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Describing the far-out sounds that Boston’s five-piece freakadelic outfit Guerilla Toss rends is like trying to describe the artwork accompanying each of their releases. Pink severed hands on a string reach for a doorway with an ogling eyeball, floating across a vacuum of rainbows; an angry sun hunkers down over a pyramid and prepares to feast upon Aztec deities…
For reference, take a listen to the band’s recent LP “Eraser Stargazer,” released earlier this month. The band has changed considerably over the years, substituting members and expanding their sound to encompass a free-wheeling, time-signature shifting smattering of influences.
Album-opener “Multibeast TV” sets the stage with an all-out assault, a palette liquidator that throttles the listener and shakes the ears clear. There’s the swirling psychedelia of “Color Picture,” and the funk-punk slow-rolling grooves of “Grass Shack”–a reminder that while Guerilla Toss are chock full of attitude, they know how to write dance worthy hooks.
BTRtoday sits down with drummer Peter Negroponte to talk about the making of the album and highlights from 2015.
BTRtoday (BTR): 2015 was a really productive period for you guys–you released your DFA debut “Flood Dosed” to critical acclaim, and played a ton of shows around universities and DIY festivals. What were some of your highlights from the year?
Peter Negroponte (PN): Well we moved down to New York, to Brooklyn and Queens at the very end of May. We booked four shows within the span of ten days, played Palisades and Silent Barn and some random motorcycle shop. They were all great bills with high attendance; I think we sold out the Silent Barn. It felt like a really warm welcome to Brooklyn.
All of that was fresh off of a two to three week tour where we went south, toured Georgia, Florida and all the way to Texas. After getting back from that tour we were pretty stoked about the band and the quality of the music.
BTR: Any bizarre stories from the road while you were down south?
PN: It was kind of blurry, we had a lot of fun on that tour… [laughs]. I can tell you about one fun night that we had. It was our first time playing Miami, and we were performing at a really popular venue for bands visiting the city. Half of it was this really posh, upscale club and in the back was a really shitty show room. Totally strange vibes, I got offered coke in the bathroom immediately. [Laughs]. It was pretty surreal.
So we ended up playing this really wacky show at 2 a.m., and everyone in the band ended up taking something funky and going out all night. We don’t usually go hangout at bars or party–we like to party in more introspective ways–but we ended up at a bar that stays open literally all night. Next thing we know the sun is up and everyone is still raging.
BTR: Getting offered coke in a bathroom sounds like the quintessential Miami experience.
PN: It definitely made the next night’s show a mess! [Laughs]. Not to stereotype Miami or anything, but it definitely lived up to its party reputation.
BTR: And you guys recently played a secret show in Boston, right?
PN: Yeah, that was a couple of weekends ago. We wrote a bunch of new material recently and wanted to test the waters. There was barely any promotion for the secret show, and we decided to host it at a record store that I used to work at.
I miss that small community of Boston, but New York is great and I think we’re doing really well here. Plus, it’s always nice to get paid for shows…
BTR: That’s always nice.
PN: So many years in Boston we were setting up shows for touring bands. For a smaller city like Boston, if you book the shows for bands all of the money goes to the touring bands that are passing through. They need it. New York might be more expensive, but you get paid which goes a long way.
BTR: Shifting to the music, tell us a little bit about the making of your most recent release, “Eraser Stargazer.” What was the songwriting process like for that album, and did it differ from others in the past?
PN: We actually wrote most of that music almost a full year ago. It took a while for the record to really get finished, and the release date was pushed back. The EP was actually recorded after the LP, which was a strange sort of reverse order.
The LP was our first record with DFA, and they gave us a budget to go write music and nothing else for three weeks. So we headed to Upstate New York. It was pretty isolated, and we got to write music all day, everyday, for three weeks. Practicing and writing for eight to ten hours straight…it was really special. We were really lucky to be able to do that, because not a lot of bands do.
BTR: The album explores some pretty heavy themes, but still manages to be playful and cathartic instead of becoming bogged down. Is this a line that you’re conscious of walking, and what inspires it?
PN: We’re totally conscious of it. It’s funny, I don’t listen to us very often but I was watching a video of us from four years ago and I was chuckling about how much the music has changed. It used to be this very harsh, angular music. But our tastes have changed so much. The stuff we’ve been doing lately is way more fun and playful. It’s fucking corny sometimes [laughs]. There’s some cheesy shit on the record, but it’s fun and it’s positive. I’m proud of it, it’s still dorky for all nerds out there. I’m a nerd myself, and the music still has a lot of odd time signatures and tempo changes and polyrhythms. But it’s also more accessible, and there’s some catchy hooks.
BTR: What are Guerilla Toss’s plans for 2016?
PN: We’re about to go on tour to SXSW, which will be a shit show [laughs]. We’ve also got enough material to release another LP. I’m not sure if DFA is one hundred percent on board yet, but I’d love to release it before the end of the year. We have the resources to get it done. I’m feeling really stoked on the new direction, it’s always evolving.
I’m always most proud of whatever we’re currently working on. This next one will be even better.
To hear more from Guerilla Toss, check out their bandcamp, or tune into BTRtoday’s very own In the Den.