The first thing you should know about Ringo Deathstarr?
They are f—-ing loud.
“I honestly can’t tell how loud we are,” founder and frontman Elliott Frazier says, laughing. “They’re always telling me to turn down the guitar, so I guess that’s pretty loud.”
As they should be. Twenty years after shoegaze’s heyday, the Texas trio have stolen the noisy, noisy reigns from late ‘80s/early ‘90s UK pop bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain. Now they’re leading the charge in a new wave of shoegaze revivalists.
Walls of warbly, shimmering noise? Check. Effects-pedal boards as big as their amps? Check. Dreamy girl/guy vocal harmonies buried beneath waves of fuzzed-out distortion and guitar feedback? Looks like you’ve been reading their mail.
But unlike revivalist peers such as Brooklyn’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who lean toward the softer side of shoegaze, Ringo Deathstarr cuts its pop with a sharp, metal edge. Just take its critically acclaimed debut LP, 2010’s Colour Trip. An intoxicating blend of catchy, lo-fi rock and pure aural assault, Frazier and Co. come off as one part songwriters, one part noise sculpture artists. Sure, it’s giddily, often thunderously chaotic.
But man, what a gorgeously controlled chaos it is.
“When people hear the term noise, they only think of that [he mimics the sound of drone-y static], those kind of sounds,” says Frazier, who started the band in 2005. “But you can make noise out of so many different instruments and samples. We’re just trying to find new ways to use noise.”
For years, the term “shoegaze” was a much-maligned one by both musicians and rock critics. (The name itself sprung from a snarky description of the way early shoegaze bands stared down at their feet, i.e., pedal boards, during live shows.) But for the new crop of shoegaze bands, it’s a term — and an influence — they openly embrace.
“It was kind of the thing that tied all the music I liked together,” Frazier says about hearing My Bloody Valentine for the first time. “That’s why I started this band, to sound like that. Just to do it for fun. The only other way to satisfy my needs would be to see My Bloody Valentine everyday of my life, which obviously wasn’t going to happen.”
Of course, the members of Ringo Deathstarr don’t embrace everything about their idols.
“We don’t just stand around on stage,” Frazier says, laughing. “And we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to have a good time and party.”
Not surprisingly, Asheville has got its own local shoegaze scene brewing. For years there have been bands around town dipping into the sound, and recently it’s really started to ferment. Take the new “Straight Gaze” show (Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m.) on Asheville FM, which plays “music for people who wear big striped shirts.”
Then there’s Asheville Shoegaze, the Facebook page created a few months back by local promoter Ashe Ruppe. He started it to help band together a local shoegaze scene, as well as bring in out-of-town noise-gazers like Ringo Deathstarr.
“I think the scene is slowly growing,” says Ruppe, whose band, Glass Arcana, will be opening the Ringo Deathstarr show alongside local shoegazers Wages and Wyla. “I love the fact that there are so many things starting to happen in Asheville around this type of music. This is a great art city, and it needs a more diverse music scene. That is most certainly happening as we speak.”
Ruppe says his main focus is to make Asheville a “destination for this type of music.” Which might not be as crazy as it sounds. We’ve already got “Beer City USA” under our belt. So why not Shoegaze City?
Bring on the noise.
— Miles Britton is an Asheville-based freelance writer.
who: Ringo Deathstarr, with Wages, Glass Arcana and Wyla
what: The Emerald Lounge, 112 N. Lexington Ave.
when: Wednesday, July 6 (9 p.m., $8. emeraldlounge.com)