New York-based, Boston-bred, outfit Guerilla Toss have always been charmingly-hard-to-pin-down genre-wise, so their amalgam of noise rock, punk rock, no wave, and even pop, being categorized most frequently as art rock really feels like the most comfortable designation. Although the band has been around for less than a decade, having formed in 2010, they already have half a dozen full-lengths and a slightly bigger number of EPs. Last month the band released their latest LP, Twisted Crystal (courtesy of DFA), a collection of what-they-consider-to-be pop songs, but with influences reaching well beyond what we generally regard as “pop.” Guerilla Toss are nearing the end of a month-and-a-half-long tour and will be headlining Johnny Brenda’s tonight for a Halloween party of sorts, alongside Olivia Neutron-John, Evil Sword, and DJ Silverado + DJ Burner Phone. In a recent chat, vocalist Kassie Carlson tells me that Evil Sword will be decorating the venue and putting on a costume contest with a trophy, so make sure to dress up! Check out what else we talked about.
Izzy Cihak: You just released Twisted Crystal. How do you feel the album compares to previous releases? You seem to evolve pretty significantly with each release. What were Twisted Crystal’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Kassie Carlson: Thank you! Inspiration for Twisted Crystal instrumentality is mainly derived from ‘70s and ‘80s krautrock, like Micheal Rother, Can, Harmonia, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, and more. Vocals are heavily influenced by The B52s, early Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, The Slits, etc. We change with each release mostly because we wish our music to be a direct representation of the self. All of us are constantly evolving and becoming inspired by different music
Izzy: How would you characterize your process of writing and recording the album? Or is it different with every song? Were you trying anything for the first time on this one?
Kassie: The process for writing Twisted Crystal was a little different than other albums. These particular songs were projects Peter and I had worked on a year prior, with intent of them being a side project, but decided last-minute to make them Guerilla Toss songs. We recorded on a goat/alpaca farm in Upstate NY at Outlier Inn Recordings, a mostly analog studio. It was really great working with Joshua Druckman. He was always open to questions and endless experimentation. We were able to fiddle around with classic ‘70s processors, like the Eventide and the Fairchild’s cousin, “The Unfairchild,” and really experience how our favorite records were made.
Izzy: I really love the album, but “Jesus Rabbit” is one of my favorite tracks of the year. It reminds me of like proto-riot grrrl, combined with 21st Century dance-punk. How did that particular track come about?
Kassie: The track “Jesus Rabbit” is written about all the chaos, negativity, and destruction on Earth right now. How odd it is to have an entire generation of people somewhat aware that the world could move past the brink of repair in their own lifetime, yet still have to somehow function in society normally. The edge of mass extinction, yet humanity still denies climate change, seemingly relying on an act of God to save us. With its nursery rhyme-esque, recess-taunting chorus, we attempt to get through the static of deniers and poke fun at the insanity of it all.
Izzy: I also really love your recent video for “Meteorological.” What are the biggest influences behind the visual elements of Guerilla Toss?
Kassie: Thank you! Yes, the song narrates the struggle I was facing at the time with different identities and the emotions I had to navigate because of them. Such feelings so starkly different that I felt like an entirely different person. For this particular video, I worked with two very talented sisters in LA at their surrealistic workshop, “Giraffe Studios.” It was really interesting trying on all the different costumes and personalities for this video. The people I worked with helped me work through this awesome form of artistic expression. I strongly suggest everyone takes a look at their other work on www.giraffestudiosla.com.
Izzy: And you’re in the middle of a pretty big tour. What have been some of the highlights?
Kassie: We had a really wonderful time in Austin’s Hotel Vegas with this killer band Xetas. It was nice to be in Austin for once when it wasn’t SXSW. We really got to take in what the city has to offer and meet the people who live there year-round and make that city great.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you play Johnny Brenda’s? You have quite a reputation for your live shows.
Kassie: On Oct 27th we will be playing at Johnny Brenda’s with Olivia Neutron-John and Evil Sword. Members of Empath will be DJing. Evil Sword is decorating the venue and spearheading a costume contest with a real trophy! So, make sure you come out dressed up for a chance to win!
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for Guerilla Toss, after these dates wrap? Is there anything you’re especially excited for in the last part of 2018 and/or the first part f 2019?
Kassie: Well first off, we are very excited about our Halloween Party at Market Hotel Oct 31st with George Clanton, What Cheer Brigade?, The Juan Maclean (DJ Set), and Stud1nt (DJ Set). It’s going to be an epic spooky hang.
Also, definitely super excited to do a few dates with Speedy Ortiz. We have always admired their talent and present and looking forward to spending time with them again. Make sure to catch some of these dates:
11/30 Holyoke at Gateway Arts
12/1 Burlington at Arts Riot
12/2 Woodstock at Colony