“I don’t want to be in an emo band anymore,” proclaims SORORITY NOISE frontman Cameron Boucher. “But I have no problem with people calling us that, because in the strictest of senses, we are an emotionally driven band.”
That, is Sorority Noise in a nutshell: part of a movement, but also discrete and determined to break free from the pack. Truth be told, the Connecticut-based quartet—Boucher, guitarist/vocalist Adam “Scuff” Ackerman, bassist/vocalist Ryan McKenna and drummer Charlie Singer—have always operated a little differently than most of their peers.
For starters, Boucher attended the University of Hartford for jazz saxophone, while guitarist Ackerman studies acoustics and upright bass. But it’s not just their unorthodox musical chops that set the band apart in the underground punk scene. With the release of their Topshelf Records debut, JOY, DEPARTED, Sorority Noise—recently named one of the 100 Bands You Need to Know in 2015 by Alternative Press—are poised to break out in a big way.
Joy, Departed is more than just the best iteration of Sorority Noise to date; the album also marks a creative shift for Boucher, who draws musical influence from a diverse crop of acts spanning Regina Spektor and jazz trumpeter Chet Baker to The Smiths and Broken Social Scene—and previously spent time fronting screamo band Old Gray. In some ways, the singer says he approached the creative process like writing his very first album.
Boucher started Sorority Noise in late 2013 with friends as an outlet to explore musical styles outside his work in Old Gray. The group then recruited Ackerman and issued their debut full-length, Forgettable, in May 2014. Much buzz—and tours with rising stars Modern Baseball and The Hotelier—followed, as did a split 7″ with Somos and the arrivals of Singer (whom Boucher had played with in Old Gray) and McKenna.
Outside of pure proficiency, one of the more gripping elements of Sorority Noise’s musical direction is the band’s willingness to speak of personal hardships, including the often-taboo topic of addiction on songs like the heart-wrenching album-closer “When I See You (Timberwolf).”
“There’s so many people having drug problems—and a lot of bands who play it safe and don’t want to talk about it,” Boucher explains. “I think it’s important to be shown in modern music. I like to be honest about my past and talk about things that have had me down. As a lyricist, you are responsible for the people who care about your music.”
That’s ultimately what makes Joy, Departed such an important album: It’s life, warts and all, sung by someone who’s been through it firsthand. It’s not always rosy, but it’s real. Above all, it’s an album meant to be experienced as a body of work—not single songs plucked piecemeal or shuffled on a streaming service. And for Boucher, he hopes it will show critics and fans alike Sorority Noise has something to say, something he’s willing to say as loudly as they’ll let him.
FORTH WANDERERS are five friends from Montclair, New Jersey. Together they make some of the most powerfully intimate and emotive indie-rock music you’re likely to hear. Comprised of singer Ava Trilling, guitarists Ben Guterl and Duke Greene, bassist Noah Schifrin and drummer Zach Lorelli, despite all being under the age of 21, the group have been prolifically forging musical creations from the bedrooms of their Garden State township since 2013. “In winter of my junior year of high school I was trying to find a way to talk to Ava, who was a freshman at the time and I kind of had a crush on,” recalls guitarist and songwriter Ben of the band’s formation. “I had no intention of starting a band, but I thought sending her a demo would be a great excuse to hang out because I knew she sung from middle school. I sent it to her and nothing came of it. We never got together and I forgot about the song, until eventually I received a demo back from her with vocals on and I just thought ‘wow’”. It’s the kind of story that great songs are written about. But such is the perfect narrative that preempted the band’s debut EP ‘Mahogany’, as the songwriting partnership was completed by Ben’s three best classroom friends, followed swiftly by long-player ‘Tough Love’ in 2014. With their burgeoning discography it’s hard to believe that Ava only just graduated high school this June, and the rest of the band are in their junior college year. But it’s fair to say that with EP ’Slop’ the band are truly arriving on the international scene. Over just four tracks the band manage to create an intense impact with the effortless, earnest melody of Ava’s talismanic vocals soaring above the untempered churns of Ben’s haunting, raw guitars.
“I love too much, to hurt this bad,” Ava mourns amidst the climactic closing moments of the EP’s title track and lead single in one especially lovelorn refrain. “It seemed fitting to how I was feeling at the time,” Ava recalls of the song’s creation. “When Ben showed me the guitar parts he had written I immediately fell in love with it. Writing the lyrics and melody came super naturally.” Forth Wanderers have been building a loyal fanbase plucked from disparate scenes, drawing comparisons from everyone from Built To Spill and Pavement to Mac Demarco and Weezer. But the urgency and immediacy of what they do feels almost unparalleled amongst the current wave of breaking indie music. The EP is as euphoric as it is lamenting, with ‘Know Better’ opening proceedings with driving, strident guitar swirls and some real earworm hooks. ’Nerves’ bursts forth from fizzing, lo-fi shackles to give some of one the band’s most head-nodding moments. Before seismic closer ‘Unfold’ bring things to a heart-wrenching finale “I’ve been tired of hearing fake speeches, needless to say I’m in love with you…”, Ava croons amidst its epic closing bars. “I was going through a weird time,” she remembers. “But these songs felt great to write. With every song Ben sent me, lyrics would ultimately pour out.” The cathartic reward that Ava speaks of is impossible to escape when listening to the ‘Slop’ EP, the empathy from laying bare everyday life’s rawest moments. It’s this powerful sense of kinship that will likely see the band continue rising as one of the most eagerly followed new acts around.
The EP will be co-released between House Anxiety/Marathon Artists and Father/Daughter Records, who’ve between them have introduced the world to Courtney Barnett, King Krule, Diet Cig and Mutual Benefit.
Nick Bairatchnyi and Jackson Mansfield built The Obsessives at fifteen, out of a childhood friendship and a misplaced love for blues-rock. “We wanted to start a band with a “The” because bands like that three years ago were cool, like The Black Keys and The White Stripes,” Bairatchnyi remembers while laughing at his ninth-grade naivety. Three years later, after a freshly-inked deal with upstart record label Near Mint and a revitalized mission to be a charged, affected two-piece emo outfit, The Obsessives have become fixated on a new form. Their debut record, “Heck No, Nancy,” chronicles a series of revelations which center around a musical mentality that volleys between the expressive texture of Everyone Everywhere and the bouncy indie of bands like Dowsing and Runaway Brother. “This album lyrically and musically reflects the year I had before graduating high school.” Bairatchnyi remembers. “We almost didn’t make it to this record. We were going to record a fourth EP and do other things. Now that we did, we’re just looking for what’s next.”
Music for horses.