Austin, Texas duo Street Sects began making a name for themselves in 2014 with a few abrasive and passionate singles, but it was last year’s End Position – an industrial/punk/noise masterpiece – that garnered the attention of indie blogs and national magazines alike.
I can’t start making up musical genres to help me explain this record in print. It’s sample-based, it’s industrial(ish), its punk as fuck, it’s intense, loud and dark. Most importantly, it’s involved music. You’re not going to play End Position in the background; you’re going to have to confront that album and everything that it represents – addiction, despair, apathy, etc. And, based on all that I’ve read and seen, Street Sects’ live show isn’t any less of an experience. I conducted this phone interview with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Leo Ashline and multi-instrumentalist Shaun Ringsmuth while hunkered down in my car during a tornado warning, pea-sized hail pummeling my windshield. There’s a metaphor or at least a segue-way there.
While not yet a household name, Street Sects is cultivating a dedicated and loyal fan base since the release of End Position in September.
“This tour so far is definitely better than the last one,” Leo tells me. “Nothing crazy, but it’s not bad. The shows have been fun.”
“And we’ve had a few people come up after the show and say that they’ve heard of us through this or that source,” Shaun add., “A few people have come up and told me that End Position was their favorite record of last year. And that’s really an honor to hear.”
Shaun and Leo have been playing together “on and off for about 15 years or so,” mostly in more traditional organic bands. And while the unreliable nature of people certainly contributed to their foray into electronic music, the transition was more about finding the right way to express themselves.
“With this one we knew what we wanted to convey emotionally and it was about how to use the tools we have to convey what we want to.”
That word “emotionally” comes up a lot. Street Sects undoubtedly comes from a place of personal struggle. And while that’s apparent in the lyrics, it’s not hard to find in the meticulously cultivated noise, either. And that emotion and energy bleeds into Street Sects’ live show as well.
“The live show that we have been created before the album came out and it’s something we’ve been working on since the start of the project,” Shaun explains. “And we’ve added a few elements – lights, fog – that create the sense of isolation and privacy with the music. Whatever place they’re in, whether it’s a house show or art gallery or bar, we’ve just managed to be able to transform it with those tools and get them into the music that way. And most people come away with a very ecstatic experience.”
I spoke to the guys on the seventh day of their tour, they tell me the crowds have been enthusiastic and that seems to be enough for them.
“For us, we’ve spent a lot of time making music that hasn’t really reached people or hasn’t really been successful, “ Leo explains. “So I think with this, it was really all or nothing. Not just writing music that we were proud of, but also trying things and forcing ourselves to do stuff that we were uncomfortable with. It’s pretty hard to do anything new musically, but I think people should at least try. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to push ourselves and break new ground in what we’re doing and how it makes us feel.”
“I know that there are times in our live set,” Shaun adds. “In the way we bring out our PA system with the subwoofers and being able to tap into those frequencies live and then have the lights. Sometimes, in small spaces, I get the same effect that the audience does. I’m kind of immersed in the same experience and I can see how that style of music at that volume with that setup can be very, very moving. Very scary, very exciting, but you can’t ignore it.”
“We’ve gone to a lot of shows,” Leo adds. “And I would say 99% of the shows we go to, we’re kinda bored. Not by the music, but by the show. A big part of what we’re trying to do for this project is imagine that we are in the audience watching the show that we’re putting on. We are just trying to make it not boring. We want to wake people up. Regardless of how they feel about the music or how they feel about the show, they’re not gonna be fucking bored.”
And that’s what it’s about, right? So if you’re not swayed by Street Sects’ place on Rolling Stone’s Bands to Watch list or even the least bit curious about the unique sounds that I can’t exactly put into words, you at least don’t want to be bored. Street Sects will be at Charlie’s American Café this Sunday, April 8th, with NoLa noise-punk Hound, Richmond noise manipulator Lacanthrope and Norfolk’s own Clary Sage. I promise it won’t be boring.
For more, here is the event on Facebook.