Brooklyn band Growing plays a style of rock that builds songs out of loops, found recordings, and banks of effects. It's a wall of sound rushing toward you like a tsunami. It's the seventh seal being ripped open and a herald of hail-fire raining on the earth. It's noise rock.
Not that Growing would necessarily call themselves noise rock. So how would they describe their sound?
"We just try not to," said cofounder Kevin Doria over the phone, spending a day off from tour on the highway somewhere in the Midwest. "We've definitely never been into any kind of labels or genres or trying to fit in with a group or anything like that. When we first came out, which was nearly ten years ago now, people were like, 'Oh, they're a drone band.' We haven't really done stuff like that in a long time and we're still, in people's eyes, a drone band. I just feel like all that stuff totally misses the point. It's for writers and stories."
That's my cue.
Be it drone or noise, Growing's music has always been rhythmic — sometimes so soothing that it could lull you into another world, and other times aggressively so.
"We didn't use much drums for rhythm until somewhat recently," said Doria. "Sometimes [we would use] a sample with some kind of rhythm on it, but it wasn't necessarily drums."
For most of its history, Growing has been the duo Kevin Doria and Joe DeNardo. With the addition Sadie Laska (of I.U.D.), Growing has returned to the trio dynamic. Sure, they once counted a drummer in their ranks, but with samples maniac Laska on board, their new LP Pumps! is downright infectious in its rhythms, and, at times, even dance-floor ready.
Pumps!, their first album for Vice Records, begins with "Hormone," a song propelled by a disjointed, marching beat — electronic pulses, bells ringing, and a beast-like purr. "Highlight" is a light lo-fi pop song — with a chainsaw intermittently cutting through the sound and the rhythm. And even with its cacophony of voices drowning in reverb, "Mind Eraser" never loses its krautrock framework.
Growing, formed in Olympia, Washington, actually grew out of two other bands: There was Black Man White Man Dead Man, a hardcore band that kept things short and furious, packing as many barbs as possible into songs that were shorter than the average painkiller commercial; and there was 1000 AD, which let metallic riffs unfold slowly and loudly. As different as the styles were, both bands contained musicians Doria and DeNardo.
"We just kind of thought it was stupid, so we just made it one thing," said Doria. Compared to what they do now, "1000 AD was a lot closer — it was still pretty far off [from] where we went, but it was a lot more comparable than BMWMDB, which was pretty much just a hardcore band."
In those days, all of their efforts were released on cassette tape. "It was a really easy way to make stuff at your house, as low-budget as possible," said Doria. "That obviously has a lot to do with the resurgence of it now, too. Especially with the fact that music is so available for free online, like why pay so much money to put something up that everyone's going to essentially steal anyway. And you, know, cassettes, you make them really nice. You can make them all handmade."
Doria says he wouldn't mind releasing a cassette today. But he does have a caveat. "The one thing that worries me about doing that stuff — and I'm not saying this is across the board, I'm not trying to offend anybody — but sometimes I feel like it takes away from the quality of the music you're making, because you get into this mindset that's just, 'We're only making 75 [units].' It's not always the most thought-out thing. There tends to be a quality drop that I'm not so comfortable with — not so much in sound, but just in the compositions, the songs themselves."
On stage, in addition to their notoriously ear-drum piercing volume, Growing is known for playing sets with no breaks and a total disdain for any banter. Doria says it's something that they've maintained over the years. "I don't like the whole thing — especially when we're playing — that thing where you stop, and applaud, and here's the next song, it's about my mom or whatever, and then you play, and then everyone claps, and then you start over," he said. "So we always like just going through the set."
For a while, Growing tried to make its live shows as different as possible — sometimes not even playing the same set twice. But Doria says this wasn't always so successful. "So, especially with what we're doing now, the transitions are set, and all that stuff is set, and it's set for a reason," he said. "We like the way the songs flow."
Growing plays the New Parish next week . Bring your ear plugs, your attention span, maybe even your dancing shoes; leave your hilarious "Freebird" request at home, you won't get a moment's silence to use it.