Pupils (Part One): Another View - Neurotic Beauty / Metaphysical Mayhem (7.8.12)

Jul 4, 2012 at 10:15 am
Somewhere between Siddhartha and rightfully-forgotten Ninja Turtles’ villains, striking profundity betwixt small storms of tangential-rants, seated in folding chairs over rain-soaked weeds sheltering threatening mosquitoes on a hot-ass summer’s night with amateur pyrotechnics jettisoning road-side-bought fireworks from the surrounding backyards of Ferndale, a band, Pupils, starts settling down, with ashy cigarettes and bubbly beer, and tries to qualify just what the hell it is they did inside Chris Koltay’s studio, last month

They stitched together a new recording, their first full length, titled: Non-Existence and other Myths.

"I don't know how to explain it," says guitarist Jason Worden. "This album kind-of envelops...there's more..."

(An M-80 explodes loudly and shimmers down next-door).

Worden was, actually about to finish his sentence, fittingly, with: "...'fire.' That's the word I keep coming back to with this record."



The Detroit/Ferndale quartet are known for a gnarly, half-primal/half-futuristic ferocity, spun-off broken propeller blades slicing somehow-surgically into the fabrics of reality with roiled reverb and metaphysic-manipulating echo-pedals, spooky incantations and hypnotic rhythms, groovy but gritty, sweet yet scaly, dreamy, transelike, “missed-missing-links haunting haunted houses


“I don’t want to say ‘neurotic’” says singer Steve Puwalski. “But, there’s a beautiful neurotic energy that’s in there, that really comes through, that’s really hard to fucking phone-in, too. You have to be, like, squinting; you have to feel almost a little bit uncomfortable-in-a-good-way when you’re playing


The band released their debut, Not Another Boring Bone Avenue EP, last April: four songs, three of them fanged cyclones of post-punk and one murky funk shuffler, something like the snapshot of the band—Pupil’s birth, itself a formation of four unique players from no-wave techno (Puwalski, i.e. Marco Polio & the New Vaccines), harmoniously hazed-space-folk (Matt Luke, i.e. Legendary Creatures), antagonistic-ambio-punk (Worden, i.e. Red China) and shoegaze-tweaking indie-pop (Dave Jennings, i.e Pewter Cub).


Their latest record, wrapped at High Bias and likely on its way out to your ears by the late-late-Summer or early-early-Autumn, begs the inevitable Voltron-metaphors of four weird lions finding their final synchronicity.


Puwalski is a fuzz-faced conjurer of quirked/radical-philosophies, but bare with him as he explains: “We really started discovering who we are, really, in the last three months. That’s where we really started writing songs that are US

even with as much as our songs have already been: ‘Us.’ So, we went back and realized the older songs weren’t quite-Us-yet. We had to go back and reengineer them into Us


A firework explodes and showers its sparkles down.


if that makes sense

” He crosses his left leg, barefooted, over his right knee wrapped in a shredded denim cut-off shorts and begins again: “I couldn’t articulate it before,” his face screws up intriguingly, “There were songs that were hidden. We had found parts of the songs, and they seemed done. But, in the studio, we started mapping parts out. We didn’t know before that there were missing pieces to them, then it became a true fucking song. A full landscape, that it was meant to be


Still gritty.

“We realized,” Luke said, “that we were going over the songs for the record and found a few things on a few songs that weren’t up to our standards.”


Some bands drop songs when they’re not working. Not these cats. They saw these songs as lovers and they weren’t ready to just dump the relationships with them. “We really went to fucking counseling with these songs and we sorted things out and it worked.”


The band’s work ethic is commendable; slogging through day jobs so that they can all sweat together in this Ferndale-basement (which, momentarily, has a “garbage-esque” aroma to it), into the midnight hours of weekday evenings, with the windows closed to stave off noise-citations. Squeezing in what they can to the detriment, likely, of other things in their lives. But, clichéd though it might be, this album’s still just the  launchpad to more

as Puwalski’s weird ideas geyser endlessly.


Puwalski: “I’m constantly talking, I have to talk 100-times-of-shit to make things happen

I’ll talk about the furthest mountains just to get to the nearby beautiful hill.”


Luke: “Like a story-problem?”


Milo: “Or, is that like Superman flying around the Earth to a hundred times to induce its rotation backward?”


Worden: “

going back in time?”


Puwalski: “

wait, was that the Flash?”


Luke: “No, Superman did that in Superman I

the dam broke, or, some mountain collapsed and


Worden: “I thought that was in Superman III


Milo: “No, that’s all in part I, part III is only famous for having Richard Pryor in it


Worden: “No time travel

just Richard Pyror


Milo: “Wait

, Steve. We were talking about music.”


Puwalski: “I think of the infinite number of things that are possible and then I just start talking about them. I don’t wanna say inoculate, but

I’m getting these germs, these idea-germs, out into the world and seeing if they catch onto the Petri-dishes of my friends’ minds.”


This is the process

bands finding their identity. Page-turning, in a sense, or stepping up to some new level. However comfortable, or assured you were of some exciting strange new freakization you’d found on the first few recordings, the band then comes into a new understanding, a new focus.


Milo: “Re-shaping your own sonic foundations? Did it feel like an identity crisis? You thought you were purple but now you’re orange? It was a square and now it’s a triangle?”


Luke: “I think, before, we weren’t aware of squares. We were good at making triangles! We hadn’t realized, as a band yet, that we could make the square, per se, or maybe that it had a 4th side.”


Puwalski: “Nonagons!”


Still gritty. Still Pupils.


A band coming together, for the first time really, to one table, a dinner table, elbows off and launching into endless soundboardings of new, stranger- ideas. Spreading butter and passing the salt.


Puwalski: “Salting the snails of our pasts

We had all these patterns from our pasts, now we’re putting our own elements from the past and now into our own collective present.”


Luke: “Less some symbiotic relationship between four separate organisms and now just one full organism.”


Voltron. But gritty.



July 8th @ the New Dodge Lounge -in Hamtramck. 

In Part Two

find out how they keep from dangerously floating off into unfounded outerspaces-of insanity. (Spoiler: it’s their bass player).