Mar 7, 2017
Hope Through Doom: Talking to PC Worship
Sometimes, I remember that the fancy apartment building across the street from the building that used to be Death by Audio has installed heated sidewalks, and I want to die. Or, at the very least, give up on New York. We’re a long way from the Bowery of the 1970s, or even Kent Avenue in the mid-2000s. Still, nearly every year, PC Worship releases an album that reminds me that peeling floor tiles, leaking faucets, and busted door knobs abound—somewhere.
This year’s offering, Buried Wish, is their seventh full length album since 2009. Like all of their albums, the project is led by Justin Frye with contributions from a rotating cast of talented multi-instrumentalists. On this album, Michael Etten, Jessica Papitto (Heaven’s Gate), Shannon Sigley (The Dreebs), Mario Maggio, Jordan Bernstein (The Dreebs, Jordana), Pat Spadine, Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs, Guardian Alien), Marilu Donovan, Kassie Carlson (Guerilla Toss) and Adam “Junkyard” Markiewicz (Gold Dime) all appear.
PC Worship releases have a very particular visual aesthetic; fractured, worn, familiar, yet alien. The images, which Frye constructs with cut paper and a photocopier, mirror what his music does so well: He intentionally assembles what he likes, but knows when to let sound gnarl in unexpected ways. Parts of the album are reminiscent of the fuzz and feel-good grooves from SST Records circa 1987. Other times the album wanders into a prolonged spareness which feels foreign but welcome. This album has the telltale nuance and experimentation of previous works. In the opening seconds of “River Running Sideways” there is a lurching, eery tape reel in the background until the song breaks into a sunny guitar riff. More than on previous albums, there is an optimism, shining through survivable doses of doom.
Frye explains the dichotomy of feelings laid out over the album as “intentional exploration of that contrast between optimism and harsh reality, and how you have to source positivity out of inherently negative experiences or surroundings.”
You just got back from a pretty extensive east coast tour. What was your favorite show?
Tour is always a great experience and the one we just finished with Naomi Punk was especially solid and insightful. Getting the chance to shift your focus and influence your perspective on American life is crucial, especially when you live in a progressive bubble like New York City. Chicago was a really fun show for us, even though we got all our clothing / bags stolen from our van outside the venue, but our homecoming show was the most surreal at the Park Church Coop in Greenpoint.
Photo by Wolfgang Daniel
PC Worship has been a project for, correct me if I’m wrong, about 8 years now. How has the recording process changed for you over time?
Thats true, the project started in 2009 and has encompassed a ton of different recording methods, and still does. The recording process is always in flux and is one of the most important tools for exploration and experimenting with different sounds and ideas. Typically the recording process, writing process and idea-generating process are all relatively synonymous and intertwined.
It seems like perhaps the recording process never really stops for you. Are you always recording things that may end up on an album? Do you have an archive of recordings?
Yea, there’s a few playlists of music that have yet to be used for any releases, sitting on my computer. I tend to cherry pick from those recordings for weird compilation tapes, 7″s or alternative releases.
A lot of the same people have been contributing to albums for a long time. Is working together more methodical now?
In some ways it is a very methodical project, especially when we record pieces live, but I try to use different techniques to inform the process and help spin ideas into different directions. Typically there will be a stage of experimentation in the early stages of writing, but once the songs are fleshed out the process of collaboration becomes more methodical (basically just inviting friends over to get high and jam.)
I’ve been experiencing a weird
dichotomy between personal optimism
and political / social dissonance,
so optimism is certainly a central theme on this
album, but the doom is still there.
You told AdHoc that your basement flooded while you were working on the album last year. Did that change the direction of the material, or slow it down at all?
It was definitely a bummer, the recording process for PC Worship is happening all the time, so I wouldn’t say we were halted in any way, but there were a handful of days where I was more focused on avoiding water damage and mold than recording new music. I think that anything that happens in an environment has an impact on the influence of what’s created and this record feels pretty moldy.
Basement Hysteria is a very dense and gritty album. The landscape of Buried Wish is very different. For instance, “Flowers and Hunting”, is completely stripped down. Was this a conscious move away from your previous album?
I think Buried Wish is more indicative of a typical PC album, in terms of intent and flow. Basement Hysteria was an EP that was made in 2 days and released 3 weeks later as a more urgent, live-recorded, heavily improvised counterpart to a European Tour we did as a 3 piece band with myself, Mike Etten and Shannon Sigley.
A few songs on the album that surprised me were “Torched” and “River Running Sideways.” I immediately thought of Sun City Girls / early Meat Puppets. Do you ever think about influences when you are writing songs?
With this album I definitely leaned heavily on a few influences and how they’ve intersected with my personal experience of them, almost as references to actual happenings / content.
The Sun City Girls reference is dead on, as that track is titled “Torched” and is somewhat loosely based on a memories of jamming Torch of the Mystics on long drives during early tours (coincidentally Greg Fox plays Drums on that track, who I spent a lot of years traveling with and jamming that record with on the open road).
“River Running Sideways” wasn’t directly influenced by anything, but now that you mention it, I was jamming a warped LP of Up On The Sun (that got melted by the sun in my truck) quite a bit during last summer. The only other track that has direct influence is “Buried Wish”, which is an homage to Tony Conrad, who died this past year. For the better part of the last decade I have been using Outside the Dream Syndicate as my go-to track to test PA systems when I’m doing live sound, so his death really resonated with me as I was formulating this album. PC has utilized violin (via Adam Markiewicz) as a minimal drone technique on so many recordings and that method is directly influenced by his work, but on this album I wanted to explore something more directly related to my experience with that specific music.
In general, there has been a theme of doom and discomfort in your albums. This album seems upbeat in comparison. Do you think it’s your most optimistic album?
I’ve been experiencing a weird dichotomy between personal optimism and political / social dissonance, so optimism is certainly a central theme on this album, but the doom is still there. There was an intentional exploration of that contrast between optimism and harsh reality and how you have to source positivity out of inherently negative experiences or surroundings.
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
We will be touring the west coast in April and Europe sometime in the late summer / early fall.
Check out the dates below. Poster by Justin Frye.
You might also like
Introducing the inaugural Brooklyn Magazine Festival, June 15-18
Introducing the inaugural Brooklyn Magazine Festival, June 15-18
The Divine Delights of An Italian Holiday in Sicily