by Dan Goldin (@post_trash_)
Over the past decade, Baltimore’s Multicult have earned their reputation as one of this era’s best and most consistent noise rock bands. Set to release their fifth album, Simultaneity Now, on August 2nd via Learning Curve Records (Grizzlor, Bummer, Super Thief), the band remain of the best and brightest. Pushing the noise rock framework in new directions with a relaxed sonic freedom and a deeper understanding of their own goals, the album sounds as vital as ever.
We had the opportunity to chat with the band’s Nick Skrobisz about their longevity, their new album, and the world of music outside the walls of noise rock’s confines. Check out the interview below together with the premiere of new single, “Torsion.”
Post-Trash: It's been nearly a decade since the first Multicult release. Did you expect that kind of longevity from the band?
Nick Skrobisz: Didn't really know what to expect when the band started! It was initially a recording project that I haphazardly booked a show for before finding any bandmates. In that search, I happened to hit the jackpot with Rebecca [bass] and Jake [drums]. The chemistry of our personalities and musical proclivities I think has been entirely to credit for the band's longevity.
PT: You're not kidding about hitting the jackpot. that's really awesome. Has it been a collaborative effort between the three of you ever since?
NS: Oh most definitely. The musical directions we've been able to go, I think is totally subject to the interaction of us as separate entities, and so much more robust than what would be produced by a single mind. Very thankful to have our little constellation in the universe.
PT: In the years since you've been a band it seems as though the Baltimore DIY scene has gone through some major shifts. Does it feel different now then it did when you started?
NS: It has changed, I think more so in specific bands though, than as a broad cluster. The behavior of the scene as such I think is much the same, sans the immense contraction of house shows. Luckily, there have been plenty of venues to pick up the slack. There is and always will be a wild-card factor in what will come out of Baltimore. It's an inherently unconventional and disobedient city especially where the arts are concerned.
PT: Is it one that is relatively easy to live in as a musician? As you've grown into more of a veteran status, has your approach to local shows changed?
NS: Oh it's one of the best I think. Particularly from a sheer financial standpoint, you are close to many other cities and scenes, in a great scene, and not having to live a double life in order to tour and play music on a regular basis. My tack on local shows is, perhaps comically, very much the same after the first couple years of evolution. There really is a logarithmic sort of slow-drip nature to playing underground music over a long span of time. You will see the same people, interspersed with new faces at every turn. The thing that always is driven home in my mind, from interaction to interaction, is how important it is to treat everyone with respect and decorum, no matter what their taste or background may be. Respect and care are the paramount features of DIY music in my mind.
PT: An attitude that also speaks to your longevity and to why people want to book you all for shows, work with you, and interview you. i've often found it to be true, the heavier the band, the nicer the people, hah. Simultaneity Now comes out in August with Learning Curve. How did you hook up with them and what's it been like working together so far?
NS: Thanks man! We actually hooked up initially with Learning Curve via our friend Gus Engstrom from Powertakeoff. We did a split 7" with them in 2015, and have had a working relationship with that label and scene ever since. The whole tour roster for this US tour upcoming is Learning Curve personnel. Super Thief, Tongue Party, and Vincas. Working with them, Reptilian, and Sleeping Giant Glossolalia particularly, have all been positive experiences. All true diehards that know how to maintain a flame.
PT: That's a great collection of tour mates. It does feel that Learning Curve is really doing an enormous part to keep that brand of noise rock alive, and i know it's widely appreciated from all of us who live for that sound. Digging into the record a bit, are there any overall themes to the new album? How much emphasis do you place on concept?
NS: Seconded! It's a very potent vibe, a lot of the bands on that roster. The new record is definitely a more deliberate and rarified process compared to albums past. A good number of the tracks on there lived in a larval state for months longer, and got some serious facelifts in the later writing stages. We allowed for a lot more resistance and disagreement in every aspect of this. Though it was a much harder journey on this record, I think it came out all the better for it. The themes of compartmentalization and interdependence run strong in the final product.
PT: Was the extended period of writing a goal you had with the album, or did it happen that way due to life getting in the way? was there a point to let the songs breath and see where they would end up? is this the first Multicult album that you've produced yourself?
