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Standout Track: “Performer,” which subs out the Wurlitzer-and-drums duo’s usual bounciness for a propulsive, spazz-prog freak-out. As Jason Hutto batters his keyboards like an Atari-game composer gone loco, drummer/singer Laura Harris spits out a meditation on the hellish demands of showmanship: “So you’ve done it before/You must do it again/You have done it alone/Now you must do it in front of them.”
Musical Motivation: “The song itself is sort of about the song, in a way,” says Hutto, not that “Performer” is the Aquarium’s version of a Borges story. Hutto (a former City Paper employee), says the lyrics can be read as an expression of disillusionment. “It’s about being able to replicate what you do in one place, in front of other people somewhere else,” he says, “but in a way that machines can replicate over and over again.”
Collective Efforts: “Performer” isn’t a new composition—the single, out on Dischord, was supposed to be on the band’s self-titled 2006 full-length. “It was way too hard,” Hutto says, “and for years that song has always been the tough one in the set.” Still, Hutto says, he and Harris felt they needed to master the tune “because it’d be such an accomplishment to get it on tape.” So they called in trashcan troubadour Benjy Ferree—whose band Harris also plays in—to produce the recording and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty to mix it. “After working it up, we’re more comfortable playing it now,” Hutto says. “But it’s always quite a workout.”