty happy with how it turned out.”
The band has been touring the U.S. and Europe for the last month to promote their much-anticipated sixth full-length, You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See, out on the legendary New York City label Jade Tree Records. During the four-year lapse between albums, Girls Against Boys kept themselves busy, scoring the film Series 7: The Contenders, contributing music to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as occasional touring and recording.
When asked if they were finding it a challenge to hit the road without the support of major label bucks this time around, Temple shrugged. “Touring has been surprisingly fun, and bizarrely easy. We feared all the extra work when we did a whole U.S. tour without any crew, but it has been pretty damn smooth. We’ve been doing this for a long time, so all four of us know what needs to be done, and we’ve gotten good at giving one another space.”
While it may not be readily apparent from their playfully abstract lyrics (which surface in song titles like “Kill the Sexplayer”), Girls Against Boys have proven themselves to be devoted champions of numerous left-wing causes. Perhaps rooted in his own experiences, Temple has written about the abuse and exploitation of recording artists by major labels in a series of painstakingly researched articles for The Nation, in which he proclaims it’s time for the powers that be to “guarantee [musicians] a shot – not at stardom, but at a living wage.”
More recently, the members of the band have been taking advantage of the long hours spent in the van to bone up on domestic political developments. “We listened to a lot of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio on our last U.S. tour.”
“All of us are against the war that the United States is threatening to launch against Iraq, so it’s good to study one’s enemies.”
Despite their lengthy back catalog and exhausting tour schedules, the band’s members have somehow found time to involve themselves in numerous side projects over the years. So far, McCloud and Temple have released two albums with their other band, New Wet Kojak, described by Temple as “more low-key and ambient, while retaining a rock and roll foundation. The studio recordings are much more improvisational than Girls Against Boys, and there is an insane saxophone that pushes us in unpredictable directions.” New Wet Kojak’s latest album, This is the Glamorous, will be out in February.
Temple is also the founder and chief editor of Akashic Books, a small press that has quickly gained a reputation for publishing daring and adventurous titles. Says Temple: “I always had a dream of starting an indie record label. Then when Girls Against Boys signed to Geffen and we made some money, I decided to finally start the label. After releasing a few records, I published a book on a whim. I was surprised to find that I much preferred working on books. I get enough musical fix from my two bands. So I jumped in head first, around 1997, and now I’ve published more than 30 books. It’s been a great experience, and I still subsidize the book company with the money I earn with Girls Against Boys.”
Any plans for the future?
“Actually, I often succeed in living in the present, so my only plans are for right now.”
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