As the name would promise, “Poisons,” the new single from Pile, is not subtle. With a drum kick that allows itself room to echo, the band assembles slowly but intriguingly, like an awkward machine bent on disaster. But it’s clear from the lyrics that, doom-filled as they sound, the band is in fact bent on change for the better. This song is just the alarm bell.
The structure of the song begins untraditionally fascinating and stays that way— the band never locks into a solid groove, but you find yourself headbanging anyways. Kris Kuss’s drums keep everything in place, providing the heavy leaning springboard for Rick Maguire’s vocals to push off. And push off they do—Maguire treats the words as toys to be played with, or perhaps dangerous objects to cough out as fast as possible. Either way, you get an impression of deep uncertainty, even as his voice stays deeply grounded. “It’s about trying to abstain from participating in things that aren’t really good for anybody but also feeling very unaware in general, and the frustration of trying to hold both of those sentiments,” Maguire comments. “Now heaven’s a place where no one else is,” he sings, but soon takes to screaming it, driving his point home. With the emphasis on the climate crisis, it places us squarely in front of the question: Is heaven a place so untouched by humans that we could never hope to exist there? If so, where do we go from here?
You can watch the video for the new single down below. This is the second single from their forthcoming album All Fiction, out Feb. 17 via Exploding In Sound.
A decade on from the release of their debut album ‘BLKLSTRS‘ – championed at the time by notable contemporaries from the likes of Biffy Clyro and Future of the Left – Leeds lot Blacklisters now look to the release of their brand new EP, ‘Leisure Centre‘, pencilled in as the first in a series of forthcoming EPs.
Recorded for the most part in Leeds with George Riley at The Penthouse Recording Studio, ‘Leisure Centre‘ is a proper rib-rattler, an EP you’ll want to press play on as soon as it’s over. By the time ‘The Wrong Way Home‘ rolls around you’re absolutely devoted to the cause – sucked in as “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY HOME” is shouted at you over and over again. Elsewhere, the pummelling title track calls to mind Pissed Jeans, whilst ‘Why Deny It?‘ locks you into a stupidly catchy rhythm, before guitar and sax kick the door off its hinges and plunge the listener into a frantic, ear-splitting wig-out.
The US release comes via Exploding in Sound Records (Stuck, Thank, Pile), whilst Sad Tapes and the band themselves are handling the UK side of things.
Ahead of its release this week, we’re pleased as punch to have an exclusive stream of the EP in full. Alongside that, vocalist Billy Mason-Wood was kind enough to talk us through its production and equating the search for lyrics to being caught dogging.
“We recorded this record back in March… I say we, but actually it was only the three who play instruments. I, Billy, live in Berlin and for one reason or another, had to cancel coming over last minute. So Stobb, Steve and Dan went ahead without me.
We have got into this thing over the past few years, (partly because we all live in different places and partly because it’s fun) of writing and recording really quickly. Our last album ‘Fantastic Man‘, was written over a couple of weekends and then we recorded it live in two days. We’ve done a few tours where we have come in having not practiced and then got good by playing. Its added a fun element to being older and not having the same time we used to, to commit to the band.
This EP was all written and recorded in two days. They went in with no ideas on the Saturday and by the end of Sunday the songs were recorded. Which I think is cool. As I wasn’t around I had to record the vocals on my own, in sunny old Berlin… Now, March is a long way away now and that is because I took so fucking long to write the words and record them. I don’t know why, maybe because I’d never not written with the band or because I am out of practice, but I found it almost impossible to write the words. Every idea I had was terrible, every rhythm I could hear in the songs fucking sucked. The songs themselves sounded great but I was lost at sea.
By the summer it was getting a bit weird that I hadn’t done them yet and I’m sure that the band were getting impatient. The whole idea was to record a bunch of EP’s really quickly this year then release a full record. I kept trying to force anything out but it all sounded and felt like utter shit. There are about 50 versions in my phone of each song on this EP. Different configurations, verses, tunes, choruses. I’d never had this sort of block before. I’d walk around the woods, walking my dog, shouting different ideas at trees and occasionally getting caught by some poor fucker out for a Sunday stroll who had to come face to face with me acting like a mad man, shouting into my iPhone. It was like getting caught dogging or something. I’d shut up and slink away in shame, then start up again a little bit further down the lane, only to get caught again.
The first song to come was the title track, ‘Leisure Centre‘. And in the end it came relatively easily. I like how back in the day people had this utopian idea that we would all go to this place to experience leisure together, and that, that ideal was mainly badminton and doing lengths in a pool. If only we had those kind of societal aspirations today!
‘Why Deny it?‘ came shortly after. I feel like I was trudging over well warn territory with the lyrics to this one. I write a lot about the expectations of being an adult and that in someways I am stuck waiting to become one. But then something really cool happened. I recorded my vocals at the wrong bit rate accidentally or something, so when the vocals were laid over the track, they didn’t line up properly. As a result the song has this skewed off centreness to it which made it sound really cool and odd.
