As you may have guessed from the album’s name, Geriatric Noise, from Chicago’s Carnage in the Lovetrees is an ode to growing older. No one wants to go down without a fight, and no one wants to to die unknown. The band’s sophomore full length will be what prevents exactly that from happening to this musical outfit.
Only a year after their debut LP, Modern Life, was released; Geriatric Noise is a testament to the immense growth the band has made in that time. Lyrically the band has come into their own, taking on a more poignant and genuine songwriting style. While the record addresses a various subjects, a clear thread of anxiety runs through it, tying it all together. Vocalist Joshua Young’s delivery seems more passionate than ever, often seeming to be almost yearning simply to be heard. Such a delivery will undoubtedly be the selling point for the band in live performance settings.
Musically, Carnage in the Lovetrees branches out more for this album, no pun intended. The band can be found dipping their toes into the waters of various different aesthetics throughout the album. As they took on poppier elements, they also took on more post-hardcore elements during the course of Geriatric Noise. It was refreshing to see a band allow themselves to explore and be more experimental sonically, while still maintaining a sense of their original signature sound. This release offers insight into the process of what will hopefully be an ever-evolving band that continues to grow, mature, and flourish while keeping true to their rock and roll roots.
LOW LEVEL REVIEWS
Nothing is worse than listening to a band that takes themselves too seriously. It’s no fun being serious, and today has provided a glut of seriousness in rock, from the National, to Death Cab for Cutie, to Radiohead. But A Carnage in the Lovetrees’s second record Geriatric Noise tackles the feelings of making art and getting old, struggling through friendships and lovers, but with a sense of joyous vulnerability. It’s as though the band wanted to make something that offered a momentary blip of what they’ve learned. With eight songs at only 15 mins, this record still packs a wallop. While I end up wanting more from these songs, the record shows us what a band can do in the time of half of a Seinfeld episode. What’s projected out from these songs is a sense of fun, layered over earnest reflections on leaving your twenties--maybe a tad sentimental, but don’t we all need that sometimes? Their first record, Modern Life, was 13 songs and over 45 minutes (a concept record about a boy who believes he’s a robot), their songs came off like like a band wanting to be taken seriously as artists, but this was somewhat easily overlooked because of the delivery. Sure we all can related to technology and family and consumerism, but something got left behind. Geriatric Noise shows us another side of the band. The songs still lean into the emo/post-hardcore approach, but there is a looseness in their delivery that undercuts any sense of pretension. The musical range within these 15 minutes is wild; the theme is consistent: aging and longing for youth—and how making records keeps them young.
“Owls” is one contender for the best track. Carnage yells the refrain, “Fuck what you heard…the owls are after us!” This feels like a collective resistance to aging, while the other contender, “Pom Tetty,” is a celebration of the heroes. It’s a blatant and brash homage/medley of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” and offers a conversation with the man himself, “Hey man, keep making them records. Hey man, we’ll keep listening to you. Yeah man, keep making those records. Yeah man, we’ll keep making ‘em too.” Petty’s seriousness as a song writer, can always be brightened by the joyous splendor of the narratives weaving through his work, and while Carnage’s songs are about as far from Petty as you can get without diving into hardcore, the spirit is there. Sure Carnage doesn’t have the name or the fans or the money or the time, but goddamn they got their songs and their voices, and they’re gonna shout into the sunset.
CASSETTE & VINYL
Whatever your feelings are about emo bands, I don’t care. The “emo” bands that resonate on a collective level (and personally, actually) tend to both call back to the history they come from, and push forward attempting to bring a new narrative or approach to the genre through their songs. The bands that make an impact move well past homage. Look at Algernon Cadwallader, the Velvet Teen, or Foxing. It’s simple WE don’t want to hear the same Braid song over and over, but we want to hear moments that call back to Frame & Canvas. As a listener, we get to make that connection. And our exposure to artists gives us insight for connection that are there (or not there). Music cannot truly be original, sure, but it can build on what’s been laid down already—and that’s exciting.
