"Your Pretty Faces Are Ready": The Word Play
Kevin McGorey knows I’m searching for the meaty catastrophe.
Huddled in their Ferndale practice space, I’m pointing out that Detroit quartet The Word Play started tracking their debut LP How I Became Illustrated nearly 2 years ago to the week, in hopes of beefing up the headline and extracting some needless drama from the potentially epic story of the record.
“It’s really not that meaty,” the guitarist/singer says, absentmindedly plucking tunes on an acoustic guitar. Around the informally furnished living room sit drummer Brandon Sczomak, bassist Brent Mosser and singer/guitarist Ian Rapnicki. McGorey notes “boring, complications” of re-booking studio time, adding in new parts, waiting for contributors and life, school and work. But, also, waiting for the merging of two local labels, (between their original home-label of Suburban Sprawl and Ann Arbor’s Quack!Media), to finally “get settled.”
“It seemed everyone had their releases backed up,” said Sczomak. “Everybody [on SubSprawl, Pop Project, Javelins, Child Bite] had their [albums] done and ready before us – everybody waited for this deal to go through so it wasn’t like, ‘oh let’s put everything out at once.’ And, since we were the new kids on the block at Sub Sprawl…ours was at the end of it…”
“Basically, the headline of the story:” says McGorey, hands raised, “New Kids On The Block!” Which is far from the case as the Word Play have been playing together since 2004, and playing shows for 3 ½ years, numerous times with their label mates as analogous bill mates. It only highlights their self-effacing, easygoing manner, as this quip is followed by a deadpanned admittance to being the most “unorganized band” around town… Later on, Sean Clancey (Child Bite) unfurl his fuzzy self into the room and jokingly nudges – “Your pretty faces are ready for the cover of [Alternative Press!] – play up the pretty factor with you guys…” And soon the group is willing to add Clancey’s suggested lewd commentary regarding women’s under-garments and “the pretty factor” to their “New Kids” headline.
Downplays continue on influences. “No one’s above influence,” says Rapnicki, “musically, as far as what we are listening to, is changing a lot – if your taste is changing, the music you write changes…” And, further downplaying of drama, “There’s never a point where it’s like, ‘Okay…new album! Where we goin with this?’” said Rapnicki, adding that their second full length is almost completely written.
Sczomak, McGorey and Rapnicki (all 23) grew up together, meeting at Plymouth-Canton High School and forming a trio after graduation – which was completed soon (in late 04) by a chance meeting of McGorey and Mosser (26) – a chance facilitated by their respective jobs at rival Jimmy John’s restaurants – adding the bass to their then-developing “post-punk” penchants for propulsive rhythms and dueling guitars. The band agrees Illustrated is an ideal introduction album (though they’d self-recorded an EP in 04) and that now, they’re “starting to define more of a sound for ourselves,” said McGorey.
That sound’s a raw pop (dark-n-dreamy) pushed by declarative guitar roars and spindly fingered spacey melodies dashed over these punchy, guttural beats and driving, wavy bass lines; the arch of splattered indie noise-fuzz glory to “herky-jerky” quasi-danceable hooks to a shining breadth for more softly flown melodies and moving harmonies.
Rapnicki concludes, with his pleasingly cryptic quips, “We’re all over the place…doing our own things, just…doing music! Just doing music things. Just living!”
Up next – writing, more shows and recording in 09, plus Illustrated’s release party at the Woodward Ave. Brewery, 1 / 17.