This article initially appeared in AdHoc Issue 20.
Earlier this year, Thrill Jockey released Many Waters, a 33-song compilation to benefit the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in the wake of the flood that swept the area in August of last year. The label enlisted the Baton Rouge, Louisiana doom metal five-piece Thou to help curate the release, which featured local groups from Louisiana alongside experimental metal heavyweights like Old Man Gloom and The Body. After more than a decade of touring, releasing music, and musical community-building in their home state, the band was more than up to the task.
Thou vocalist Bryan Funck in particular has tirelessly supported the Louisiana scene. After starting booking local shows in the mid-’90s, Funck founded the website noladiy.org in 1999, which features an impressively long, constantly updated list of shows, bands, venues, and promoters in southeast Louisiana. We spoke to Funck about the origins and ethos of NOLA DIY, and how some of those impulses filter into Thou’s heavy, metaphysical music—a new offering of which, Magus, is slated for release via Howling Mine, Gilead Media, and Robotic Empire later this year.
Thou plays Brooklyn Bazaar on June 28 with Cloud Rat, False, and Moloch.
AdHoc: How did Many Waters come about?
Bryan Funck: When [Thrill Jockey founder] Bettina [Richards] heard about the flood down here, she asked if we were interested in doing a benefit. She coordinated with a bunch of metal bands who were friends with Thrill Jockey, and then asked me if there was anybody from New Orleans or Baton Rouge I wanted to add—so I started rounding up all the good New Orleans and Baton Rouge bands that could contribute.
AdHoc Issue 20 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
In AdHoc Issue 20, we get to know three musicians who go out of their way to build community whenever they’re not making great music. Bryan Funck, who tours constantly as the vocalist of Louisiana metal band Thou, runs the website NOLA DIY, which collects information on local shows, bands, venues, and promoters, along with resources for bands just starting out. Moor Mother and Eartheater, in conversation, explain the importance of creating music in the face of systemic obstacles like class inequality and gender-based discrimination—and helping others do the same through collaboration and education. Which is to say, for each of these three, being a musician is certainly about releasing plenty of forward-thinking music—but it’s also about using that platform to help others have their voices heard.
AdHoc Issue 20's contributors:
Alexandra Drewchin is a Queens-based musician who records under the Eartheater name. She conversed with Camae Ayewa of Moor Mother for this issue.
Chris Stewart makes and performs synthy anthems under the moniker Black Marble. He composed and shot the cover for this issue.
Samuel Nigrosh is a Chicago-based illustrator who publishes books and comix under the name Trash City. He made the illustrations for this issue.
The Body and Thou teamed for the noisy, sludgy Released From Love last year, one of our favorite albums. It included the sort of doom-laced pummeling you’d expect from these two, but with a few surprising twists, like a Vic Chesnutt cover. The pair wasted little time putting together a follow-up, with Love, Whom I Have Always Hated coming later this month on Thrill Jockey. This time, their cover is “Terrible Lie” by Nine Inch Nails, which is maybe a little less of a curveball considering Thou’s penchant for covering late ‘80s/early ’90s touchstones (see their takes on Nirvana or the Beastie Boys or Nirvana or Soundgarden or Nirvana again and Nirvana one more time). In their hands, the synthesizers that percolated around the edges of the Pretty Hate Machine track are reduced to ash, while shards of feedback fly through the verses.
Love, Whom I Have Always Hated is out January 27 on Thrill Jockey.
Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdiscs]
When I interviewed Actress for The FADER this year, he described Ghettoville to me as a concept album about being homeless but having a laptop with musical software on it. He even suggested that he made the album in the hopes of imparting a piece of life advice to his listeners: “If there is one sort of profound moral, it’s just to consider other people a bit more. If you’re doing alright, and you’ve got a decent job and you get paid, and you’ve got a home to go to, and you’ve got friends that you can chill out with and have a drink with and be warm or whatever, then that’s amazing. But the stark reality is that there's people out there who just don’t have that.” I was surprised. How could an album as abstract and even willfully difficult as Actress’ fourth full-length have a "meaning," let alone a moral? As I began to spend more time with with the record, though, the London producer’s words began to make sense; in fact, I think they illuminated all the cryptic doomsday proclamations that preceded the record’s arrival (you know, that stuff he wrote about Ghettoville being Actress’ last record, “R.I.P Music 2014," etc.). Ghettoville, in all it’s sketch-like, crooked, sputtering, weirdly clipped, off-rhythm goodness, felt like a bombed-out incarnation of dance music itself, battered and emaciated but determined to keep trucking along.
In the same interview I mentioned above, Actress also called the album his attempt to “crash the market,” which I think is a pretty bad-ass ambition to have when you are seemingly poised on the end of verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If Ghettoville is partly a conceptual reckoning with the failures of capitalist society to look after its denizens, and partly a musical reckoning with the intersection of capitalism and music, then it’s pretty admirable for its political intentions alone. That said, there’s also some pretty striking moments of beauty herein, such as the damaged but unwaveringly soulful vocal loop on “Don’t.” Within the context of the record’s conflicted relationship to pop, it feels pretty political too, but also touchingly reassuring: “Don’t stop the music.” --Emilie Friedlander
The Body & Thou: Released From Love [Vinyl Rites]
After two stellar albums in 2013, The Body kicked off 2014 with two stellar-- albeit very different-- collaborative releases. I Shall Die Here pits the band against The Haxan Cloak, resulting in some soul-crushing, bass-heavy music that emphasizes The Body's previously-displayed industrial tendencies. But Released From Love, their collaboration with Louisiana doom heroes Thou, is even better, highlighting The Body's ability to fuse tried-and-true doom metal with noise, southern rock, and contemplative folk (see: an awesome Vic Chestnutt cover), staying sad and complex and brutally loud all the while. Throughout the record's four tracks, Bryan Funck, Thou's singer, provides a sinister-but-human foil to Chip King's otherworldly screams, and the two rhythm sections work together to create dirge-like backing tracks that are dense but not overly so. In other words, The Body and Thou teaming up sounds like one amazing, impossibly heavy band and not two acts jamming on top of one another. That such disparate The Body collaborations, recorded around the same time, can work so well is a testament to Chip King and Lee Butler's skills as musicians and their sound's mutability. And Released From Love is a testament too to just how fucking awesome and underappreciated (at least up north) Thou is. Like The Body, Thou is a brutal metal band steeped in many other styles, a group intent on breaking generic ground and forging new modes of expression. --Joe Bucciero
Container: Adhesive [Mute]
As Ren Schofield gets his elbows deeper in a Unit 731-style vivisection of noise music, we learn that chaos is his modus operandi as Container. The objectives are simple: fuck up sound, make it fun. In a nutshell, Adhesive is his most fucked up and fun yet. If typical dance music production is akin to painting a wall in layers-- prime with a sample, lay down the drums for the first coat, thicken with bass and pads-- Schofield's method is more like tossing paint into an oscillating fan. Each of the four tracks on Adhesive is bound by a groove, but the elements that really make your ass shake are triggered in enrapturing succession, inducing the old 23 skidoo. Sure, Container's everything-in-the-red timbres get you amped, and it's his keen sense of rational thought-dismantling disorder that keeps you jacked. Adhesive stands as the singular heavy music release of the year so far because it short-circuits the thinking part of your brain where so much experimental music thrives, instead firing neurons in whichever cluster of grey matter makes you feel like you just punched a cop in front of a cheering crowd. --Mike Sugarman