Watch Out For Snakes’ Matt Baum talks hardcore, chipwave, and bringing attitude to electronic music

“Fight Those Invisible Ninjas!” Produced and directed by Watch Out For Snakes.

Over the last two years, Watch Out For Snakes mastermind Matt Baum has played a transformative role in fostering Atlanta’s chipwave, chiptune, and synthwave music scene—electronic music that combines elements of video game sounds, Italo Disco, post-punk, acid house, and new wave songwriting. Since releasing his frenetic debut album UPGRADE in 2018, followed by Scars in 2019, the Florida-born electronic music producer, who has lived in Atlanta since 2006, has kept the art of high-energy live performance chief among his priorities. As standing quarantine orders lumber toward the one-year mark, Baum has channeled his efforts into creating his first video for a new song titled “Fight Those Invisible Ninjas.”

Baum took a few minutes to talk about the song, his experiences growing up amid the hardcore scene on Florida’s Space Coast, and bringing attitude and energy to electronic music.

Chad Radford: “Fight Those Invisible Ninjas” gives nods to soundtracks for games like “Ninja Gaiden” and the “Megaman X” series—it’s driving enough for the dance floor, and benefits from modern synth tones, yet it’s nostalgic enough to draw some seriously nerdy references.

Matt Baum: Totally! I draw influence from a lot of different sources, largely retro games from the Nintendo and Super Nintendo era, ‘70s/’80s outfits like Sparks, Depeche Mode, and ELO, synth-y composers like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, and the energy of hardcore/punk bands like Minor Threat, Refused, Comeback Kid, and Underoath. I’d say 90% of my instrumentation is synthesized from NES chip tones, everything but my drums and pads, but I tend to arrange with a hardcore/punk sensibility because I want to throw down when I perform live. It’s always been about bringing as much attitude as I can to the electronic scene, because that’s the energy I respond to when I’m a fan in the crowd.

How did growing up on Florida’s Space Coast affect your relationship with music?

My introduction to any music scene was going to local hardcore shows in the late ‘90s/early 2000s. I spent a lot of time in community centers like the Melbourne Jaycees. We were all young and dumb with too much energy so all of those shows were a blast. Everyone would get super into dancing and throwing down—we were all super supportive of each other too because the scene was so small. I have a lot of nostalgia for that scene because there was a certain simplicity and authenticity to it. Everyone just wanted to make music that was fun and there weren’t a lot of gatekeepers. There was a single promoter down there called Little Reggies Productions that handled all of the hardcore, punk, and emo acts and they were super fair about how they booked acts, which fostered a lot of love across the scene. Everything I do now–live performance-wise—is trying to recapture the magic of those early days and show everyone a good time.

Did you play guitar before you switched to keytar?

I grew up playing classical piano, but never really enjoyed playing music until I discovered that you could transcribe and play tunes that actually meant something to you. The first song I ever transcribed and played was the main theme for “Final Fantasy VI” on Super Nintendo. That was when I was in 4th grade and it was an epiphany for me, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I started performing at actual shows. I joined a melodic hardcore band in my Florida hometown of Indialantic, called Audrey. They wanted a synth player so I started writing with them. A few months in, I got jealous of the guitarists being able to throw down and engage with the crowd at floor shows so I bought a keytar off eBay and never looked back. I used that same keytar through Audrey, the first Atlanta band I was in, The Drownout (2007-2009), and on up to WOFS. I can’t not be mobile when I’m playing and I don’t like putting up a barrier of synths between myself and the crowd because the only reason I play is to directly feel that reciprocal energy between myself and the crowd.

On a side note, I bought a Telecaster with the intent of teaching myself guitar in 2010, but I didn’t get very far. I still want to spend time learning at some stage. Because I respect the hell out of multi-instrumentalists. I do know how to play oboe (three years in middle school), but I don’t know that there’s much call for oboe in popular music at the moment!

What inspired you to pursue this style of music?

