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Standout Track: Shoegaze music is, by definition, an introspective pursuit, one usually attempted from behind a protective curtain of stringy hair. But Tennis System’s “Esoteric” practices an upfront approach to woozy psychedelic rock. Instead of strummy chords and spacey effects, the band opts for energetic down-strokes and billowing distortion.

Musical Motivation: Volume, mostly. Guitarist/singer Matthew Taylor’s old band, the Mantras, mined similar turf, but with Tennis System, he wanted to crank things up a notch. “This is more energetic—a lot more in-your-face,” says the Columbia Heights–based musician. “The other guitarist [Drake Eidson], he’s added a new element to it. He’s from Harrisonburg and was really into hardcore, so he brings a whole different aesthetic.” Then, there’s the gear: “I’m really into pedals. I love effects,” says Taylor. “I have, like, 12 pedals: a Big Muff, an [Electro-Harmonix] Graphic Fuzz, and this Devi Ever pedal—it has a sensor, I put my foot closer and it changes the octave,” he says. “Actually, I blew one of my [amps] up with that pedal. Now I kind of take it easy with it.”

My Buddy Valentine: Speaking of effects pedals, Taylor’s been fortunate enough to get some gear advice from the all-time guru of blasted amps and upper-range hearing loss: My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. The two met, Taylor says, when he attended the All Points West festival in New York, where Shields’ band played a reunion show. “He had so many good ideas—he told me all the stuff that he would use and what settings,” says Taylor. “He has this pyramid of pedals. If he hits one it sets off six different things. His setup is so crazy. It’s something I hope to one day be able to do.”