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Retox: Metal's minute men

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 17:11


Ian Campbell/Ipecac Recordings


Retox isn't a band of minute men, although its thrashing 40-second songs may suggest otherwise. They also don't have ADD (from what we could tell). It's just how they take swings at counter-counterculture. The band, which released an EP on Three One G Records, signed to Ipecac Recordings in May and recently released its debut album Ugly Animals, which clocks in at an excruciating 13 minutes. It may seem like a gimmick, but College Times wanted to get to the nanosecond core of this new kind of speed-rock before making just as speedy judgments. CT called up guitarist Michael Crain while the band traveled up America's wang [from Gainesville to Tallahassee].

Retox releases short albums. Your [self-titled] EP was only 8 minutes and your debut album, Ugly Animals, has 11 songs and is just about 13 minutes long. When did you decide this shorter song length was something you wanted to do?

I don't know if it was anything necessarily conscious but we get our point across in short songs. It's pretty hard to explain. All the parts are there. Everything flows pretty quickly. A different sound is what we're really about — just being really abrasive and abrupt and to the point.

The anti-epic songs usually considered to be strong defining moments in music, then. Do you feel you guys are effectively communicating through this kind of abrasive music?

Lyrically, for sure. [Vocalist] Justin [Pearson] is definitely making some statements in those songs.

Have you considered the delivery is too inaccessible?

We don't ever worry about it but we know it is. We're just being ourselves. I know on the next record there are some songs that are a little longer, I believe. Some of that probably is a little more accessible. It's something we're aware of but it doesn't affect our songwriting. We still just do what feels right.

Okay, so what goes into writing a short song? Some bands can spend seven months writing a three-minute song, for example.

I spend a lot of time playing guitar. That's pretty much all I do. Either I'll riff parts and bring them into rehearsal and [bassist] Thor [Dickey] and Gabe Serbian, our drummer, will jam on them. Usually, those songs tend to be shaped pretty quickly. Everyone brings something.

So what's the longest amount of time the band has spent crafting a song?

Maybe a day? A couple days? We might come back and fix something later.

Do you have a lot of unused material you play live?

Right now, I think our set is everything we have recorded, but we do have a lot of new songs. In Europe, we'll probably play some material that hasn't been released.

I think Europe will be really receptive to you guys. What do you get out of playing with Retox, compared to your previous projects?

Retox is so fulfilling because it's just honest. Everyone in the band loves to play this kind of music. It's pretty natural, you know? I don't want to say we totally fucking rock, but it feels good to go out and play a song this fast, this short, this punchy. […] Everyone has other projects, too.

Do you all have day jobs?

Oh, yeah, for sure, part-time things. I work at a pizza shop in […] downtown Los Angeles. Thor does too. He does sound engineering. Brian does drum clinics. Justin works at a bar.

[Crain then excuses himself for a few seconds to look at an "explosion on the side of the road."]

Justin and I are the same age but I think we both started in bands in middle school, at least. It's something we've always done.

Everyone has to start somewhere. So, who were you imitating when you first started playing guitar?

That would have been [when] I was six or seven. KISS, because they all looked really scary and fucked up. My dad was in a band, so I was exposed to things really young. I listened to Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Bowie. Then, Van Halen, Metallica, Black Flag.

[Insert enthusiastic small talk about Alice Cooper's radio show and haunted house.]

Music saved my life, for sure, growing up. It's our art. The easiest way for us to express anything is musically or lyrically. It's just what we know.

Retox w/Naudhiz, Gay Kiss, The Rogue, Oct. 27, 8 p.m., $7

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