Getting high on Bay Area combo High Castle's damaged style
I'm glad I finally got my mitts on the self-issued CD-R from San Francisco titans High Castle: I feel like I'm back in ear-bleeding country with the trio's Unwound-ishly, damaged style of noisy rock, nursing an insatiable appetite for more tinfoil-scorched guitar scuzz, blown-out low end, and full-tilt drum thwackage. As each song unloads, three howling voices punctuate the maelstrom. Try if you can to pass on this seven-song album after just one spin. If the punked-out oomph of "Soloman" and "No Mind" don't bite you hard in the ass, then the annihiutf8g whomp of "Small Town Gay Bar" will certainly dish out the finishing touches.
As surprising as it may sound, this shower of pandemonium comes from three individuals who had their hearts set on becoming a pop group when they first convened in the summer of 2007. I yapped it up with the threesome over bowls of fideo and garlicky steak fries in drummer-vocalist Shaggy Denton's SoMa apartment, while bassist-vocalist Wilson Drozdowski explained that High Castle aimed at becoming an actual band within the trio's large circle of noise-making friends.
"We were like, 'let's start a rock band,' because I felt I hadn't seen a drum-bass-guitar band with songs in a long time," he disclosed. "It seemed like it was either improv or noise, so we wanted to do the opposite of that to see what would happen."
"We actually wanted it to be a pop band," said guitarist-vocalist Erin Allen with a laugh.
"None of us knew how to write pop music, so what ended up coming out was the closest we could get to doing that," Drozdowski continued. "Even when we try to write something that we think is poppy, it's not poppy in the traditional sense. We always try and make the vocals very apparent by singing together."
"I guess that's the one pop element that surfaces," Allen added. "But it's not like the Mamas and the Papas."
Before HC, all three resided in Southern California, meeting through tours in bands such as Duchesses, Saviors, and Child Pornography. As Drozdowski, Denton, and Allen became jaded with the SoCal lifestyle, each separately trekked up to the Bay Area because, according to Denton, "the option was LA or here and it was not going to be LA."
Reuniting in San Francisco with each member's respective group in limbo, the three formed HC, but not before putting the collaboration on hold because of an unfortunate encounter between Allen and a car.
"We had to take a break because this one got hit by a car," Denton joked, pointing to Allen. "He was supposed to come over to my house and have some fideo and play PlayStation. I was worried because I kept getting the answering machine, and then somebody from General Hospital calls me and is like, 'Um, do you know an Erin Allen? He told me to give you a message: he got hit by a car.'"
Aside from Allen's slight dinger, the combo has been very active during the past year and a half, playing in just about every performance space dotting the Bay Area underground music scene with the likes of K.I.T., Stripmall Seizures, and Death Sentence: Panda! HC is currently in the mixing stages of its 12-inch debut for the Zum imprint, and after embarking on its first national tour last summer, the group hopes to hit the road once again this year. Whatever avenue this threesome decides to explore in the future be it noisesome or poppy I know I'll be all ears.
With Stress Ape, Didimao, and the Dawns
Fri/23, 9 p.m., call for price
1351 Polk, SF