Is Justin Hubbard trapped in his house?
With track titles like “Crawlspace,” “Inside the Room,” and “Bedroom Walls,” this musician might seem like an agoraphobe. Even a song with a jaunty name like “On Saturday” bounces happily to languishing, almost indiscernible lyrics.
“Gather all the pieces, staring at the walls,” Hubbard apathetically half yells over playful guitar riffs.
Maybe he’s just a man who feels stuck.
In a recent interview, the longtime garage rocker looked back wistfully on the days when he could fling himself across the country willy-nilly and play for whoever would listen, even if the pay was abysmal.
“Unfortunately I can’t hit the road and make $20 a night,” Hubbard said on the phone. “I like being out and playing in new cities.”
But now Hubbard may be entering the dawning of a new age. He just released a 16-track cassette with a premiere concert at Diviera Drive, an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, on June 9.
“It was fun,” Hubbard said of the show. “It was cool.”
The release is Hubbard’s first full-length since 2014. It’s split between his two garage rock projects; the more recently formed and better known Germ House, and an earlier project called Far Corners. The release is aptly titled “Germ House/Far Corners Split.” Old fans will be pleased with Hubbard’s new music, as it barely deviates from his earlier sounds.
“I don’t really know if Germ House has changed too much,” Hubbard said. “The songs on the record were written five years ago.”
Back then, Hubbard was living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with his then-wife and longtime musical partner, drummer Tara McManus (member of the band Mr. Airplane Man). These newly released tracks may have been conceived just before the drop of the 2014 Germ House album “Showing Symptoms,” which was featured in Evan Minsker’s garage rock column, Shake Appeal, for Pitchfork.
“On Showing Symptoms, Germ House … doesn’t make the loudest record—an instance where ‘lo-fi’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blown out’— but he’s got one that’s ambitious in scope,” Minsker wrote. “Occasionally, his ferocity shines through, and whenever he turns the power up, he does it for songs with catchy, satisfying melodies.”
Before that, Hubbard had started Far Corners, which featured Hubbard on guitar and vocals and McManus on drums, with the addition of Sean Bond on bass. According to a 2012 interview with an independent music blogger, Far Corners began in 2009 after the couple had relocated to Las Cruces from Boston.
“When we got here we hooked up with Sean and he started playing bass with us,” Hubbard told the Chicago blogger J. Reyes. “After a year or so it seemed like we should just start over with a new batch of songs and just make it a different band.”
Reyes, a fan of Mr. Airplane Man, shared excitement over discovering Far Corners and their release “SANITY SUCK.”
“The band is noisy,” Reyes wrote. “It’s got almost swamp-like distortion followed by eerily piercing guitar wails and a ghostly scream of a voice, that all but front a blues-rock sound. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Spoiler alert – It is awesome.”
A lot has changed since then. Hubbard is a father, divorcée (the couple split in 2015) and record store employee living in Warren, Rhode Island. And yet his songs — still covered in fuzz tone — are resurfacing.
The new release reminds me of a man carefully cleaning out his house and then abruptly torching the contents; pleasant, contemplative tunes (Germ House) give way to noisy revolts (Far Corners), in which vocals are merely used as sound bites to gas up the aggression.
Track one, “Crawlspace,” is the catchiest. During the chorus, Hubbard almost chants the lyrics.
“In the crawl space of your head,” he sings. “Feet sticking in the mud / Too much water on the brain / Too much water everywhere.”
Leaving the crawl space is easy enough, but how do you leave the flooded crawl space of your head?
Maybe by making music.
“You just keep doing it, and it evolves,” Hubbard said of songwriting. “You keep changing, ideally, hopefully…”
Hubbard will be playing New England Underground 3 on Friday, June 15 at 8 p.m. at the Hardcore Stadium, 55 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge. Tickets, $10-$20, are available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3438259
Hubbard is a 1995 graduate of Brookline High School and studied at Berklee College of Music. Past projects also include The Kings of Nuthin’ and Turpentine Brothers. Hear his new release at https://germhouse.bandcamp.com/album/germ-house-far-corners-split-fw04
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