NS: I wouldn't call it a goal to have taken longer, but it was necessary to break new ground as a unit. 'Breathing room' would be a good way to describe the approach we took with a lot of these tracks, and there was definitely some life stuff that added to the challenge. All worth it though. Funnily, all the previous Multicult stuff was recorded exclusively at our practice space (and studio), and this album is the first where we went to another studio to separately track drums (Developing Nations with Kevin Bernsten). Our drummer really wanted to try something new after four consecutive records and endless practice recordings in the same space, and we were glad to oblige. Everything else on this album was recorded and mixed at our space, per usual.
PT: There's definitely a tonality that you've all mastered in that room. Is that something you've continued to explore with different amps, pedals, and recording techniques over the years? Rebecca probably has my favorite bass tone in noise rock (at least in the US, for sure).
NS: Thanks man, yeah our space definitely imparts a unique character that I've grown quite fond of over the years. The techniques have morphed from album to album. The emphasis on this one was single-capture takes and very deliberate overdubs. Rebecca's bass tone is often (and for good reason) one of the first things people comment on about the band. She uses exclusively her own line of pedals she custom builds (ROBO Pedals). I also have a pair as my primary tone impartation units. Amp-wise, we have been using the same stuff since the beginning, pretty much. Some things change, and some stay the same, haha.
PT: That's awesome about the pedals. No better way to develop a sound than to literally construct it yourself. I've always found your guitar playing to pull from free jazz/no wave structures and math rock tendencies in a way that pushes and pulls against the rhythm section, while remaining locked into the same sludge bottom line. What inspires your playing and do you write riffs with the rhythm section in mind?
NS: I'm glad you get that vibe! I'm huge fan of all that no-wave, old school Skin Graft and Touch and Go alumni. Those were my minerals in my formative years of guitar playing, whereas lately, I have really become taken with more loose and adventurous guitarists like Bill Orcutt and Sir Richard Bishop. Multicult has largely been a product of holding off on writing guitar riffs until bass and drums gave a context to work within. I've been recently redeveloping the writing-from-guitar synapses and it's been fun to rediscover that on this record after such a long period of holding back on its primacy in the structuring of songs.
PT: it really does come across on songs like "ISO" and "Simultaneity," two of my favorites where the guitar works in a freeform kinda mold from everything else, snapping in place as the paths cross. Are you excited to play these songs on tour? Do you all enjoy touring? Are you headed anywhere you've never been?
NS: Oh yeah, very pumped to take these out on the road. We got to run with these a good bit in March as well, when we toured with Microwaves and Eye Flys. They are a bit more dialed in now too, and this tour is a bit longer, so more fun to be had. We definitely love to tour and are getting to some long-awaited towns in the US we've missed on tours prior. Namely, Denver, Salt Lake City and Memphis.
PT: That's awesome! have you toured at all overseas?
NS: We toured Europe with Majority Rule last year. Our first foray there; we'd love to go back!
PT: Did you find crowds to be more or less receptive to US touring or was it the same, hit or miss kinda thing?
NS: For the most part, they were quite welcoming and we were lucky in that regard. Different vibe, but equal energy, if that makes sense.
PT: Yeah, absolutely. Having played together for as long as you have, do you find the writing to come easier? Does it become more of a challenge to push yourselves and create something new?
NS: I think the writing just changes. It never really is that easy; the procedure can be very lumpy and giving a final context to all ideas is never a cakewalk. Probably have developed more of a sense of when to be patient, when to listen more, and when to move on!
PT: Do you three of you generally like to listen to music similar to Multicult? i always think its interesting when someone creates one type of music but generally listens to another.
NS: I'm glad you asked! Honestly, most of us listened to more noise rock-centric music in our earlier days, and have all flown off into other genre orbits for consuming music. We still retranslate that stuff back into what we play, whether we mean to or not, but we like to enjoy the cornucopia that the world has to offer, in that regard.
PT: I know you recorded Dead Tenants’ last album. Have you done much other recording for other bands? Is it something you want to dig further into?
NS: Oh yeah! I probably record 5-10 bands a year, just interspersed with touring in my own bands etc. Recently recorded the Holy Circle (Terence from Locrian) which was a fun divergence from my usual clients. Very Cocteau Twins vibe, with many layers of reverb. Some other favorites I've done are ILSA (the Maggots are Hungry LP), Birth Defects, and Friend Collector.