Not be confused with PiL, Pill are the American quartet of Veronica Torres, Andrew Spaulding, Benjamin Jaffe, and Jonathan Campolo.
Anxious, nasty, noisy post-punk, with jazzy saxophone flourishes, and a powerful sense that everything around you is going to collapse into a void of emotionless dread. The music of Pill is pretty much the antithesis of easy-listening; blurring yelped, impassioned vocals, rattling, anxious bass and break-neck guitar work. The band have described themselves as, “completely democratic” and base their music around four concepts, “physicality, catharsis, and psychic release.”
Like seemingly most bands, Pill formed in Brooklyn, as the band themselves put it, ” colliding in the city’s ever-changing DIY community.” Brooklyn is the most populous of New York’s five boroughs, with a population of over two and a half million people. If it was a city in its own right, Brooklyn would be the third most populous city in the US, behind only Los Angeles and Chicago. Brooklyn is a rapidly evolving borough in terms of its demographics, with a rapidly shifting racial, age, and monetary make up; particularly famous has been its swift gentrification and establishment as a hipster enclave, a similar process to that seen in other major cities. Brooklyn is arguably the most culturally important place in the world, with thriving arts, literature and music scenes. Some of its many famous residents have included Patti Smith, Jay-Z and LCD Soundsystem – and not many places can top that.
Pill formed in 2014, and released a self-titled debut EP that same year. They have since signed to Mexican Summer, releasing a 7″ single, Hot Glue/A.I.Y.M?, that same year. They released their debut album, Convenience, earlier this month, again via Mexican Summer.
The press release from Pill starts with an Aldous Huxley quote, “…reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays…” It’s a quote that could be interpreted any number of ways, are the band saying they provide the break? Possibly, but we’d be more inclined to side on a different interpretation. Huxley’s quote suggests that people are inclined to look away from reality, to try and escape it; perhaps Pill are pointing this out, not to encourage us to lean away from actuality, but to confront it head on. Certainly on their debut album, Convenience, Pill don’t sound like a band who are shying away from anything, let alone real life.
Some bands attempt to shy away from politics, but Pill are keen to embrace how important it is to them.Whilst Veronica has described the band as having, no particular agenda beyond, “awareness of our own bodies and the space around us, and being cautious of what is projected onto us”, the band delve into numerous issues. They tackle harassment in the workplace (“No I wont get you coffee, I’m your superior, keep your hand to yourself and quit pretending that was your idea” from Speaking Up), the government’s attempts to control women’s bodies (“my body, my fight, congressman wants to steal all my rights” from My Rights) and there’s certainly a strong feminist theme throughout.
If the lyrics are hard-hitting, the music is arguably even more aggressive, it’s not always in the traditionally loud punky style, but they are a band who are never afraid of a challenging sound. Regularly the music creates a feeling of unease, and at time it’s out right unpleasant, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that Pill wanted it that way. It is an intensely noisy record, marrying a huge variety of influences, there are nods to the likes of Sonic Youth, and At The Drive In, but also the early 1980’s post-punk experimenters, and the arty end of Patti Smith’s output. Like contemporaries Exploded View or Weaves, they’re more than willing to write something that’s challenging, loud and very potent indeed.
Well, all of the above really; it’s at times quite unpleasant listening, and while some people will enjoy the challenge, others will want to run a mile. Sometimes the most intriguing music is also the most divisive.
Convenience is out now via Mexican Summer. Pill tour the UK in October, click HERE for details.