GOLDIES 2011: Religious Girls

The arty noise act's music is that of the futurist multitasker

Nicholas Cowman and Christopher Danko. (Not pictured: Guy Culver)

GOLDIES If they suddenly became stupidly rich, the trio behind Oakland's Religious Girls would purchase a warehouse to turn into an all-ages venue/home-recording studio, with maybe some laser tag. Or they'd buy a food cart. If that isn't the epitome of the modern Bay Area band, I don't what is.

Gutted, then formed from the meat of other local acts, Religious Girls — Nicholas Cowman, Guy Culver, and Christopher Danko — became a unit in the summer of 2008. When asked if Oakland influenced their sound, Danko says, "It really did. We came together in Oakland, and grew together, our music as well." The arty noise act's music is that of the futurist multitasker: overflowing synth and samplers, beeping keyboard, near-tribal drumming, and three wordless chanting vocalists. Conspicuously absent are the given instruments of traditional rock 'n' roll.

The band is electrifying live, all loose limbs, hard-hitting drums solos, and musty, foggy chants, formed in a claustrophobic circle (more like a triangle, to be mathematically accurate), each musician clearly feeding off the energy of the others. This past summer, the rest of the country got to catch the live act — the Religious Girls (time to note: no actual females play in the band) spent 45 days on the road on their own Shred Til We Ded tour. They toured the East Coast in a giant school bus (dubbed "The Rad Bus") with Blastoids and the Prophet Nathan, both of Tennessee, and from that trip fondly recall "jumping off a bridge and riding a waterfall in Washington, making a whirlpool with Japanther in Montana, and [getting] the stomach flu!"

The cross-country journey was in support of the recently released 12-inch EP Midnight Realms, which came out on two labels, Everybodies Stomached (in L.A.) and Echolalic Records (Seattle). To be released yet again next year, this time on German label Alien Transistor, the record is fraught with mind-expanding moments of ecstasy. The thrill of the twinkling keyboard build-up in "OG" (named for BART cop shooting victim Oscar Grant) plateaus with guttural screams and fuzzy daggers of laser synth, breaking down into near chiptune digi-video game bleeps and clacking drums. It's pieces like this that explain the band's magnetism, having been described as "feral and bubbly," "fucking MONSTERS" (in a YouTube comment), and "like a more ambient Battles "(okay, that last one was me).

And in truth, it's just really getting started, the momentum building thanks in no small part to the EP. The band is in the final stages of mixing its full-length record, set to be released next year, and has more tour plans in 2012: the trio will hit the West Coast in January, and take its first European jaunt in April after SXSW — where they'll undoubtedly pick up a few additional fans, further spreading the good word on Oakland sound.

Related articles

  • GOLDIES 2011

    Presenting the 23rd Annual Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery Awards, our tribute to the vibrant local arts scene

  • GOLDIES 2011 Lifetime Achievement: Ingrid Eggers

    When she talks film her whole face lights up, a beatific glow.

  • GOLDIES 2011 Lifetime Achievement: David Meltzer

    "Of course, when I got here, the first place I went to was City Lights."

  • Also from this author

  • Love rumbles

    Who is Charlie Megira? A Berlin rebel with a Bay Area connection

  • Down at the Rickshaw

    One of our favorite independent music venues celebrates 10 years of rockin' -- with a week of great shows

  • Rockin' New Year's Eve

    Let 2013 all hang out at these musical blasts