I stumbled across chiptune and synthwave as genres without knowing that there were established genres for either. I’ve always enjoyed messing with minimal synth tones, which I mainly got from more contemporary groups like We Are Wolves, Metronomy, and Bloc Party. But this project mostly began as me thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote an ‘80s movie soundtrack concept album but had all the instrumentation sound like video game music?” The only reason I was even going down an instrumental avenue is because my previous project with my former bassist had fallen through and I was tired of trying to get a vocal tone in that project that I was happy with. It was only once I had a few tracks written that I discovered SURVIVE through The Guest soundtrack and then College through the Drive soundtrack. Those two groups really opened up my eyes that there was a demand for structurally simple, but pure musical ideas.

Watch Out For Snakes! Photo by Geoffrey Smith

How do you pull off your high-energy shows as a one-man act?

I had my first full album written almost a year before my first live performance primarily because I deliberated for so long about the best way to perform the music live. Originally, I experimented with a looper pedal because I loved what artists like Howie Day have done, building the whole song live, but the songs I’d written at that stage were too layered and had too many song parts for that to be practical. I also wanted to find a way of incorporating the actual Nintendo into what I was doing, but at the time, the only chiptune artists that were using actual consoles in a live setting were using them more as sequencers, not as instruments and I wanted listeners to connect with what I was doing on stage at any given second. I’ve seen some disappointing synth and chip shows where the artist either just hit play and stood around or was walled up behind so much hardware that you couldn’t tell what they were doing. I didn’t want that for me. So I found a way of compromising where I play backing tracks with the lead parts of each song section pulled out so that I can perform those parts live with the keytar and the softsynth Nintendo emulator I use, Plogue chipsounds.

My entire stage show was designed based on experiences in previous bands to be as easy to set up, tear down, and perform as possible so that I can just focus on the performance itself. I’ve had my share of embarrassing technical glitches with hardware, etc. right before a set and knew I didn’t want to deal with that in WOFS. Proud to say that I’ve only experienced one technical glitch in any of my live WOFS performances and it was something that got worked out during sound check thankfully.

As far as being solo goes, the biggest challenge comes more from travel, trying to figure out how to fly and safely transport all of my equipment from A to B. As an individual, this was probably one of the largest problems I faced, but I figured out a system involving some solid road cases and bungee cords that’s done pretty well for me. I’ve still experienced some unfortunate damage due to TSA checks though, but mostly minor stuff.

Is the song’s title, “Fight Those Invisible Ninjas.” about dealing with personal demons, or is it simply a “Ninja Gaiden” reference?

“Fight Those Invisible Ninjas” is actually a tongue-in-cheek homage to my hardcore days. There are certain mosh calls we’d use as hardcore musicians in the early 2000s to get the crowd to start throwing elbows, kicking, and basically just getting a good pit going. One of those mosh calls “Fight those invisible ninjas!” was one that musicians used half-jokingly because of how ridiculous it was and it eventually became a meme within the hardcore scene, but it perfectly captured this great energy that I always felt at those shows. I want to do what I can to bring more of that attitude and energy to the synth world especially, because I feel like synth artists tend to prioritize polish and aesthetic over grit and rawness.

You hit on some of the subtext of the track though, which was an intentional double-meaning in the title—battling personal demons, which in my case revolve around personal health and self-esteem issues. But each listener can re-interpret those demons to their own personal experience.

Part of your dynamic is channeling personal experiences into songs. How do you approach this?

When I start writing a song, it always starts with a combination of an emotion I’m feeling in that moment as well as some musical technique I want to explore. Musical expression is a form of therapy for me, which is why my songs span a variety of different tempos and musical moods. I’m not that different from most musicians. To this point, what’s inspired me to write has been an amalgam of different traumas and celebrations I’ve experienced over the course of my life: losing family, getting divorced, going through heart surgery, new relationships and friendships … If I find myself focusing on one of these things to the point where it’s overwhelming, that’s when I feel the urge to sit down and write.

I end up shaping these feelings through different song structures or instrument synthesis though, which is where the technical experimentation comes into play.

Initially, I suspected the name, “Watch Out For Snakes,” was a reference to old-school Pitfall for Atari, but it’s a MST3K reference.

