Hello and welcome to Discovery Corner on BTR! This week we are chatting with Tenement about their double LP, “Predatory Headlights.”
A few years ago, Joe Steinhardt, the founder of Don Giovanni Records, approached Tenement with an idea. He wanted the eclectic triad from Appleton, Wisconsin to “do something special” under the New Brunswick label. Entrusting a band with such an expensive and time-consuming project caught vocalist and guitarist Amos Pitsch by surprise, but after thoughtful consideration, he agreed to try at the very least.
Over the next three years, Pitsch and his bandmates worked to create that “special something” Don Gio yearned after; the result is a 25 song LP entitled “Predatory Headlights,” appropriately released on Independence Day.
The album came together while Pitsch toured the country with The Nerves, a 1970s power-pop trio from Los Angeles, California. As they rolled around America playing reunion shows, Pitsch drew inspiration from all that he saw. His observations formed the skeleton of what has been dubbed by music critics and writers as today’s “Zen Arcade” or “Double Nickels on the Dime.”
Photo courtesy of Tenement
The record begins even before the first note hits. Just through looking at the cover of “Predatory Headlights,” which Pitsch designed himself, listeners can gain a sense of what the next 78 minutes will entail. The album art features a combination of images that, in an abstract way, reflect the prominent Americana motifs that reappear across the LP.
“Something I’ve realized over the years is that collage is the way my mind works, in many different facets of art and music,” explains Pitsch. “A lot of our recordings and the music we’ve made are, in a way, collages. Everything is put together like I put together our visual art.”
On the front of “Predatory Headlights,” Pitsch situates two porcelain dolls between a skull, a running water spout, billowing smoke clouds, and an untamed ocean. In the forefront, a man excitedly plays the piano. The images sit frantically in black and white–an entirely opposite approach from the colorful collaged cover of their 2011 release, “Napalm Dream.” Like most artists, Pitsch intentionally crafted the album art this way.
Photo courtesy of Tenement
“I pay a lot of attention to color and to contrast. It’s really important that the artwork itself somehow reflects the music in a way,” says Pitsch. “It could be in a pretty abstract way, but to me it has to feel like what I’m trying to represent with the music as a whole.”
Conceptually, Pitsch feels the cover reflects the dark sides of America, just as his lyrics and instrumentation attempt to do the same.
Luckily there seems to be an endless supply of gas in Tenement’s tank. After the trio released “Predatory Headlights,” they recorded a five song, self-titled cassette over a four day period. Even now, they have set out to write new material for a follow up full-length.
But enough words, have a listen for yourself!
And don’t forget to check out the Discovery Artist feature on Tenement!
0:00 Introducing Tenement
1:41 Crop Circle Nation – Tenement
3:57 Dull Joy – Tenement
6:40 Feral Cat Tribe – Tenement
9:03 Shriveled Finger – Tenement
10:57 Harvest Time (Has Come) – Tenement
12:59 Under the Storm Clouds – Tenement
15:27 Mic Break
15:58 Interview with Amos Pitsch
34:31 Mic Break
35:18 Garden of Secrecy – Tenement
38:11 The Butcher – Tenement
40:26 Whispering Kids – Tenement
44:00 Curtains Closed – Tenement
46:03 Heavy Odor – Tenement
50:14 Keep Your Mouth Shut – Tenement
53:22 Foreign Phrase – Tenement
#StopAsianHate! Do we need to say more? Yes, we do—with music & resources. | read
Bartees Cox is a songwriter and producer who spent years playing in bands in Brooklyn before making the move to Washington, DC, where his solo project, Bartees Strange, took focus and grew - from an album of reinterpretations of The National’s music to his stunning full-length, genre-bending… | watch
Joyful Noise Recordings is an Indianapolis-based eclectic indie label begun in 2003 by Karl Hofstetter. In this episode, we'll hear a ton of great music from the label's releases, along with an interview with Karl where we cover the label's beginnings, the importance of physical art objects, and how… | listen