Oakland’s Loyalists dig through the trash heap
Heavy music has a reputation for being difficult. For Oakland foursome The Loyalists, the illusion of complication on their second album, Ride the Trashheap of Sound, is central to the band’s aesthetic.
“One of the cornerstones of this band is that you can’t take much—or any—of it too seriously,” said Max Sidman, ex-Chico denizen and bassist for The Loyalists. “The thing about this band is that it’s really greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s a lot of layers.”
Beginning with the ethereal, roiling turns of “On the Day That Philip Seymour Hoffman Died,” Ride the Trashheap of Sound extends a brooding veil over a raucous musical onslaught. The band’s thrust comes from the thud of muddy fuzz effects, low tunings and borderless sonic intrepidity typically found in the realms of strictly instrumental bands. It’s a unique and noisy barrage that binds with vocalist/guitarist/cellist Colin Frangos’ voice, approximating the experimental 1990s sludge of bands like Mclusky or Melvins.
“Some of the songs on this album are super fucked up,” said Sidman, who’s been with the band since its inception in 2012. “My mom asked me what the album was about and I told her ‘drug abuse and suicide.’ It’s not just about that, but if you wanna paint really broad brush strokes …. Hey, it’s fun music, too, right? The Loyalists: Making drug abuse and suicide fun since 2012.”
Rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Andre Zivkovich and drummer Chad Burnett, the band revels in the grimy undercurrent of noisy bands, a fact that is perhaps best exemplified on the title track, a song possessing a fairly accurate assessment of the Loyalists’ M.O.
“It’s a nuanced, garbage dump of sound,” Sidman said. “We like to make things sound a little bit off. It’s not like that traditional ‘we’re playing these notes because they go very well with these notes.’ That’s not our thing. And it’s not that we set out to repel people necessarily—that wouldn’t be productive. But we certainly set out to make people’s ears a little bit uncomfortable.”
The record was engineered by Kowloon Walled City’s Scott Evans at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, and mixed at Evans’ Antisleep Audio. Along with Evans’ steady production, Sidman is quick to point to Frangos as the mastermind behind much of what the band accomplishes. Alongside Zivkovich’s guitar and vocals, Frangos attacks with biting guitar progressions and dark lyricism, as heard in the twisted catharsis of standout track “Rainbow of Potted Meats.” Frangos’ fledgling cello playing is another source of the Loyalists’ nebulous creative wellspring.
“He’s been playing cello for [only] about as long as this band has existed,” Sidman explained. “That element is capitalized on by the fact that he has no preconceived notions of how to play it.”
In support of the new record, the band is stretching its legs on a brief West Coast tour, and keeping things very DIY.
“We’re all in our mid-40s, and musically, culturally, we lean the same way,” Sidman said. “We like that mold of old-man, noisy punk. It’s fun, and it’s also humbling to play stuff that’s challenging for people to get down with. We just wanna do what we wanna do. It’s as much about the process over the product, if not more.”