Future Death

Future Death on Math Rock and Axl Rose as Inspiration

Laia Garcia

By Laia Garcia

on 07.08.14 in Features

File under: Math-rock fit for dancing and psychedelic journeys
For fans of: Marnie Stern, Deerhoof, Erase Errata,
From: Austin, Texas
Personae: Alton Jenkins (drums), Jeremy Humphries (bass), Angie Kang (vocals), Bill Kenny (guitar)

Future Death’s music is the sound of immediacy. Frenetic and breakneck, the jabbing riffs and avalanche of percussion feel like a call to war, or a runaway train barreling into the distance. Special Victim, their second record after a self-released EP last year, starts fast and sleazy, but ends with thick-as-honey jams that hang heavy in the air.

You’d think that behind all the allusions to death (The band name! The album title! The fact that the album was recorded in a former funeral home!) is a crew of people dressed in black pleather, their faces hidden under layers of white and black makeup. Instead you get a quartet armed with the classic tools of rock ‘n’ roll — guitar, drums, bass — and use them to create roaring, thousand-miles-per-second barnstormers. Punk may or may not be dead these days — who can keep track? — but Future Death are having too much fun at the party to care about the funeral.

On using the internet and Craigslist to put a band together:

Alton Jenkins: This is the first band I’ve been in that came together predominantly through the internet. Usually it’s more, “I know a guy who knows a guy-type-thing.” Bill saw a video of me drumming on YouTube, he knew my friend who posted the video, so we hooked up because we wanted to do similar things musically. I already knew Jeremy — we had lived together years before — so I asked him to come with us and we started playing. We placed a Craigslist ad to find a singer — it’s next to impossible to find someone, especially someone to sing over this kind of music. It’s so unexpected and angular and I think people were a little scared of it. The ad was very specific because we knew exactly what we wanted in terms of female vocals. Blonde Redhead was one of the bands that we listed — there were others, but they were the most important. When Angie finally came in, it was just totally natural.

On male-dominated math rock:

Angie Kang: I probably played with like 10 different people in Austin before I met these guys, but I just kept trying. I had just moved here from Brooklyn, and it was a relief to find people that have a really aggressive style of music that was also really smartly written. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in a math-rock band, and I wasn’t sure I could sing over it because it was so fast and aggressive. It’s such a male-dominated genre. I mean, punk is male-dominated in general, but you don’t really hear a lot of math rock with female singers. I kept thinking, “How can I transform this?” I wanted to feminize it. I just kept coming back and working at it.

On early influences:

Bill Kenny: When I was 10 or 11 years old, I discovered Guns N’ Roses on MTV. I didn’t have any older siblings, so that was the only way I had of discovering music. I thought they were the coolest dudes ever. I had a poster up on my wall, and they all had their cool hair and they were holding their own bottle of liquor, and I felt about them the way people feel about movie stars. When Chinese Democracy came out, after they worked on it for like 16 years, I tried to hear it with my teenage ears. But, man, it was pretty bad. I don’t feel bad for Axl, though. He’s a hard person to care about.

Jenkins: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Michael Jordan. I’ve had a poster of him since I was 8 years old, and now that Angie and I are roommates it hangs on our living room wall along with Angie’s paintings. I still love waking up and seeing it every day. It inspires me to slam dunk my life as much as possible.

On “Paranoid Android” and paranoia:

Jenkins: I remember sitting in front of the TV when I was 11 or 12 and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” music video came on. For the whole seven-and-a-half minutes of it I just sat there, thinking my parents were going to walk in and I was going to get in trouble for watching it. I was so captivated by it and I kept thinking, “This is so different from everything I’ve heard!” It totally changed my perspective. Even the parents of the girl I was dating thought I was crazy for listening to that music. They’d always say, “This is inappropriate!”

On deterring van robbery while on tour:

Jenkins: Our friends recently had their trailer and van stolen while they were on tour, so I’m just trying to dream up what can deter people from breaking into our van. I wish we had, like, a Christian church van. You need something very positive so people won’t steal from you. Or we might need a guard animal, like a lizard or a snake. Something that scares people. Maybe Angie’s evil cat could work. She’s really pretty, but she is not the sweetest cat.