No Skull, the sonically experimental Lansing-based sludge-punk trio, releases its epically heavy self-titled EP Friday at GTG Fest at The Avenue Café.
The band, led by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Andrews (formerly of Red Teeth, BerT and Dr. Device) also comprises bassist Jules Purosky and drummer Abby Moog. Their set at the fest will showcase the five tracks from the new EP, but the songs are far from “new.”
“Maybe half of the songs are tunes I wrote back in the ‘90s, when I was in high school,” said Andrews, a long-time fixture in the Lansing music scene. “They’re old four-track demos from a period where I didn’t have a band.”
The grungy-flannel era was not lost on a young Andrews, and it shows on these unearthed and freshly-recorded tunes. No Skull may have formed back in 2016, but these tracks — produced locally with engineer Corey DeRushia at Troubadour Recording Studios — unmistakably harkens back to that golden alternative-rock era. For a sample, check out the newly unveiled video for the first single, “Bottom of the Sea,” at noskull.madlantisrecords.com.
“The songs mirror what you think of from that period — Nirvana, Soundgarden, Melvins and Alice in Chains — I loved those bands back then,” said Andrews, among a laundry list of other groups. The outcome presents Andrews’ signature brashness mixed with blasts of catchy hooks. This is new terrain for the local songwriter, who's best known for hoisting a middle-finger to mainstream-music standards.
“For lack of better term, they were more pop,” he said. “They were a little more straightforward. We just went in and played them live in the studio, and then I added like 150 layers of guitars and loud amps over the tracks.”
“It’s relatable, but also sometimes unpredictable,” Moog added. “It’s original. It’s meant to be loud.”
While there are echoes of Pixies-esque structures, too, Andrews admits he hadn’t even heard them back when he initially wrote these songs.
“I’d only heard their name back then,” he said. “In the ‘90s, there was barely an internet, so it was hard to find out about bands or even hear them. I never wanted to take a chance on buying a record I didn’t know, so I stuck to Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day, things like that.”
While digging through his dusty songbook, Andrews admits he reworked some of his adolescent lyrics, ones focused on “smoking weed or drinking booze.”
“I rewrote some of the lyrics to be more meaningful,” he said. “Some of it was stupid nonsensical shit I didn’t want to sing about anymore. I was trying to do my own version of Nirvana and Melvins lyrics.”
Issued by GTG Records and Madlantis Records, the EP offers up a throwback-yet-revamped sonic universe — one Purosky calls “heavy and dreamy.” Purosky's favorite song on the disc, “Lake Erie,” is the majestically murky closer.
“I like that one because it’s powerful, hypnotic and perfect for travelling to other dimensions,” he said.
“Lake Erie,” which is also drawn out to grand, prog-rock lengths at live shows, is also a stand out for Moog.
“It’s a great example of minimal drum style,” Moog said. “[The beat is] slow and powerful and plays in unity with guitar and bass. It stirs something in my soul and it helps me deal with deep-rooted emotion, brain stuff.”
Moog, a self-described “smashy rather than super technical” drummer, said playing in No Skull is a real work out, too.
“Ryan’s vision and writing style is very clear on everything including how the drums sound,” she explained. “Usually, drummers are told to tone it down and play quieter, but in No Skull, it’s like I can’t play loud enough.”
Friday, Oct. 11 @ The Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. 21+, $8, 7 p.m