Bad Moves Proves Four Heads Are Better Than One

Bad Moves Proves Four Heads Are Better Than One Photography by: Tess Cagle

Open collaboration between four members can be difficult to cultivate, but Bad Moves make it look effortless. Featuring members of The Max Levine Ensemble, Hemlines, Art Sorority for Girls, and Booby Trap, Bad Moves is a DC indie punk/power-pop powerhouse. All of its members contribute equally to songwriting duties, making tunes that are more than the sum of their parts. “One of the founding tenets of this band was to compose, arrange and perform such that it’s not clear who wrote what, and at times it’s not even clear who’s singing what,” says drummer and songwriter Daoud Tyler-Ameen, also of Art Sorority. Their latest single, "One Thing,” which we're debuting below, is exemplary of this doctrine: vocals from all members are delicately layered, their owners made an ambiguous part of the whole. While collaborative songwriting isn’t exactly a new concept, Bad Moves’ approach is fresh and purposeful. Catch them tonight at Warsaw with Jeff Rosenstock and Martha.

 

 

AdHoc: What was your inspiration for the “One Thing” video?

David Combs: The song is written from an adolescent perspective. It’s about being a kid or teenager and keeping a very personal secret. For the video, we thought it’d be appropriate to take inspiration from two of the most elusive secret keepers from the pop culture of our youth.

What are we going to see / hear from Bad Moves at your upcoming dates with Jeff Rosenstock and Martha?
 
David: Earlier this year we recorded a record in Philly with Joe Reinhart. We’ll be trying out some songs we haven’t played much live.

Katie Park: You’ll hear a little more noise and a lot more gang vocals.

Emma Cleveland: Even more gang vocals than you thought was possible!

How do you cope with nerves before a tour? 

Katie: Group hug.

Do you find yourselves more or less nervous playing with bands of which you are personally fans?

David: Personally, Jeff and Martha are some of my all time favorite songwriters and both bands have been influential on us for sure. But also as people they’ve been close friends and collaborators for like a decade, so being nervous doesn’t really come into play at all. I know how much fun we all have around each other and that we’re about to have the fucking time of our life.
EC: We’ve also never been on a tour with a band that we don’t love. We got to tour with the Spook School, Puff Pieces and Nana Grizol last year, and the Goodbye Party before that. PL: What are you looking forward to most on this tour?
 
Daoud Tyler-Ameen: The background of everybody who’s in this band and the natural context for it when it started has tended towards playing on small stages and sometimes makeshift venues, where sound is an afterthought and the vibe and atmosphere of the show is the fun of things. That’s great, but the prospect of testing these songs in rooms as big as the sound the songs are trying to achieve is exciting too.
 
Katie: Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing what tunes we’ll all play in the van. It’s Martha and us in the same van, and Martha makes a killer playlist.
 
Emma: If we’re being honest it’s going to be all happy hardcore.
 
David: We’ll probably hear a lot of country music. I’ll jam on some Kacey Musgraves.
 
Daoud: I’m looking forward to memorizing the entirety of Invasion of Privacy.
 
How has the use of multiple voices, both literal and figuratively, given you a new approach to songwriting, as compared to each of your previous projects?
 
Daoud: One of the founding tenets of this band was to compose, arrange and perform such that it’s not clear who wrote what, and at times it’s not even clear who’s singing what. 
 
David: Part of that is eschewing the idea of the frontperson. Trying to present the songwriting in a way that isn’t about a particular person’s ego.
 
Emma: The songs are really personal, though, and having them be sung in a more ambiguous way, with multiple people, multiple voices, helps take songs that are written from a very personal place and make them feel more universal.
 
Daoud: Structuring the band and it’s process in this way has been partly a way of providing armor to each of us. Because it’s true that speaking to vulnerability in your art can leave you really exposed in ways that you don’t always anticipate. 
 
In your own terms, what do you think defines progress in pop-punk and power-pop? Who do you think it pushing the style into new territory and keeping it fresh for new audiences? 
 
Katie: Right now it seems as though there's more space in the scene for women, people of color, queer and trans people. Not that there is some high-up Arbiter Of The Scene who is letting women and people of color into the scene, but people are taking more space for themselves, bringing more voices that have traditionally been shut out or overlooked in the past.
 
Emma: Big ups to our label Don Giovanni. It feels like we landed among peers on our label who are also working to both make music that confronts social issues but also support and encourage marginalized folk to have space in the scene. 
 
David: We got to play the Don Giovanni showcase at SXSW and it was really evident that we were amongst a very talented and likeminded group of peers.
 
Daoud: It’s nice to not think much about what does and doesn’t fit in a scene. If I had been trying to perform in this kind of band years ago when I first started playing out, the intimidating thing would have been the lack of open-mindedness to whose stories this music can aim to tell and what it can sound like and what the reference points can be. When we're choosing music in the van, our common ground with our tourmates tends to be gleaming, Top 40 radio pop by women. There's nothing revolutionary about that, but 10 or 20 years ago guitar music was constantly being positioned as an antidote to that kind of culture. It's a relief to see there's at least room for a diversity of taste.
 
Emma: The non-musical reference points are more open too, when you’re part of a scene where people bring really disparate experiences.
 
David: To the point of whether we are musically “progressive” though, I don’t think we actually aim to break new sonic ground in the genres of power pop or punk or anything like that. If I look at who the contemporary bands we were talking about when we started the band it was, like, Martha and Haim and Sheer Mag. All of whom were incorporating some nostalgic sounds that we love from Motown or '70s rock but still sounding new and exciting and like their own thing.
 
What was your favorite Bad Moves show of 2017?
 
David: We got to go on tour in the UK with the Spook School, which was great. There was one show in Martha’s hometown of Durham where our tour intersected with Jeff Rosenstock and Doe’s tour, and Martha played. It was a STACKED bill and kind of the precursor to the tour we’re going on now.
 
Katie: I walked over to the Durham Cathedral between bands and had a spiritual experience watching a very British-looking spider crawl up an enormous stone pillar while a choir performed Mozart's Requiem in the background.
 
Emma: Yeah, that night was crazy. David ate a ton of Spaghetti Hoops straight out of the can. I spilled my whiskey and ginger beer on the 420 rainbow flag at Jeff Rosenstock's merch table and Christine (Jeff’s wife and tour manager) was chill about it.
 
Daoud: I also spilled a drink on that flag. That flag has bad luck.
 
Katie: Incredible bands, Spaghetti Hoops, a beer-soaked 420 rainbow flag—all elements we hope will be equally present on this tour.

 

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