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The self-titled Dischord debut by the Warmers is a collection of choppy, minimalist avant-punk recalling the slashing guitars and rhythmic tribalism of Gang of Four. But the lyrics of guitarist/singer Alec MacKaye and bassist/singer Juan Luis Carrera are more personal than those of their agit-pop antecedent; the intimate words are composed organically, in the same spirit of the music.
“Sometimes the sound of the song writes its own lyrics. The sound reminds you of something, and you [visualize] this thing, and you put a full story to it in your head,” MacKaye says.
MacKaye has been prominent on the harDCore scene since he was a 14-year-old singing for the Untouchables, later joining Faith and Ignition. But he only started playing guitar when the Warmers formed in the spring of 1994. “Initially, I was just going to sing, and we’d find a guitar player. We knew we wanted to do a band, but we hadn’t really figured out how. Then I just said. ‘Let me play the guitar. I can probably figure it out,’ ” MacKaye remembers. Though MacKaye has been in many bands, he claims, “I don’t really know the mechanics of songwriting. I don’t understand music. Like if you looked at me and said, ‘Play an E,’ I wouldn’t know where it is.”
MacKaye plays his guitar percussively, especially on “Walking Solves It,” which features him furiously scratching his guitar as if it’s an itch that won’t subside. “[‘Walking Solves It’] was this very rhythmic tune, and then the words came next. Not necessarily inspired by the sound of the tune but definitely they work together,” MacKaye explains. “It’s purely organic. It is a jam or a dub kind of experience to begin with. We just start making music and hopefully we [all go] the same way,” he laughs.
MacKaye’s rhythmic guitar and Carrera’s mobile bass playing are defining elements of the Warmers’ sound, but they are upstaged by Amy Farina’s furious drumming. She accents beats idiosyncratically and makes difficult rhythms fit the songs without losing momentum. MacKaye agrees about Farina’s talent: “The thing that really knocked me out is the not-drumming in her drumming, where she doesn’t bang where she’s supposed to, and holds off, and then puts it in.” It’s also why the group never expanded past a three-piece. “The rhythm is just too awesome. Had we gotten a hot-shot guitar player, they might want to rock the guitar a little too hard, and we’d lose the attention to the rhythm.” —Christopher Porter