Turn it Down: Loud dispatches from Lansing’s music scene

New music: Bloody Butterflies ‘Polymorphic’ is an ominous trip

Local duo doesn’t need vocals

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Between the small town of Owosso and the even smaller town of Perry, runs M-52 — a remote stretch of Michigan highway that’s mostly lined with cornfields and intersecting dirt roads. Among this rural countryside once sat an eerie, dilapidated farm house. That abandoned two-story home is now demolished, but it lives on via the cover of “Polymorphic,” the brooding debut record from Bloody Butterflies.  

“That house was a wreck on 52 that is on our drive into work,” said drummer Abigail Mogg, who lives in Owosso — as does the other half of the band, guitarist/bassist Jon Howard. “We both passed it twice a day, and it was amazing to see it slowly fall in on itself. We got it photographed just before it was leveled. The back photo (on the CD) is after demolition, but didn’t come out too good.” 

Recorded last year, and released in September 2020 on Silver Maple Kill Records, the eight original songs reflect the spirit of that bleak domicile in that each track is slightly unnerving, but also captivating in its barebones, no frills nature. There’s not even a singer showboating across the tracks. It’s just remarkably arranged instrumentals that blur the lines between post-punk, shoegaze and Stooges-style rock ‘n roll. Sure, there are no sing-along choruses, but there are plenty of earworms scattered about this 30-minute disc, including the standout track, “Descending Stars.” 

“We both felt like concentrating on riffing and don’t feel skilled enough to do both,” Mogg admits. “I have written lyrics in the past, and it was a chore. I wouldn’t say it will never happen, but it is very unlikely. I don’t naturally express myself that way. Songs get finished much, much faster without vocals, and we have drastically changed the speed and arrangements of some — we’re free of trying to fit words in.

“We spend a lot of time messing with timing and arrangements to make the songs interesting,” she added. “We try to not have every song work in 4s and 2s. Jon is constantly coming up with new riffs, and I’m constantly rearranging them.” 

Of course, this new duo—which formed amid the pandemic—arrived to their first rehearsal fully equipped to rock. The pair have both spent time performing in Lansing-based outfits. For the last decade, Howard has played bass in Hordes, while Mogg was the drummer for No Skull — two heavy bands that often-shared stages. 

Shortly before quarantine happened, and after they realized they both coincidentally lived in Owosso, Bloody Butterflies took off, initially, through emails. Ultimately, they agreed on a few simple rules: “All riffs, no vocals, no loops.”

“Both of our bands were inactive, and we live in the same town, so felt safe enough to form a two-piece band,” Mogg said. “We stopped during the lockdown in early 2020. Jon was usually a bass player, and was ready for a challenge.” 

By August 2020, the duo headed to Troubadour Recording Studios in Lansing, where they swiftly recorded the new album with the studio’s head engineer Corey DeRushia. 

“We worked very fast,” Mogg said about the sessions. “About two days recording, two mixing. We knew it would stay a little loose, but that is how we sounded the first few months.” 

While a few bands inspired them, like Beast in The Field, Russian Circles, Pelican, Kraftwerk and Miles Davis, the chaos and seclusion of 2020 also had its effect on their record. 

“It was absolutely a product of the frustration of being isolated and the stress of working during the pandemic,” Mogg said. “Hopefully, soon we’ll be playing live all over the place. We have songs ready for the next album, and plan on recording this spring. The next one will be on vinyl.” 

And, what about the title of the record, “Polymorphic”?  

“It’s the stages of the butterfly. We are fascinated by life and death in nature,” she said.

Listen at bloodybutterflies.bandcamp.com

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