Blank-Men aren’t just doing something different. These four Fort Worthians are doing something different well.
There’s a strong retro influence in their music, perhaps obviously –– the only thing “new” these days is noise. Drummer Joey Kendall, keyboardist Emily Thompson, and co-frontmen Alex Atchley and Sam Swanson are throwing back to a very specific aspect of the early ’80s. Theirs is the one fascinated with cutting-edge, computerized technology, dancing (perhaps awkwardly), and the Atomic Age. A lot of the folks in the influential New Wave bands back then grew up during the tail end of the reign of Elvis and Father Knows Best. Aping Devo and The B-52’s alone would be enough to distinguish Blank-Men in a world that long ago moved on from nascent digital synths, staccato riffs, and lyrics about fallout shelters. But Atchley, Swanson, and company are exceedingly talented, whipping up toe-tapping beats and catchy melodies in a style that’s decidedly of a certain point in musical history but also beyond it. (“Whip It” good, indeed.) A few tracks off the band’s debut offering, the six-song EP Fact or Fiction?, recorded at Atchley’s home studio, have a ragged, punk edge.
“There are some fun, deconstructionist elements to [New Wave], but you can’t always say exactly why you’re attracted to a certain type of music,” Atchley said. “You just are.”
Though the band has been together only about a year, it’s already landed a primo gig: playing the seventh annual Dia de los Toadies, a two-day festival two weekends from now at Panther Island Pavilion, hosted and headlined by the titular Fort Worth legends. Apparently, Blank-Men got noticed by The Toadies’ bassist after playing a gig last June at Three Links in Dallas. “He seemed to really like the cut of our jib,” Atchley recalled. “I wish I had a more exciting answer than, ‘We knew a guy,’ but there you go!”
Blank-Men have only a couple of shows lined up after Dia, including Saturday, Oct. 11, with Bobgoblin at Lola’s Saloon and Thursday, Oct. 30, as part of a “Halloween-themed dance,” Atchley said, at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton. “We don’t want to overstay our welcome in the live scene,” he said. “Plus, you know, we have jobs and lives and whatnot.”
In celebration of Dia de los Toadies, Lola’s Saloon is hosting a happy hour Thursday that may or may not include a Vaden Todd Lewis sighting.
So The Will Callers, one of my favorite local bands since forever, appears to be no mas. In their place now is Natural Anthem. The duo of Will Callers frontman Jake Murphy and drummer Daniel Slatton is about to release its debut recording, the six-song EP Thread. Gosh, based on the video for the single “Paranoid,” this stuff is super-fresh. There’s no dearth of trippy-dippy psych-folk in town, but is anyone doing it better? I doubt it.
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