It's not a goodbye, but more of a "see you again sometime, eventually." At least that's what we're hoping when it comes to Frustrations, Detroit's criminally underrated practitioners of noisy post-punk, composed of X! Records label head Scott Dunkerley on drums, Sean Dufty on bass, and Colin Simon on guitar. With two members living in different cities, five years in-between second album Negative Reflections and what became their latest release, it was, to put it mildly, a pleasant and needed surprise when this year's freshly minted Transmission From the Ether, their third record, was finally released.
Tensely captivating psychedelic dissonance that replaces the rock in "punk rock" and "noise rock" with something just a bit weirder, even prettier, Transmission From the Ether also quite skillfully mines the harsher, more aggressive ground implied by the punk and noise components of the equation.
The official record release show, for both Transmission From the Ether and fellow new X! album Fake Surfers' Cheap Meat, is this Sunday, July 31, at Hybrid Moments in Detroit, with PRC and K9 Sniffies on the bill as well. This show concludes what will probably be Frustrations' last East Coast tour; Dufty will be missed on bass for the entirety, but Pete Steffy of Johnny Ill Band/Beekeepers is on deck in his absence. A West Coast tour may someday happen, but otherwise, the best we can hope for more Frustrations is the possibility of an occasional Detroit show.
Learn a little bit more about the band and their new album in our short interview below and follow each member's new projects, too: Dunkerley is drumming in Chicago's gothic post-punk trio Order of Night, Dufty is recording dark synth noise as Prior Form in Seattle, and Simon is playing guitar on Paint Thinner's post-punk dirges right here in Detroit.
Metro Times: How did your individual musical progression within the band develop throughout the years?
Sean Dufty: When we started I was 17 and transitioning from a heavy classic rock phase into more interesting music. Besides getting into the obvious stuff like the Stooges and MC5, I also remember listening to a lot of Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead, Spacemen 3, Husker Du, and John Coltrane in the early years. We are all fans of the Ventures. The tight instrumentation and arrangements of surf records definitely rubbed off on us. One of the coolest things about starting to play out and tour was that our fellow bands became influences themselves. Seeing your friends' bands evolve is exciting. And being around that energy encourages you to do the same.
Scott Dunkerley: In the beginning, I approached the group as more of a loose "anything goes" sort of project, where we could feel free to try out different ideas we each had and weren't consciously aiming for any particular sound. This spirit of openness led to us all jamming on sounds we were stoked on, and that led to a somewhat more coherent sound emerging later as the group progressed.
MT: Describe the new album in three words.
Dufty: Determined, focused, haunting.
MT: What was recording like?
Dunkerley: We recorded half the album with Chris Koltay and half the album with Adam Cox. Recording with Koltay went quickly — one day of tracking and a couple days of mixing. The sessions with Adam took longer, and we were more deeply involved in the mixing process. My van, with all my drums in it, had been stolen from the parking lot behind Koltay's studio a couple weeks before our session there. I definitely had that on my mind as I was bitterly setting up the studio drum kit [laughs]. I played the songs faster than usual that day.
Dufty: Most of the songs on this record had been written for quite some time before recording, some as far back as 2009. We went in with 15-16 songs, and weren't really sure where they were going to end up or in what order. This was nice because we could focus solely on making the recordings as strong as possible, letting the songs take their own course, and then think about how to fit it all together later. Chris and Adam were somewhat familiar with our sound already before recording, and provided great feedback and ideas. These sessions were the most natural and relaxed we've ever done — probably because having played the songs for so long it allowed us to dig into the structures of them and get familiar with all the weird, little intricacies that tend to develop.
Colin Simon: The recording process has been at least a little grueling every time we've done it. But that's OK, because we want it to sound a certain way, and I think we have sort of a lot going on for just being a three piece.
It's true — Frustrations do have a lot going on for only having three members. And the new album presents their strongest material yet, a nervously stirred mix of what Wire might sound like if they were an AmRep band (one with as much of an appreciation for tautly composed surf as for the brutal beauty of Shellac and the sharpness of the Minutemen). All of which makes it so much more of a shame that who knows when, if ever, we'll get anything new from them, and much more than enough reason to make sure you don't miss the show this weekend.
Frustrations perform on Sunday, July 31 at Hybrid Moments; Starts at 9 p.m.; 2144 Bagley St., Detroit; Admission price TBA.
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