I didn’t run across MST3K until I hit high school, but when I did, I went all in on it. “Watch out for snakes,” initially a one-off joke in their Eegah episode became a frequent callback through the entire series that just stuck with me. So when I knew that I wanted to start an attitude-driven chiptune project that kept things light-hearted and goofy, and began brainstorming project names, Watch Out For Snakes was something fun that I kept gravitating back to that no one else seemed to be using musically. I used to have great Google Search results too until a few years ago when the MST3K guys did a reunion “Watch Out For Snakes Tour.” Ah well.

Do you face a different set of standards, or is it difficult to be taken seriously?

The biggest challenge I face is booking shows, especially locally, as a “chipwave” artist. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities out on the road playing huge fests like MAGFest and BitGen Gamer Fest, both in Baltimore, Outrun the Sun Fest in LA, Neon Rose in Portland, OR, and NEON Fest in Providence, which got cancelled last year due to quarantine measures. I feel like I’m an act that wins people over in a live setting because of my energy. But it’s been a hard sell to get booked as support, especially here in Atlanta, for larger synth and video game acts because I ride a fine line between the two groups. Most of the time that can work to my advantage, because I have fan appeal across multiple genres, but a lot of promoters that haven’t seen my act sometimes find me too chippy for synth shows and too synthy for video game shows. I’m positive though that eventually everyone will come around!

There’s a lot of local synth and chip talent in the Atlanta area that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves because some promoters just don’t know what to do with us. That’s one of the reasons I started putting together an artist collective prior to COVID (in partnership with Drunken Unicorn and Outrun Brewery) called Terminus Retrowave, with the goal of providing more opportunities for touring chip and synth acts to perform in Atlanta while pairing them with relevant artists in our local community. Atlanta has one of the largest synthwave artist populations in the US, but Atlanta fans don’t know about them because there’s not a central hub/event to bring everyone together. Hopefully, once the COVID dust settles, we can get that going again in earnest, but in the meantime, I’m partnering with local artists to put something on together in a virtual livestream setting.

What’s next for you?

I quit my day job in November 2020 to pursue music full-time for at least a couple of months so I’m going all-in on a few soundtrack commissions for video games and film, exploring a split 7-inch release with a fellow musician, knocking out some remixes for people, and finishing some additional singles that will be out in the coming months. I’m also going to invest a lot more of myself in Terminus Retrowave and hope to get the first virtual livestream on the books by April 2021. Basically, I’m going to continue exploring how to diversify my music career in a way that’s sustainable and that hopefully gives back to the Atlanta music community.

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Geographic North’s ‘Sketch for Winter’ returns with Carmen Villain’s ‘Perlita’

Carmen Villain photo by Signe Luksengard.

After the icy drone of her atmospheric opus “Dissolving Edges” appeared on A Little Night Music: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North, Carmen Villain returns with Perlita, the ninth installment of the label’s Sketch For Winter series.

Villain, born Carmen Maria Hillestad, is an Oslo, Norway-based former model-turned full-time musician, who caught the world’s attention with the lilting avant-garde pop of her 2017 album, Infinite Avenue. Perlita, named in homage to Villain’s grandmother who lives in Puebla, Mexico, forges a much deeper path of sedate bliss, spherical rhythms, and instrumental beauty. It’s also built around a theme of hibernation and reemergence. Throughout the tape, songs such as “Everything Without Shadow,” “Two Halves Touching,” and “Light In Phases” take shape with a stylishly hushed approach that’s too well-composed to be called experimental music, and too abstract to draw any other concrete pop comparisons. Each number indulges in a deep-listening exploration of electronic drones, textures, and resonance itself as a musical instrument.

On the B-side, “Agua Azul” builds around Johanna Scheie Orellana floating flute melody, guiding dissonant rhythms, bringing this aural cycle to a fine point.

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Adron tackles COVID ennui with ‘Song About My Computer’

Adron has rolled out a new single for coping with COVID-inflicted ennui. “Song About My Computer” is a lovely pop mediation on just how much of daily life is spent navigating a complicated relationship with a silicon-based companion, nemesis, and portal to the world and beyond. As with all good pop songwriting there are layers of meaning at work in the title as well as the hook, “I don’t want to write a song about my computer.”

