I'm never quite certain where to start when describing Genders…
Words like, atmospheric, noisy, invigorating, scary, experimental,... those always swirl up
Along with phrases or snippets like: rooted in or aiming towards some semblance of rock (or the complete deconstruction-of)…
It is a slow burning punk – a pulsation of bass, a splay of guitars, and steady rounding electronics – be it synth blurts or drum explosions (varying from delicate to frightening).
It's all very ethereal, like waking up from a dream. And it doesn't help that it's been nearly 3 years since I last saw them…(Of course, having gone on sabbatical in 2006, the Detroit duo – Jeffrey William Thomas and Evan Wallace Johnson – have not been seen or heard-in-a-live-setting, by anyone else, for that matter, in nearly 3 years). From what I can piece together in my bleary memory – it felt close to what I would imagine as Suicide in their heyday, with more instrumentation and minus, perhaps Alan Vega jumping off the stage and strangling people with his mic chord – though perhaps the duo weren't far from that at the very set I attended.
But,…put simply: a total stimulation…be it discomforting or invigorating, of the senses, through noise experimentation, presented in malleable structures at loud, loud volumes.
From 05 – 07, the band had handful of releases – their "most widely distributed" still being There's Something in the Treats (from 05, on Tigerbeat 6).
In the time since 2006, Thomas started fuzz-fried indie/post-punk outfit Gardens with Julian Spradlin and Vincent Mazzola. But over the last few years he's kept in touch with Wallace and the whole crew from New Detroit. (check out: NewDetroitStyle.com)
In fact, Thomas started up his own label, Holographic Resonance – a means for future releases. After spending much of 2008 in dark rooms, huddled at lab tops, arranging massive amounts of old recordings, he's formed a daunting Genders-focused compilation. This Tuesday at PJs Lager House, Genders return to the stage to celebrate the release of 13 moons: "This release is 13 discs long, documenting sounds made by Genders from 2003 to 2006…" reads Thomas' message on the Holographic Resonance home page. "I picked the best material (about 13 and half hours) from a collection of tapes (about 24 hours). Take your time listening to it, no worries……or, don't and go on a marathon."
Genders: The Deep Cutz Interview
(Genders on Myspace)
Could you detail how/when the band got together...how it got started (early on, with shows, recording, etc)…?
"First, there was a project that I started and recorded all myself called Via Employee that played around Detroit and Cincinatti for a while. I wrote all the original material, but got my friends to play with me including my partner in many current projects/adventures, Vince[ent Louis Mazzola]. That's how I met Evan [Wallace Johnson]. Eventually Via Employee started writing music together. Then I started a side project to that called Genders, which was just me and was a lot more noisey, with no guitars. I didn't do that very long and some people left playing Via Employee, so Evan and I just concentrated on playing together just under the name Genders. Ever since then, we've played from 2003-2006 mostly recording ourselves and playing a bunch of shows and put out a few things. Then we got graciously took on tour with Adult. Which landed the tigerbeat6 release."
What is the latest news/update with Genders, can you detail why you took a break after 2006...(or, 'sabbatical', what-have-you)....and what brought about the return?
"In 2006, we had a lot of plans and A TON of material to work with. We could've put out 4 or more really good solid full lengths at any time. At the same time, that might have been part of the problem, mixed with a not-serious-enough-at-the-time work effort. We would easily just write something new for a show, instead of trying to figure out how to get current songs recorded and released. We had financial constraints/problems. Generally, I know at least for myself, 2006 was a very introspective year, figuring and processing life things. I moved to San Francisco for about 3 months to check it out in the beginning of 2007 and came back. Since then though, things just fell way side as far as playing Genders productivity. I really got in my head what I want to do since then and started playing a different style of music last year which could reflect that, hence Gardens. I also started this 13 moons project last year to compile everything Genders has done and take the best of it. It's done now, and I thought we should play a show and release it. The future after that, we'll see!"
How did the band change over time, throughout the 00's, in sound, in membership, in approach...compared to when it started.....
"Well, the sound definitely morphed over time. I'd say lyrically, a little more lost and confused back then, to increasingly becoming more aware and optimistic. Musically, at first, a much more general hodgepodge, then adopting some beat oriented music, to sometimes writing with no percussion. We explored a lot of realms. We started as two, then had Tia Fletcher play for a while, then Neal Simms, then back to just us for a while, then with Vince for a little before the split to Cali. Each member addition was really awesome and exciting and then equally liberating once they were over. Our approach has always been a general experimentation and openness to what we found interesting at the time. Certain plants had some effects at certain times more then others as well."
And…how, if at all, has it changed now, since 2006?
"We're still in the process of figuring that out. It definitely feels a bit nostalgic, because things change and move so fast I feel, at least for me/us. I'm basically representing a vibration I had back then, but I'm getting comfortable with it and interested to see how it comes off and feels further into it."
Can you detail your connection to the New Detroit circle of artists/friends?
"A lot of us our friends and encouraging and supporting each other. We hang out all the time and love to make music/art. I'm very excited to see what I/we can do in regards to REALLY supporting ourselves, on a bigger scale."
…Genders was known for atmospherics, for noise, for weirdness, for tenseness, for urgent/freaky/experimental-rock..., the review on your page references Throbbing Gristle or Public Image Ltd... -was this close/fair portrayal of what was driving you, musically, in terms of what influences you drew from?
"At times, yeah, those were something we were into, along with Cabaret Voltaire, Chromatics, Love Life, Augustus Pablo, Tamion 12 Inch, Adult., King Tubby, Detroit noise groups, Caroliner Rainbow, all kinds of stuff. I wouldn't say it was always tense, but probably those earlier releases, like the tigerbeat6 one. Its hard to really sum up our sound with that release, which is the one most highly distributed. That is a big reason why I wanted to make the 13 moons release."
What inspired the latest release...14 hours, 13 albums...what's the goal or the inspiration behind it...are each of them particularly different or do they play like chapters? What could you say about them?
...what was it like recording it/editing it?
"Firstly, to better represent us and to compile it and share it in case we didn't do any other recording again. I first started to go through all the practice/jam tapes we've had, which is a big dresser type drawer-full. I was doing it on someone else's computer and months into it, the computer crashed. I bought my own laptop at the beginning of 2008 and worked on it all year. Seriously, hours and hours, days and days at stretches going through and editing the songs. I wound up with a lot of different versions of songs and a lot of ramblings to sift through. I discarded 10 hours of material that I didn't think was that worthwhile and ended up with enough good material to fit on 13 CDs, which I like the number 13. There's almost 13 moons in a year, which is a more feminine way to keep track of time, not to at all discount solar years, just the feminine is looked over. As far as the selection process, that was a couple-month task of placing songs more like in a mix tape style order. Which track flows after another one; I preferred that over the chapter style way. Although, I was conscious of what the feel was for each CD. Also, the 13th CD is all the Via Employee material. And the original solo genders piece is included on the end of disc-12. Other then that, everything is mixed to break up recorded quality and moods."
So finally, what's coming up next for the Genders?
"…Not sure! Depends a little on how much interest there is, how much we want to spend on in, and how much time we have with all the other projects we're involved in! Probably a more studio style recorded single of two of the songs off 13 moons though."