‘No Not At All‘ fell out of me after that. But ‘Wrong Way Home‘ just wouldn’t come. No matter how I tried to force it, it just wouldn’t. In the end I went to the band and asked if anyone could come up with anything for it. And Steve without hesitation sent through the main hook of the song. We then asked an old friend Rob Mitchell from Abstract Orchestra to put on some saxophone. He pretty much nailed it all in one too. Only the poor old struggling lead singer found it hard. Boo hoo. Wah wah. Buy me a present.“
Pile has spent the past couple years in a reflective state. After seven albums of bruising, pummeling rock, the band released a fully improvisational record in 2021; a few months later, singer Rick Maguire put together a record of reimagined, solo versions of previously released Pile songs. This month, the band finished up a 10th-anniversary tour for its breakout album Dripping, playing the entire album, with its original lineup, each night.
Now, the band has announced its new record, All Fiction, out February. And though the record is all new material, you can hear the results of that period of retrospective pensiveness in "Loops," the album's ferocious first single. Maguire says the track is about his relationship with songwriting itself — about the stress of relying on it both as a healthy emotional escape and a fraught source of income. "You are building your brand / You are splitting the difference," he howls at the song's midpoint, sounding fed up yet relentless, "You are making demands / You are begging forgiveness." The song is dense, with the whole band contributing to a menacing intensity, but it turns almost atmospheric in its final minute — the percussion drops out, then Maguire's vocals, then the crunchy guitars, ending on a sweeping and surprisingly beautiful note.
Leeds post-punkers Blacklisters offer their own take on headbanging with their new single, “Why Deny It?” This isn’t about horns-in-the-air, neck-snapping headbanging, though. It’s more like banging your head against a wall in frustration, a la Charlie Brown. The abrasive/snarky quartet—Billy Mason-Wood (vocals), Steve Hodson (bass), Dan Beesley (guitar), Alistair Stobbart (drums)—have had it with everything, and are apparently just succumbing to the inevitable on this skronky, stilted noise fest. As Mason-Wood yelps, “I’m in a constant state of disappointment!” The track is angry, self-deprecating and loaded with jagged guitar shards, distorted vocals, thumping bass and thrumming Krautrock rhythms.
“Why Deny It?” is the latest track from Blacklisters’ upcoming four-track EP, Leisure Centre, which was recorded by George Riley and Blacklisters at the Penthouse Recording Studio in Leeds. Vocals were recorded by Billy Mason-Wood and Steven Hodson. The EP was mixed by Steven Hodson. Saxophone on “Why Deny It?” was written, performed and recorded by Rob Mitchell. Leisure Centre will be released on cassette and digitally November 18 via Exploding in Sound in the U.S. (preorder here) and via the band in the U.K. (preorder here).
Here’s what Billy Mason-Wood had to say about the track:
“This song is kind of loosely about surrendering myself to capitalism even though I know we made it up and could just as easily have done something else with our time, like prioritized building massive pyramids in the desert to appease the sun gods, or decided that one person was the descendant of the creator and done everything he said. Also we have a saxophone!”
Bay Area rock trio Sour Widows are back with their second new single of the year, out now alongside an animated lyric video. Like this summer’s “Witness” before it, “I-90” was produced in collaboration with Oakland-based engineer Maryam Qudus (Toro y Moi, SASAMI, Spacemoth).
Sour Widows’ Maia Sinaiko says of the song, written in 2017 after their partner’s tragic passing:
"I wrote “I-90” at a time when all I could do was make music alone in my room. Day to day life was a constant cycling through memories of places, feelings and experiences of which I was now the sole keeper. I found that the most mundane memories—driving in my partner’s car, the rural midwest landscapes of my college town—felt priceless, acting as vivid portals into what was now an irrevocable part of my life. The endlessness of grief supersedes the normal passage of time and the people we lose remain in places we can never go back to. It’s magic and terrible all at once; that is what this song is about."
Sour Widows build a characteristically dynamic memorial to those lost moments on “I-90,” the instrumental marching forward unafraid, much like Sinaiko journeying back into their precious, painful memories. The band’s luminous slowcore expands and contracts like a lung, with steady bass from Will Bohrer and atmospheric synth from Qudus expanding its dimensions. Meanwhile, Sinaiko’s songwriting shines: They zero in on the kind of details that make it feel like you’re right there in the backseat, singing, “I wonder what it felt like asleep in that car / While I drove by all the cold cattle / Could you feel them breathing?” Crashing choruses let the track’s passion shine through, as do a hauntingly beautiful instrumental bridge and an explosive climax: “I’m all emptied out / Like the freeway / You keep driving down,” Sinaiko sings just before the track explodes into distorted electric strums and a vocal shout-along, one last gasp.
There’s no official word yet on whether “I-90” and “Witness” belong to a longer body of work, but we’ve been anticipating Sour Widows’ full-length debut for quite some time. Paste praised “Witness” as one of the best tracks of July 2022.
Sour Widows have a handful of shows with Duster (!) on the docket this week, the first of which is tonight (Oct. 26) in Santa Cruz, California. They also have a San Francisco show with Torrey and Living Hour set for early December.
Watch the “I-90” lyric video (animated by Cole Montminy and assembled and edited by Asher Sinaiko) and Sour Widows’ 2022 Paste session below, and find their tour dates further down.