The spirit of Fugazi is alive in Philly’s Cassavetes and Split Red
Sure, it’s possible that Philly punk four-piece Cassavetes picked its name as a tip of the hat to the American actor-director who starred in Rosemary’s Baby and directed Faces, A Woman Under the Influence and a host of others. It’s equally possible – and, listening to the music, maybe more probable – that the band is making a nod to “Cassavetes” the song, which appeared on In on the Kill Taker, the killer 1993 album from DC DIY icons Fugazi.
The members of Cassavetes have been kicking around the scene for a while now. The band features longtime Philly punk Josh Agran (who’s played guitar in Paint it Black and drums for Pet Milk) stepping to the mic with a guitar in his hand, while Patrick McCunney (best known for the late 90s cult faves Kill the Man Questions) joins him on lead; Jonathan Murphy of Sore Saints plays drums while Chris Sigda of Likers plays bass.
You can hear their collective Philly roots in their music – which got a nice little shout from Stereogum this week – but you can also hear an undeniably affinity for all things Dischord (Records) in the smartly crafted balance between swelling instrumental tension and warm melodies. “Tied Down,” a track from its forthcoming debut Oh So Long, is an anthem about breaking free from repression – psychological or otherwise – and it’s equally hard-hitting and ultra-accessible. The chugging “Oh So Long” works same juxtaposition while building into a rousing fist-pumping gang vocal refrain. “Extra Clear,” the song that dropped on Stereogum, even ventures elsewhere in the rock canon, moving a bit beyond mid-90s D.C. to lift a simmering pace and vocal hum from Soundgarden and make an allusion to Pink Floyd’s The Wall (maybe?) in the meta lyric “hold it tight to make it glow / you are ready for the show.”
Oh So Long comes out August 26th on Black Numbers records, and Cassavetes plays an album release show at the First Unitarian Church on Saturday, September 6th. (Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.)
Another Philly group making music from a similar perspective is the heavy five-piece Split Red. Their debut Serious Heft comes out October 14th on New Atlantis records, and their sound compares less to the aggressive anthemic side of Fugazi and more to the experimental / noise rock side, the stuff heard on Kill Taker. The parallel makes sense, as Split Red drummer Ricardo Lagomasino (of Many Arms) also played in Fugazi guitarist Joe Lally’s experimental trio in the late aughts. Vocalist Nebadon Adams doesn’t sing as much as he bellows and growls; guitarists Stephen Buono and Travis Woodson deliver totally searing interplay.
I’m also hearing some serious Minutemen and Shellac moments in Serious Heft, particularly opening track “Manifest Blasphemy,” which premiered this week on Brooklyn Vegan. Right now the band is planning a fall tour around the album’s release, though no dates are announced yet (nor are any Philly album party type things). We’ll keep you updated as that changes.
Meantime, you can listen to “Manifest Blasphemy” in BV’s exclusive stream here, and check out a three-song sampler from Cassavetes’ Oh So Long below.