On the surface, it’s a lighthearted ditty. Give a deeper listen, though, and the glow of melodic catharsis weighs heavily against the existential dread projected in the lyrics: “Maybe we’ll pull through / Maybe we’re all screwed.” Or as Adron says: “The song is a whimsical-pessimist take on pandemic loneliness, and how much I miss being a real-life musician, with some shouts out to LA venues I hope and pray will survive the long lapse.”

Every time I press play on the Youtube video the algorithm toggles away from “Song About My Computer” and follows up with “She Sells Sanctuary” by the Cult. I can’t help but wonder if my computer is taunting me or reciprocating Adon’s sentiments by offering its own message of solace in the nuanced barrage of 1s and 0s reflecting back at me.

Whatever the case may be, the accompanying  B-side is a cover of Bruce Hornsby’s 1986 FM cheese hit “The Way It Is.” Adron’s version was originally recorded as a Christmas gift for drummer Colin Agnew (it’s one of his all-time favorite guilty pleasure songs). “The Way It Is” was produced and mixed by Adron in her bedroom in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, where she’s been cooped up since the beginning of the pandemic. The song features sounds derived from the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card—one of the premier pieces of software for  home PCs circa 1986 through the mid ‘90s, and it shows.

“It’s my favorite digital synthesizer,” Adron says. “Obviously, since the pandemic, I’ve been on a bit of a tear, geeking out intensely on early PC game music and the sounds of that era.”

She goes on to say, “Basically, I went pretty far down the road to making an actual chiptune version of ‘The Way It Is,’ but decided to ditch authenticity—as far as what you can truly call chiptune—and sing on it and do effects processing and whatnot, because I was having too much fun.”

Back to “Song About My Computer …” This latest number was mostly recorded in her bedroom as well, all but the drums which Agnew recorded in his Adair Park home in Southwest Atlanta, where he also mixed the song. It also features a touch of the AdLib sound palette, albeit more subtly worked in.

This latest round of songs is a one-off release. Although Adron has recently finished recording a new album. When it arrives remains to be seen.

In the meantime, keep an eye/ear out here for what she likes to call the “evil twin” of “Song About My Computer”—a version of the song that’s arranged entirely using sounds derived from the late ’80s Yamaha PSS-170 toy keyboard. “This is a very dear and beloved sound palette for me,” Adron says. “I have this bizarre obsession lately with remaking a bunch of my songs using all PSS-170 samples.”

Head over to Adron’s Patreon page to check out an ongoing series of scores for imaginary video games she’s been putting together over the last year, and more offerings.

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Ecryptus, the Dark Side’s original Sith metal lords, emerge from the shadows with ‘Rancorous’

ECRYPTUS: (left to right) Allen Keller (Lord Tenebris), Danny Ryann (Dan Solo), Justin Brown (Lord Abraxas), and Mike Michalski (Lord Crypt). Photo by Emily Harris.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, an early incarnation of the group now known as  Ecryptus was born as a melodic death metal band hellbent on exploring the blackened depths of the cosmos. It was the early aughts, and the group’s singer and guitar player Mike Michalski took lead of this ragtag band of thrashers who knew from the beginning that they wanted to do more than write what he calls “pretentious love songs to Satan.”

One day, while wandering around the annual sci-fi and fantasy Sodom and Gomorrah that is Dragcon the group came face-to-face with an ancient order of Force-wielding rockabilly punks with a penchant for theatrics—Grand Moff Tarkin. Featuring Atlanta artists and underground impresarios Jim Stacy and Shane Morton, GMT pushed the Star Wars theme to the extreme, with an array of spot-on costumes, props, and a legion of stormtroopers to do their bidding.

In an instant, Ecryptus emerged with an arsenal of wholly new and sinister Star Wars-themed black metal to serve the Dark Side.

“Grand Moff Tarkin did their thing with unapologetic campiness,” Michalski says, “but we wanted to make serious songs and treat the source material how many bands treat Tolkien. So we thought, how can we hint at the Dark Side of Star Wars without getting completely sued?”

In 2008, Ecryptus unleashed the Astral Crusades EP, breathing life into the group’s campaign for Darth metal supremacy with songs such as “Imperial Revenge,” “Abandon All Hope,” and “Execute Order 666.” More than a decade later, the “Rancorous” b/w “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” 7-inch summons a supernatural whirr of cosmic grind, making their transformation to the Dark Side complete.

