Bands and music in general represent moments in time, and sometimes that’s all they’ll ever be. When albums get released, the lyrics can point to things happening in the moment that work best in that moment. Fugazi was always a band in the moment in which they existed, and their albums stand a testament to who they were as artists and as a unit. So when they took a hiatus over fifteen years ago, in many ways that’s where they stayed even with a legendary status for live performance and how a band operates. Though Joe Lally and Brendan Canty were the rhythm section of Fugazi, they were just a part of that moment in time. Their new band The Messthetics with Anthony Pirog is it’s own blend of instrumental jazz punk that’s experimental and improvised and stands on its own legs away from any projects they were a part of in the past. We chatted with Lally ahead of the band’s tour on how they got their start and their massive new album Anthropocosmic Nest.
Finding a band name that works for all involved is how it used to be when a band formed. Thirty years ago you’d basically agree upon a name and go with it until someone, if anyone, reached out to inform you that the name was taken. The Messthetics is an intriguing name, one that comes from images that are sloppy and messy while being far away from the perfectly crafted images we see on a daily basis. When we asked Lally if that’s where the name came from he replied, “It is, but it’s so hard to find a name now. So when you go looking, so much has already been taken. One of the things we looked up was song titles, and Brendan is a big fan of the band Scritti Politti. and that’s their song too. It’s also used as the name of a punk comp. but we just decided to go with it. There’s so many phrases that are also song titles. It worked and wasn’t taken but the name was hard for some people to say.”
The band’s debut self-titled album was recorded in Brendan Canty’s space where the band also rehearsed. The sonic qualities that exist on the album create a wave of sound that made us wonder who produced and engineered it. “That’s Brendan, he shares a space with the first drummer for GWAR Jim Thompson who also does the booking at Bossa. The space is on the third floor and it’s perfect for making noise. After he was displaced from somewhere else, he had the space set up for soundtrack work where he could play all the already set up instruments.We just started by tinkering with our sound and the space isn’t sound proofed, so we’ve been lucky to not get tossed. We made this new album there too and Brendan did a great job with it. He’s been recording bands, making music for films and mixing sound for different shoots. When Fugazi would record, I always walked out because I have never had the patience for that stuff but Brendan does,” says Lally.
Between this band and Fugazi, Lally has done more than many musicians who find themselves in similar situations, including a breadth of solo work that still sounds ahead of its time. Alongside living in Rome and touring with ZU and with The Melvins, his solo work on three different albums represents some of the more intriguing music of his career. With such a hand outside of Fugazi, it made us wonder why people are so fascinated with the band outside of the music, and how he got from that to solo work and now into The Messthetics. “I don’t know why. I try to keep my head somewhere else. A lot of the Fugazi stuff got tossed because it sounded too much like us, but it all sounds like something to me. I want to make another solo album but I had to put it away. It’s so lyric driven and I was trying to do it with someone going out with me for shows. I wanted fantastic improvising people but they need a lot of money to play. I wanted great players to drop in and out, and I wanted to say things that weren’t depressive. So I stopped because I was bumming myself out and that’s where playing instrumental music began,” says Lally.
The new album from The Messthetics, Anthropocosmic Nest has a heavier sound than the debut. With a more melodic touch, and such wondrous tones it made us curious how it came about so quickly and if it were done live or with overdubs. “We record as we write so it was done live to answer “what was that” we figure it. Some things are the first time we’re playing it that way, just figuring it out. The overdubs are more colorings, but it’s done primarily live. We’d been through the process before so this time we allowed for more experimentation. We cut some stuff that was too similar. You ask what’s missing from a record because I still work with side A side B knowledge,” remarks the bassist.
For any fan of instrumental intricacy, the band’s live sets are said to be transformative. We wondered what Lally would tell someone to expect who’s never caught the band in person, as well as if he found that people have a level of expectation because of the bands he’s associated with. “You know, luckily I don’t get asked that a lot. It’s hard to describe when you’re on the inside. I don’t know what it appears to be. I do think if Brendan and I can be a warming reception for Anthony, that’s great because he can really fucking play. Someone like Anthony who’s really into what he’s making is worth seeing. I think people come out to see what it is. We made up a part of Fugazi that wasn’t vocal, and they don’t seem to know what to expect. I think they’re surprised and it’s different. Anthony brings such an enormous amount of styles that it’s far and away from Fugazi. They get to see a different thing because Anthony is so different,” describes Lally.
Anthroposcopic Nest and The Messthetics are both available for physical purchase on multiple formats from Dischord Records, they can be purchased in digital music stores or streamed on all streaming sites. The Messthetics are on tour September 19 in Austin, TX at Barracuda until October 30 in Adelaide, Australia at The Gov. The band’s complete tour schedule is available here.
Image Credits: Photo by Matias Corral.