Since I’m supposed to be a reviewing a record and not crafting a diatribe about the emo revival, I’ll get to it: This is a record worth checking out. It may not be AOTY, but it’s up there. What’s ultimately frustrating about Geriatric Noise is the ways A Carnage in the Lovetrees never lets the audience to settle in. While it’s frustrating (though probably something Pitchfork would fawn over) I’m going to do a thing that’s hard when you’re a music critic. I’m going to trust that the band knew what they were doing. After they made a 14 song concept recorded that seemed so meticulously crafted by narrative and song, they wanted to make something that didn’t have boundaries. Perhaps Geriatric Noise is a response. Joshua Young and his collaborator, Chad Fox, made a mix tape spanning the possible directions that their band could’ve gone, and instead of picking one direction, they tasted all of them. What ties this record together is the way Young and Fox yell at each other about getting old and trying to live in a place outside of nostalgia. Sure it’s easy to go there, but they’re trying to be positive, but they keep watching themselves get older, so they yell out to Tom Petty, “Hey man, keep making those records…we’ll keep making ‘em too.” Not a band conversation to start.
TRANSISTOR HEART: Every Town Has Its Own Fugazi - A Conversation with Joshua Young of A Carnage in the Lovetrees
WHILE working out the logistics for our interview, Joshua Young, wrote, “I’ll be the guy in the yellow hat, guzzling coffee, with my face buried in a book.” When I got to coffee shop up in Albany Park, he wasn’t reading or drinking coffee, he was turning on a tablet and searching YouTube for a video for his son, who was camped out on the couch playing with a Lego figure. Once he got his child set up, he sat down and apologized for making me wait.
Joshua Young: I was supposed to be off Dad-duty today, but, you know, things change. I’m good though. He’ll be ignoring us for an hour.--do you want coffee?
After I convinced him that I would buy us coffee and we were settled in, he just started talking about, of all things, the glut of upper administration at Universities. We steered away from that after a while, when I asked him about his work’s feelings about being in a band.
Transistor Heart Music: Do they let you tour? I’m assuming you get summers off?
JY: A lot of people assume that, but I’m not faculty, so I’m there all summer doing stupid shit--not stupid shit, but, I don’t know. But yeah, I take vacation time a lot during the summer. Though, my position has allowed me to work from home as needed. When I was in Grad School, I would book tours around professor’s book releases so I wasn’t missing many classes. Hence all the mid-year tours. Now it’s a bit harder, but I’ve saved up some time.
[At this point, the barista called out his order. He got up and set up his son with his “kid’s soy steamer,” and started sipping at his own latte. He sits back down and say, “Should we talk about this Carnage project.”]
THM: Tell me about Geriatric Noise (GN). Did you have a different approach than with Modern Life (ML)?
JY: Feels like it huh?
JY: Well, ML was totally a record where I just wrote toward an idea and put all the pieces together. Then I got the band together and started building the record. GN was just all these pieces I couldn’t figure out, and Chad and I were talking about what to do with the next record. He said we should just make a record out of what we had. The cool thing is that I could hear a record in the pieces, but I didn’t know till we started tracking. It felt like a big fuck you to the last record. Not in a mean way, but as to say, we don’t need to sound like you anymore! The record I’m working on now. sounds a lot like ML…not really, but a bit and it’s also a concept record—jeez maybe when I’m writing around a concept I can’t escape this emo shit. (laughs) Anyway, we started really digging into these songs and after we tracked 8, Chad was like, “Great. What do we do now?” And I was confused. I thought we were done. He’s like, “it’s like ten minutes!” Ricky, our producer, took a rip from a bong and shouted, “Who fucking cares how long it is, it’s fucking slaps!”
THM: You didn’t plan to just do 8?
JY: I mean I did—that’s all I had. Well, we had one more that just didn’t make the cut. Too weird. I mean, I could’ve squeezed out a couple more ideas, but I felt spent after initial tracking, and by the time we started mixing, it felt done--the songwriting part. Our weird little record label was cool with pressing some 10” and calling it an LP. So, yeah. (pause, thinks). You know, after ML, I don’t think I could’ve made another record like ML without a lot of time in-between.
THM: That makes sense.
