Marijuana Deathsquads: Everyone's got that fucking crazy animal in them
|Photo by Erik Hess|
Fuck capturing a moment. Marijuana Deathsquads have stockpiled heavy artillery and are ready to unload on a moment until the chamber's empty. After a couple years of artist residencies, loft parties, and covert studio sessions, the guitar-eschewing Minneapolis electronic experimenters have arrived above ground on their full-length debut, Oh My Sexy Lord.
"Our business game is slowly getting its shit together," says producer/instigator Ryan Olson, who seems most comfortable with a lit cigarette between his nimble fingers. He and four other members of the 'Squads -- drummer Ben Ivascu, auxiliary noise programmer Mark McGee, studio engineer BJ Burton, and vocal manipulator Isaac Gale -- are gathered at Spyhouse Coffee in northeast Minneapolis on a sunny September Friday. Olson adds, "Until now, we haven't really pushed our shit out of the city."
Aside from a couple of multi-day stints in major cities -- including a Spaceland residency in Los Angeles that yielded a collaboration with Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow -- this is true. But this rotating cast of Gayngs/Building Better Bombs alums finally will push it out as the main support for their more pop-oriented scene siblings Poliça later this year.
During fall and winter dates across North America and Europe, it'll be double duty for Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, who play drums in tandem for both groups. For live Deathsquads sets, the tempos run on a treadmill set to a speed that'll make your legs buckle underneath you. To shift gears seamlessly, the pair take instructions that Olson barks through a mic into headphones cupping their ears. "Sometimes it's not necessarily what you do to the change, as long as you change at the right time," the plain-spoken Ivascu notes.
Filling out the live setup is a table packed with gear. It's a family-style dinner with various boxes, pedals, keyboards, Macbooks, microphones, and a tangle of cords woven into a sound guy's nightmare. Along with Gale, McGee, and Olson, friends like P.O.S., Slapping Purses' Jason Power, Spyder Baybie Raw Dog, and Poliça frontwoman Channy Leaneagh often bounce and scream around the table.
|Photos by Erik Hess|
"For me, it's mostly about just trying to go absolutely insane," Gale says in his ever-raspy voice, while squinting into the late-afternoon sun. "And jump out of this world and into some crazy realm where we can cause chaos and devastation. We play with a lot of musicians whose bands sound nothing like this, but they're incredible players and they know everyone's got that fucking crazy animal in them. We try to get it out."
Until recently, each Deathsquads performance was a different beast. Through curated events (like accompanying a slam-dunk highlight reel), happy improvisational accidents, trippy projections, a hip-hop mixtape (free download), and a catalog of songs that now numbers in the dozens, intensity has been the only constant. But Oh My Sexy Lord, out October 15 via Totally Gross National Product, and a pair of EPs released earlier this year titled Music Rocks I & II (free download) signal a new era of live uniformity, at least by their standards.