“Ecryptus,” according to Star Wars lore, was the name of the cavern deep below the surface of the planet Korriban where the ancient Sith species first encountered the Dark Side of the Force. Most of the songs the group has recorded and played live deal with the more horrific scenarios that are woven throughout the Star Wars canon that people only familiar with the films might have never thought too deeply about: being sentenced to death by Rancor, being frozen in carbonite, enslaving an entire planet of wookies, and so on.

“Rancorous” opens with a mighty roar before a spiraling assault of blast beats and demonic incantations rise over searing guitar leads that burn with the heat of Vader’s red lightsaber. On the flipside, “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” resurrects what has become Ecryptus’ unofficial anthem with a new recording, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Astral Crusades’ release. The song chronicles Anakin Skywalker’s perspective of executing Emperor Palpatine’s “Order 66” to slaughter the Jedi. “Making the Emperor say “666” was fun,” Michalski says.

The line up at the time of recording the “Rancorous” single featured Michalski, aka Lord Crypt, performing alongside bass player Lord Tenebris, born Allen Keller of Degradations, drummer Dan Solo, aka Danny Ryann (ex-Gigan), and guitar player Ryan Lamb. Lamb moved to Orlando shortly after the songs for the 7-inch were recorded. Lord Abraxas, aka Justin Brown (ex-Synapse Defect), now plays guitar.

The 7-inch arrived pressed on a multi-hued galaxy of vinyl colors: Cauterized Saber Wound, Mace Windu Purp Surp, Ghrey Rey, Opening Crawl Rotten Banana, Gamorrean Guard Mucus, Sarlacc Puke After Trying To Digest Boba Fett, Luke’s Lame-Ass Saber, and Dagoba Green.

Ecryptus. Photo by Emily Harris.

Live, the group takes the stage sporting sith-corpse paint, robes, armor, Dragoncon-acquired lightsabers, and their friend Scara Slayfield wearing her best “Hutt Slayer” Princess Leia outfit, serving drinks to the stage, and adorning the monitors.

The group recently finished recording material for a new EP that’s due out in the Spring of 2021. More recent Ecryptus songs draw inspiration from the expanded universe—characters from Star Wars comic books, novels, and video games.

The forthcoming EP is tentatively titled Kyram Beskar’gam, and, if you watched the The Mandalorian—and you know you did—you already know the title is Mando’a for “Death Armor/Metal.” The new EP will feature songs with titles such as “Cauterized Saber Wound Massacre,” “Planetary Enslavement,” “Compulsion to Disintegrate,” and “Digested over 1000 Years.”

“With each new release, we give in to our anger,” Michalski says, “and become more the Dark Side’s servant …”

In the words of Darth Vader, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side!”

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Entertainment: ‘Voyeur’

The Howling, The Beyond, Driller Killer, Evil Dead 2, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Slumber Party Massacre, Fright Night, The Fog

If you were breathing oxygen in the ‘80s, merely mentioning these titles stirs up memories of youthful fascination, elation, and terror while staring at the artwork for these horror classics of the VHS era. “Voyeur,” the second single from Entertainment’s forthcoming Horror parts 1 and 2 EPs, pushes this aesthetic nostalgia to a deeper and darker place within the imagination.

As vocalist Trey Ehart explains, “‘Voyeur’ is probably the most direct reference on the EPs to being bored and young in rural suburbia, and spending time absorbing horror movies and skate tapes from the local VHS rental store.”

“Voyeur” falls on the heels of Entertainment’s previously released single, “Maggot Church,” and taps into a more severe sense of urgency before diving deeper into the rabbit hole of hazy and cinematic ambiance. Tom Ashton of the March Violets unfurls a rich, goth-tinged production, as Ehart’s heavily affected voice drives the song’s unhinged melancholy and dreamlike vibe with lyrics such as: “video stains my eyes,” “dreams returned too late, screams in the gages of youth,” “show me ways of new desire,” and “static shivers so strange.”

“Each lyric glamorizes the impact of being exposed to a life and music outside of mainstream culture with over saturated practical effects, unnecessarily gratuitous glimpses of nudity, and underground soundtracks,” Ehart says.