JY: Does it? I don’t know. Sometimes my brother makes fun of me that I act like a “real” musician when I can barely sell 100 copies. I mean, I get it, but it’s not about how many copies I sell. It’s about making what I want to make and playing for people and if people don’t care, people don’t care. I think it’s fucking stupid that people don’t care about us, but whatever, I’ll keep making records anyway. Our little label likes us (so far) and sometimes people see us in other cities. So whatever.
THM: Do you have a following in the Pacific Northwest?
JY: Yeah well I’m from there and Chad lives there now, and so does Caleb (my twin). I mean, I built a band out here and then Chad flew out for a bit and we worked on the record and he went home and then I flew out and made the record. The band was pissed cause I tried recording ML without them.
JY: Well, yeah. I started tracking without them, but it was a beast and I ended up flying out everyone else to lay down the foundation. After that, it was pretty much me with a little help from Chad and Caleb.
THM: (laughs) OK. I heard about this. You put a band together and crafted a record and then recorded without them.
JY: Yeah. Well, I did that for sure with GN. Nothing against them. We all recorded the demos together on ML, which really helped me shape out the record, and when they came out to record ML, it was good. But I didn’t write any of GN with them, so it felt wrong to bring them out. I mean, just prefer working alone anyway. and in the Northwest. Even Chad only came in to lay down the scratches and then later to finish vocals and some extra guitar. Well, I probably shouldn’t talk about it—it’s a sore subject overall.
THM: Yeah, I’d be pissed. Are you always gonna to do this?
JY: Oh yeah, this new one, I’m barely gonna have Chad there.
THM: What do you think they’ll say?
JY: I don’t know. I’ve hinted at it. I mean, I told them if we all wrote a record together it’d be different. But right now, I write most of the songs with some exceptions.—at all...it sounds worse than it really is.
THM: Funny. Should we ask your band?
JY: Please don’t.
THM: How do you feel about your stance in the world of indie rock. You’re not a household name, and even in Chicago, not many people really know you. Do you, I don’t know, do you think about going home to Seattle?
JY: Chicago is my home. My wife and kid are here. My sister lives up in Andersonville. I’ll just keep kicking at what I’m doing till my times up.
THM: When’s that?
JY: Look, every town has its own Fugazi that everyone talks about and then they go on tour and they see that they’re just like every other town’s Fugazi. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a scene thinks, it matters what kind of imprint you leave where you play. I think we are doing that and even if it’s a slow creep, it’s worth it. I mean, I’ve always been in that opening band that everyone goes apeshit for, but no one ever remembers the name “or brought enough cash to buy a record.”
THM: Oh I get that.
JY: I mean, It bothers me, but I’m not upset about it.
THM: On tour, I read that you opened for Marcy’s Playground.
JY: Yeah (laughs) the Marcy Playground thing was luck—Chad’s other band cancelled and we just slid in there. It was supposed to be a day off, we weren’t even on the flyer. They were super nice though.
THM: I heard that you have touring plans coming up, you want to tell us about that?
JY: We are working it out now. I’m booking it myself and trying to hook up with friends and friends of friends. We will see what happens. Somethings are shaping up for spring, and we are planning on doing something huge in the summer, but we’ll see. We gotta learn 15 minutes of the new record.
THM: You’re playing all of it?
JY: Yeah, we can play the whole thing and still have time for 3-5 more songs, depending on what slot we’re at.
THM: Is that what you’re playing at SubT?
JY: Yeah, we’ll open with some stuff you’ve already heard, then bust into GN in its entirety, then close out with more from ML.
THM: Anything else you want to say about the new record and your band.
JY: Yeah, I hope people like this. I think I just don’t want to get my hopes up. I just want to play these songs I’ve made and play them for people and if people like us great, if they don’t, well you can’t account for taste. I just hope folks are into it.
GERIATRIC NOISE RELEASE SHOW
SPRING TOUR - WEST COAST/MIDWEST
SUMMER TOUR - EAST COAST
HOLIDAY TOUR - PACIFIC NORTHWEST
REOORDING FIRES B/W BOREDOM 7”
ACOUSTIC DEMOS FOR FIRES