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Standout Track: The first single from Yesferatu, a new group formed by members of D.C.’s Hot Hymns and Bike Trip, seeps beneath the skin. “By Design” ramps up, swerving from right to left speaker, to launch the best bass line of 2018. Bassist Paul Burgess’s nimble acrobatics track center stage throughout while providing the foundation for the rest of the band build their colorful disco reef on top. Synths, guitars, and percussion weave together until they’re indistinguishable in a wash of exuberance thanks to stellar production from Brock Boss at Quest for Glory IV studios in Takoma Park. Fittingly, Burgess gets the last line with a final, emphatic upbeat.
Musical Motivation: Yesferatu started as a project between Hot Hymns bandmates David Norwood (Vocals, Guitar) and Burgess, but they soon found Jeremy Slevin (Vocals, Synth) and Annika Johnson (Drums) to help flesh out the songs. “We write as a group,” Norwood says, “and when we hit something that we like I think we all know it.” Improvised jam sessions are key to the early writing process and “By Design” was built around its unforgettable bass line from the beginning. “It’s the first proper track we wrote that has a sound that we all identify with as a band,” says Slevin. The last thing to get added are Norwood’s lyrics, which are typically opaque and open to interpretation. On “By Design”, the Norwood’s lyrics in the verses like “Frankenstein a sequel” and “negotiate on their knees” add up to a reflection on art as commodity.
Punk Circuits: In the spirit of Yesferatu’s improvised song writing, Slevin has been playing with his first analog synth, an old Sequential Circuits Six-Trak. In addition to its warmer, more unpredictable sound, it was at the center of one of the bands more memorable shows. The pitch wheel is a little finicky so there have been times when it has gone out of key mid-show,” Slevin says. “There was a time when it actually fell on the ground. I kept playing on the ground, but it was out of key and then we transposed the song live.” Norwood chimes in, laughing, “That’s the best possible interpretation of the events that happened. The crowd was saying they thought he did it on purpose. A very punk stagemove.”
Yesferatu play a release show at Black Cat with Phone Sex and Lovejet on Thurs., May 10. 7:30 p.m. $10.