"What does that mean?" Derek says, "You're not gonna hear that and be like, 'Ohh, what else is goin' on?'"
Detroit's The High Strung recorded half the demos for their new album while riding in a van, on tour, back up from Nashville. Their fifth presentation was initially titled Dragon Dicks on a quasi-dare. The trio of 30-somethings, friends since before they could drive, haven't been "home" this long (seven months) in all the tour-intensive 10 years of the band's existence, and they're beginning to get itchy about it. Guitarist/singer Josh Malerman is even considering a run for Mayor of Berkley, indulging his brand of civic virility on a sort of lark, before the next tour.
After touring 2009's spaced-out, jangled, echo-heavy opera Ode to the Inverse of the Dude, bassist Chad Stocker holed up in a windowless practice space to prepare himself for the forthcoming Dicks sessions with his newly attained protocol for free and rigorous recording experimentation. The boys already decided that this year's album would be "very bare bones" to balance out the "highly-produced" experience that was Ode. It was a chance to cleanse their palates for a tightly flexed pop style, doused with a necessary lo-fi shambled grit.
The band pieced together a batch of surrealist tunes melding mythic imagery of magic, detritus-deities and horned scaly creatures serving as metaphors for battling against creative disillusionment and preservation of collective motivation. They worked out Malerman's songs and left Stocker in his basement set-up to mold, mix and add instrumental accoutrements.
The band name suggests a worrisome temperament. Yes, they've been touring for 10 years, but "you don't have to think about that when you play," Berk says, "that's the point of playing." "All this time," Malerman adds, "feels like the early days; we're gonna be fine — whatever it is, we're gonna break through one day or another."
Dragon Dicks includes heartening novella-tinged jaunts: "'Decomposer' is like the God of things falling apart, you're telling that death-entity, 'Stay out of my business,'" Malerman says. Or, "let's celebrate the time we fed those guys that got in our way to the dragon, and 'Blast It' says, like, 'I'm gonna be in this band forever and if something gets in your way — blast it out of your way!'"
The band's album-performance will feature a magician who will, like their new epic-sing-along's title, "levitate" the Magic Bag. Raise a toast of dungeon mead to The High Strung's most unique album to date. "We could start the next one tomorrow," Malerman notes of his freshly-written 15 songs. "We should ..." | RDW
The High Strung w/ Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. & Macrame Tiger • 5/22, 8 p.m. • The Magic Bag 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale • 248.544.3030 themagicbag.com • $8
"... sounds like a classic album title"
"Sticky Fingers is a grosser title than Dragon Dicks," opines singer/guitarist Josh Malerman, suggesting The High Strung's latest recalls something similar to the risqué prevalence of early-'70s libidinous strut rock.
"There's a lot of ways you can go with it," bassist — and now, in-band-engineer — Chad Stocker clarifies. "You can have a dragon that has a dick, or a person that has a dragon for a dick." Berk jumps in, "Or you can have a guy lugging around a giant dick. Someone asked me the other day, 'Oh, like you're dragging a bunch of dicks across town?'"
"(It's like) when you call somebody 'a dick,'" Stocker concludes, "(It's) a loose concept album about fighting, or the dicks are maybe people that don't want you to create anything, sort of oppressors ... "
"On our album, the dicks are a metaphor for assholes," says Berk, and pauses before giving a knowing nod. "Think about what kind of world we live in! [And] I just mean the three of us when I say that ..."