Richmond instrumental quartet Dumb Waiter have never stayed within any easily defined genre limits, and that continues to be true for their forthcoming latest album, Gauche Gists. With the album’s release only a week and a half away, RVA Mag is pleased to present the premiere of an exclusive preview track from the album, “Experiencing Loss In A Grocery Store,” so that all of us can get a revealing glimpse into just what this quartet of unorthodox talents is up to this time around.
Gauche Gists is the fifth album for Dumb Waiter, a band that originally came together a decade ago primarily due to guitarist Nick Crider’s desire to play a show with noise-core legends Lightning Bolt. “Back then, I was the booking agent at non-profit venue space,” Crider explains. “I had booked Lightning Bolt and wanted to be a complete brat and play the show as well. So I asked [drummer] Nathaniel [Roseberry] to start a noise power violence band. After a few practices, Nath brought in more players (Tristan Brennis and Keith Paul), and Dumb Waiter was formed.”
The easy hook for writers talking about this band over the past decade has been to label them as math-rock, but the group chafes at that overly reductive label, and I personally have never felt that it reflected the truth about Dumb Waiter’s sound. An instrumental group in which Tristan Brennis’s saxophone takes a prominent role, Dumb Waiter has always seemed to me to be based first and foremost in a fusion approach to jazz, though prog-rock and epic metal influences are also undeniably present in their sound as well. You can hear all of this on the new track, “Experiencing Loss In A Grocery Store,” which manages to both retain an overall mood of pensive introspection and jump back and forth, moment to moment, between a variety of lighter and heavier extremes.
“I think about our music mirroring the chaos of life,” says Crider, by way of explanation. “Things overlap and clash, different tunes play simultaneously, but in that dissonance is a hidden harmony. What shouldn’t go together does, and different situations/feelings/ideas/problems/solutions all simultaneously exist in the chaos.”
To Crider, it’s no surprise that this potentially overwhelming musical experience will be heard at least slightly differently by everyone who comes into contact with it. “The experience of the listener mirrors that of the conscious being inundated with all of these elements,” he explains. “They actively decide what they want to pull out of the chaos, and how they’ll interpret that. Other aspects may get left disregarded, and we write our music in a way that leaves the listener with that choice. I think a good example of this is within the title, ‘Experiencing Loss in a Grocery Store,’ where two pallets clash and combine. The listener is presented with banality and despair, all masked with adult contemporary.”
Saxophonist Tristan Brennis picks up the thread. “Intentionally setting out to create lyricless instrumental music is one of the more irrational things you could do with your time. What is anyone supposed to interpret from some wordless sound in a jar?” he asks. “However, it is from this subjective nature of instrumental compositions that I find emotions can speak purely through the listener, with no bias towards the artist’s original intent.”
Reflecting post-modernist theories originally elaborated on by philosopher Roland Barthes in his essay “The Death Of The Author,” Brennis makes the point that what the members of Dumb Waiter mean to express in the music they play isn’t really the point. “Like random shoppers sifting through a Food Lion, each with their own internal monologues, their own crisis-of-the-day, their own personal regrets, aspirations, fears and triumphs — like a widow encountering her late husband’s favorite can of soup on the shelf; two college students fighting over the last bottle of calcium-enriched orange juice; a single dad finding a great price on peanut butter — each listener has their own internal subjective experience of the emotions present in the music,” he says, finally summing up by saying, “The narrative is a multiverse of interpretations.”
Check out Dumb Waiter’s “Experiencing Loss In A Grocery Store” below.
Gauche Gists was recorded at Baltimore’s Developing Nations studio by Kevin Bernsten, with technical help from Matt Redenbo, and will be released on June 24 by Ossein Records, who earlier this year released Ages’ debut album Must Be Nice — an album that also features the work of Tristan Brennis (on bass this time). Preorder Gauche Gists on vinyl, cassette, or mp3 formats at Dumb Waiter’s Bandcamp page.
To celebrate the album’s release, Fuzzy Cactus will be hosting a record release party featuring Dumb Waiter, along with guests Toxic Moxie and Blush Face, on Friday, June 24. Doors open at 9 pm, admission is $10 at the door.
Dumb Waiter Photos by Joey Wharton.