The song’s constrictive and alluring melodies grow increasingly more pronounced in the Candelabra Cage Match mix, which comes courtesy of Beta Machine’s bass player Matt McJunkins, who also performs with Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal, Poppy, and more.

Keep an eye out for the video, directed by John Breedlove of Hip To Death to arrive soon.

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Emily Marie Palmer & Jeffrey Bützer: ‘Rebekka’

Jeffrey Bützer and Emily Marie Palmer have released a new single titled “Rebekka.”

The song finds Bützer and Palmer embracing an elegant folk-pop sound that serves as an invisible soundtrack that’s loosely based on The Ballad of Jack and Rose, a film about a daughter that has an unhealthy relationship with her father. As Bützer explains, the song’s protagonist is “raised in a former comune and has really only been around him for her entire life, and, more or less, falls in love with him. I didn’t want to write a salacious incest folk song, so I kept the mood and changed the intent.”

The song features Bützer playing guitar alongside vocalist Palmer, backing vocalist A. R. Palmer, piano and guitar player Lionel Fondeville, Eric Balint playing vibraphone, and cello player Kristin Haverty. The group weaves together a rich tapestry of ethereal, cinematic chamber pop that tells a story that is as tragic or as wistful as whatever the listener brings to the music. The cover art is courtesy of filmmaker Guy Maddin.

Jeffrey Bützer (left) and Emily Marie Palmer. Photo by Ken Lackner

If Palmer looks familiar, you probably recognize her from her roles as Isabel on the rebooted MacGyver series, or as Betsy in season 3 of Cobra Kai—teenaged John Kreese’s love interest. Check out her previous singles “Holy Magic,” “For Beauty,” and “Two Brothers.”

“Rebekka” offers the first glimpse at a new eight-song full-length album, titled Bedrooms, due out later this year.

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West End Motel: ‘New Years Day’

Happy New Year! West End Motel kicks off the new year with a new jam, appropriately titled, “New Year’s Day.”

Singer and co-writer Tom Cheshire offers up some intel on the song’s words and meaning:

‘Well New Year’s Eve has always been a celebration of just another year being alive, and this year it rings truer than ever. Yesterday, my friend Rob Kincheloe sent me a text saying ‘Happy New Year, if you’re alive you won.’

With ‘New Year’s Day,’ I wanted to write a love song, with a sense of humor in it, and a sense of hope. We always talk about these New Year’s resolutions but they only seem to last a week or two. That’s why there are lyrics in the verse like ‘I know I’ve made mistakes but this time we’re gonna be great,’ and ‘Talk to me on New Year’s Day, I’ll find a place for us to stay,’ and ‘This year is for me and you, all the things that we’re gonna do.’

I also wanted it to be a nod to ’70s soul. I was channeling Motown and the Jam when I started writing it. But Ben Thrower, who wrote it with me, said without realizing it we were flirting with the sounds of early E Street band.

Either way, I love the way it came out. I love the New Year’s horn riff that Ben Davis plays at the end. I guess it is a celebration of being alive and maybe finding love again.’

“New Year’s Day” is the fourth single from West End Motel’s ongoing campaign to roll out a new single each month till Spring. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album.

Check out the previous singles:

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Entertainment’s Trey Ehart on ‘Maggot Church’ and ‘Horror’ parts 1 & 2

Entertainment, for most intents and purposes, fell silent after releasing its 2009 debut album, Gender (Stickfigure Records, Adistant Sound, and Duchess Archive). Aside from playing shows in the Southeastern U.S., sharing stages with Modern English in 2016-17, the gothic-leaning post-punk outfit has remained far from the public eye for nearly 11 years.

