Chic chic chic
Expatriate Sacramento band Out Hud, now living in Brooklyn, is a blender of genius waiting to happen
In today’s music, it seems that every week there is a shiny, new genre with a vague but hip name lurking around every corner to make you feel even more completely out of touch. Are you into micro-house? How about electroclash?
Bands clamor aboard these wagons, hoping to partake in whatever brief attention they might be able to muster in the temporary glare of the spotlight. Once there, however, they are frozen in time, yesterday’s news stuck under the banner of passé.
But, every so often, a band will come along and defy easy categorization, to the curses of carbon copiers and pigeonholers everywhere. This is the enviable position that Out Hud, the Brooklyn quintet (via Sacramento), finds itself in. The New York Times recently called the band “a treasure.” Out Hud’s jaw-dropping new album, Street Dad, just released on November 4, has been hotly anticipated since the band signed to the genre-bending indie label Kranky well more than a year ago. So, what’s the big deal?
To get a grip on the sound of Out Hud, it helps to know that the band is a product of its members’ record collections. Omnivorous in their musical diets, the members of Out Hud have amassed tons of dub platters, electro-funk, early rap, Afro-beat, laptop electronica, no wave, avant-pop, punk and most anything else you can shake a tail feather to. Mix all of these together, drop the heat to a chill and drench it in loads of dub and ambient-psych effects, and you’d almost be there.
“We share records a lot at the house, so I feel like I concentrate on bringing [electronic] music home,” explained bassist Nic Offer from his home in the Fort Green/Clinton Hills area of Brooklyn. “And then Tyler [Pope, guitarist-synthesist] and Justin [Vandervoigen, mixer] bring home all this old disco stuff. They’re just fucking nuts for all that stuff. There’s so much here, we couldn’t even comprehend it. ’Cause this is where it all happened.”
It’s been a whirlwind of biggers and betters since Out Hud began at the tail end of the 1990s as a Downtown Sacramento after-hours band playing post-punk-fueled disco. The band soon had a big word-of-mouth following; it shared members with another acclaimed group, !!! (read: Chik Chik Chik). After a series of seven-inch singles and EPs, the !!!/Out Hud collective decided to try its luck in the city where dance-club culture, hip-hop and the CBGB/punk/no-wave ethos all started and took root: New York. Soon after, Out Hud was approached by the Chicago-based Kranky record label, known more for its isolation-booth soundtracks than for songs you can move that big ol’ butt of yours to. (!!! signed with another Chicago indie, Touch and Go Records.) Kranky’s owners confessed to having a certain fondness for melancholy bands that sound good on headphones in the dark. That’s a quality that Out Hud, whose name comes from a bodybuilding term, conjures in its songs. That quality—a resigned, late-night/early-morning metropolitan vibe and a cool, detached irony—can be found, too, in the songs of the great 1970s band Chic.
In one turn wistful and moody, a cello (played by Out Hud member Molly Schnick) mourns the last days of disco, as the motorik soul of a drum machine coldly refuses this reality. But, there also is an underlying optimism—something uplifting, even “inspirational,” as Offer put it.
But, for all the somber beats, Out Hud has a wicked sense of humor. Check out how the album got titled Street Dad: “It’s like, what if you had a dad and he was a street dad?” Offer said. Then there are the song titles: “Dad, There’s a Little Phrase Called Too Much Information” and “My Two Nads (Dad Reprise).”
“We were always talking about the two dads, like what if you had one street dad, and the other one was your regular dad. So we were like, ‘Yeah, street dad!’”
Be sure to check Out Hud out when it comes through town in the spring. As for Street Dad, it’s a mother. Get it.