(photo credit: Buster Baxter)
New York City sludge punkers SHOW ME THE BODY are bringing their ill basement vibes to the Great Scott this Sunday, June 15th. Supporting probably one of the most prolific up-and-coming NYC hip hop groups in years in RATKING, we here at the Hassle did a small Q&A with the SMTB’s bassist Harlan Steed in our blinding enthusiasm for this sick-beyond-words show.
BH: So where are you from in NYC and when/how did you become a band?
SMTB: We came together four years ago in a Frankein-loft in , Queens. My dad had been working and living in the space since the late 80s and he was generous enough to both let us practice there and become our artistic director. Two Jewish cousins from the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights, Julian Cashwan Pratt and Gabriel Millman, ages 16 and 24 at the time became Show Me The Body in 2010.
BH: Show Me the Body gets categorized as “sludge punk”, but your music seems to be much more dynamic than that categorization. What then is your thought process when writing?
SMTB: Sludge Punk is really just a general concept we are down with. We like to make sludgy environments, like you’re trying to swim out of them. When we write music genre isn’t really part of the equation. Probably the least sludge punk part of how our songs are written is the poetry involved in their conception. Even though the lyricism is dark a lot of our music is focused on acknowledging and creating the space to tell good stories that are worth listening to. The other side writing is Harlan’s riffs. He allows us to fuck ’em up and go in. Recently Gabe Millman left the group to work for legendary vintage gods Filth Mart and write write for NY publication The Harlem Times. Noah Cohen-Corbett of the Dark World Collective started drumming with us and brings a proper, relentless hardcore intensity that pushes our live set to the front of your face.
BH: You guys don’t seem to be your typical punk act. How did you come about incorporating a banjo into the band?
SMTB: I started using the banjo as a tool to write poetry. At first it felt like playing a paired down guitar. It was easy to construct bars and atonally riff over them. As a live instrument I don’t play those songs how I write them on banjo. I use it a source of feedback and dissonance. During live sets it creates textures that are tangible and are aggressively ambient.
BH: It seems you all are pretty engrained in the DIY culture of NYC. Seeing that, what’s different about opening for a bigger act in clubs and bars? Do you prefer playing basement shows?
SMTB: We really prefer basement shows. We are mostly under 21 so the only time we really feel safe to have a great time is at basement shows. Upscale New York clubs can be a drag. Julian was arrested for graff he didn’t do after opening for Sediment Club and Sportinglife at Public Assembly in Williamsburg. Bouncers are intimidating and the alcohol is too expensive. Most of the time you can’t even smoke. That being said playing with Ratking is always an ill time so its all good.
BH: How did you all get hooked up with Ratking?
SMTB: We grew up around them. Julian, Wiki, and Hak used to be on the same soccer team when they were mad little. Wiki always reminds Julian how he was nice and on the A team while he and Hak would talk trash about him with the rest of the B team. We started hanging out again with Hak a couple years and we’ve been close friends since. Julian booked shows with Ratking before they blew up in Bushwick basements. Those shows were pretty ill. Hak asked us a couple weeks before the tour and we were down. WORMS of Amherst is currently on tour and we were originally joining them. They are still killin it in the south.
BH: Some would consider your music is distinctly different from Ratking. Is it weird to be a punk band touring with a hip hop group?
SMTB: It surprises people. In the end a pit usually breaks out and its dope. There is a distinct New York sound to Show Me The Body that derives from hip hop. Growing up we listened to acts like Bad Brains, Choking Victim, Funkadelic, and Dystopia interspersed with Method Man, Jeru, Necro, and Busta Rymes. In someways Show Me The Body is an amalgam of hardcore and hip hop culture. Ratking draws a lot from hardcore culture, and are in many ways a live band. There are links between us lyrically as we come from similar New York narratives. Though hip hop is a heavily recorded music– Ratking utilizes the idiosyncrasies in their sound that come directly from the music being created in a live setting. Sportinglife kills it every night.
BH: Have you all ever played Boston before? Are there any Boston based acts you’re stoked about these days?
SMTB: We have never played boston before. But, we really like Skimask, Guerilla Toss, and Designer off the top of our heads. Designer’s on tour with our friends Palberta. Also New England Patriots are the truth.
BH: Do you see an opportunity for a new relationship between the DIY/underground scenes in Boston and NYC to link up and mutually support one another?
SMTB: Absolutely. Its kind of on its way. A lot of ill Boston bands come to New York that we really like. We really fuck with NY, and Boston, and sharing it with ill people. That being said Williamsburg sucks and has been dead for years. That being said I fuck with all the ill noisy shit coming out of Boston and I’m excited for New York to embrace it.
BH: You have some new material coming out soon. Any specific influences? What should we expect to hear?
SMTB: Our Yellow Kidney Cassette is currently being sold on our tour with Ratking. It was the last recorded project with Gabriel Millman (el Gringo Magnífico) and his influences and skill as a Latin percussionist shines through. It’ll be put out for free download via soundcloud on July 5th.