In October 2020, two of the group’s founding members, Trey Ehart (vocals, guitar, bass, and synthesizer) and Bari Donovan (drums and percussion), along with Entertainment’s latest addition Jim Groff (synth) emerged from the void with a new single, titled “Maggot Church.” From the song’s hissing salvo — a deluge of sonic light and shadow — “Maggot Church’s” stark, effects-laden doom and ambiance are pierced by Ehart’s spectral moans of catharsis. Released with a handful of remixes by INHALT, Delphine Coma, and SubVon, aka producer and former March Violets guitar player Tom Ashton, “Maggot Church” is an empowered number cut from rhythmic grooves and distortion, and charged with intensity. It’s a twisted and contemptuous song that expands upon the group’s brand of gothic rock with an evolved and atmospheric makeover. It’s also the first cut from an upcoming two-part EP to be released in early 2021, titled Horror Parts 1 and Part 2. While preparing for the first EP’s January arrival, Ehart took a few minutes to talk about what the group has been up to for the last decade, and what Entertainment has in store for the future.

The two-part EP that you have in the works is called Horror. The video for “Maggot Church” opens with a quote from intro to the old television show “Tales From the Darkside.” I bring this up to get your thoughts on the EP’s title and the concepts that are at work here. … After watching “Maggot Church” I went down the Youtube rabbit hole, watching episodes of “Tales From the Darkside,” “Friday the 13th,” etc.

Those shows brought out a sense of chasing those childhood thrills of terror and elation at the same time.

I have always been obsessed with the intro to “Tales from the Darkside” — the negative trees, the way the music bends as the world turns dark, and the underlying context of the narration. In a weird way it helped shade the lens through which I see the world. There’s definitely that sense of terror and wonder, something dark lurking beyond you, mixed with childish wonder and elation, but there’s also a harsh existential truth buried beneath it.

Stephen King has a quote: “True horror is the coming undone of something good.” That, to me, is the essence of where we are as a band. When we started coming back out, suddenly I was hit with a lot of people affirming to me, for the first time, that we were something good, and we had completely come undone underneath that. The childish sense of blind self-assuredness had devolved into a sense of doubt, a black cloud hanging over me, like a Kafkaesque maze of conflict. Combine that with my love of camp B-movie horror from the ’80s, and that’s where we’re coming from now.

ENTERTAINMENT: Bari Donovan (left), Trey Ehart, and Jim Groff. Photo by Will Weems.

What prompted you to get the band back together and continue moving forward?

We never really officially broke up, but after touring behind Gender for two years our bass player Tommy bassist left. I moved back to Atlanta from Athens, and we  struggled to regain momentum and maintain a reputation. We were working with DISARO Records, which was a huge accomplishment for us, but I lost faith and direction in our songwriting and position. We did meet our synth player Jim during this time though, and played SXSW twice, trying to find a new way forward. But our live presence almost completely dropped off, and I spent time working with Kris Sampson on nurturing our sound through recordings. Pretty soon the indie goth scene that we’d seen and been a part of in New York and Los Angeles started taking off in Atlanta, and I was asked to DJ at a few nights. I also started seeing more like minded musicians at the DKA nights at 529, and Silk Wolfs’ goth nights. That’s also when I started to realize we had a very underground cult following here. But the big moment was in 2016 when we got the opportunity to open for Modern English on the Southeastern dates of their Mesh & Lace Tour. So we grabbed Jen von Schlichten from Black Lodge and Hymen Moments, and went from nothing to the biggest tour of our career. It was unbelievable, we had everything and nothing to prove, and had to rely solely on the strength of our songs and live presence. We came back to Atlanta completely rejuvenated, played two sold-out shows at The EARL in one day, where half the crowd thought we were from the UK, and then we crashed back down to earth, went back out with Modern English in 2017, this time working with Henry Jack from Weary Heads by way of a connection through Dead Register, and we naturally started re-working and improving newer material. Once we came back from that tour we decided it was time.

How did you come work with Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Has working with him helped you realize anything new or different about your songwriting and the group’s sound and vision?

I met Tom through a mutual friend at a Peter Murphy show in Atlanta. Then we ran into each other again backstage at the Modern English show at the Earl, and again at the March Violets reunion show at the Masquerade, and the dots started to connect for me. I’m pretty shy when it comes to promoting our music, but once we started re-working our newer material I found the courage to reach out to him for help mixing and mastering the material Kris Sampson had helped us work up with the overdubs we did. He’s been a huge source of support and understanding for us. I originally approached him in a very nonchalant way, but March Violets is the ultimate street cred, and a very different approach from the way we do things. He has really helped to teach me strength and how to desaturate — to lean into the atmosphere of a song but also mind the hook — and to trust myself.

Do you feel like Entertainment is part of a larger community of like minded bands in Atlanta? I ask mostly because I have seen bands like Tears For The Dying and Hip To Death working with Tom Ashton as well. All three of these bands are quite different, aesthetically speaking, but there is an underlying thread of commonality — darkness, post-punk, gothic tendencies. Do you think of these bands as kindred spirits?

I’m pretty sure I introduced them to him, if I remember correctly. I love all those bands. We have all circled each other for years, and worked together pretty frequently. But there’s definitely a more concrete scene developing Out of SubVon, where we all have a place we can work. Honestly, I can remember seeing Hip To Death terrify kids at frat bars in Athens, and I’ve always admired Tears For The Dying from the time they used to rehearse next to us and Snowden in a warehouse off Howell Mill Road. And I think we’ve all developed separately, but we’re all hitting a certain level at the same time.

A little more than a decade has passed since Entertainment released Gender. Aesthetically speaking, how have things changed over time?

Not much, weirdly. I think I’m more inclined to be appealing now, much to the relief of the band. I still look to the artsy tension of bands like the Virgin Prunes and Bauhaus for inspiration, but I’m more interested in allowing people to enjoy us without having to be confronted. Leaning more into Japan and Psychedelic Furs. We were recently referred to as “the bastard child of Swans and Duran Duran,” rather than just “the sound of death,” so I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Do you have a favorite song amid all of the new material?

We have so much unreleased stuff at his point it’s hard to say. If you asked the band I think we’d all say something different, but our upcoming third single, “An Alter of Remembrance,” and the track “Distance” are two we tend to gravitate toward.

Have any of the remixes surprised you or revealed something about the music that you didn’t expect?

Yeah definitely! We’ve been lucky to have so many talented people support us and completely transform our songs. I love hearing how other musicians  interpret and manipulate us. At times I am surprised and horrified at how desperate the solo tracks sound, or how small changes can really pull a chorus together in a much more accessible way. They really help put possibilities in place as we decide what the next sound is and get out of our heads.

Do you have a release date in mind for the EPs to arrive?

We have one more single before Horror Part 1 comes out, we’re waiting on a few remixes for that. Then Part 1 comes out in January and a third single and Part 2 come out in February.

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The Coathangers unveil ‘Wife Eyes’ from deluxe reissue of self-titled debut

On December 4, Suicide Squeeze is releasing a deluxe reissue of the Coathangers’ 2006, self-titled debut full-length. The album was remastered by Scott Montoya of Soft Palms and the Growlers, and features two bonus tracks, “Never Wanted You,” which first appeared on a 2007 single, and “Wife Eyes” which was the b-side on 2010’s Hard Candy 7-inch (both released via Die Slaughterhaus Records).

The album was originally released by the Atlanta-based Rob’s House Records and features cover art by Bradford Cox of Deerhunter. “Wife Eyes” captures the Coathangers‘ original lineup of singer and guitar player Julia Kugel, bass player Meredith Franco, drummer Stephanie Luke, and keyboard player Candice Jones’ primal blend of vampy garage-punk and ramshackle angularity.

For the vinyl hounds, the record is being pressed on “confetti crush splatter,” “neon strawberry banana pinwheel,” and “wreckless” (blue-green) colored vinyl editions—500 copies each.

In the meantime, press play on “Wife Eyes.”

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West End Motel: ‘Raisinha’

As promised, West End Motel is back with a new song for November.

This month, the group unveils “Raisinha,” a Brent Hinds-penned numbed that’s dedicated to his wife. “Raisinha” features Hinds taking the lead on vocals and guitar, while Tom Cheshire and Ben Thrower come in for the back up chorus. It’s a love song that ebbs into some power pop terrain, exploring a smoother and more blissful approach in ways that West End Motel hasn’t really embraced before. The songs is also a rich counterpoint to West End Motel’s most recently released singles, “All The Witches,” which arrived in October, and “New Wave Kid,” which arrived in September.

“Raisinha” is part of a larger work in progress. The plan is for West End Motel to drop a new single each month for the next several months. After that, the group will turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album. In the meantime, press play above.

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