Getting under your skin has been Pop. 1280′s business since 2009, when the Brooklyn-based industrial/noise outfit issued the appropriately titled “Bedbugs” 7-inh. Led by singer Chris Bug and guitarist Ivan Lip, the band’s commitment to provocation knows no bounds: We suppose you could do worse than open your debut album by shouting “Two dogs fucking!” but we’d have to comb through some pretty dark corners of eMusic’s catalog in order to suggest something more foul. The Horror (Sacred Bones), said debut, welcomes you to the terrordome of drillbit guitars and harshly-worded songs that portray a noirish, sci-fi future of dehumanization and dread.
All the filth, discord and geography associated with Pop. 1280 have earned the band comparisons to old-school New York Citynoise addicts such as Suicide and Swans; and if the recent return of Pussy Galore and Unsane indicates anything, the time is ripe for some vicious, repulsive antiheroism in this rainbow-colored, yarn-bombed age of nice-guy indie rock. But what rock critic Robert Christgau termed “pigfuck” in the ’80s doesn’t necessarily apply here: The Horror spends quality time in the boiler room where Ministry and other ’90s industrial bands pounded metal into rigid, rhythmic songs.
For all their dry, dark humor and efficient sarcasm, Chris Bug and Ivan Lip (not their real names, by the way) betrayed a bond of friendship during the interview that was almost sweet – at least for two guys who write songs titled “Beg Like A Human” and “Bodies In the Dunes.”
On confrontational live shows:
Chris: We’ve cleared rooms.
Ivan: It doesn’t really bother me if people like the band or not. That’s not why I do it. It’s happened a couple times. The few times it’s happened it’s usually been outside ofNew York. People usually watch us now.
Chris: We started this band to be annoying as we possibly could, so if people leave, I guess that’s OK.
Ivan: Sometimes I think we’ve toned it down a bit. We used to do more stuff like shining lights on the audience and other things to purposely annoy people. But that was when nobody knew who we were, so it was like, “Nobody likes us anyway so let’s be extra annoying.” Sometimes people do get violent at our shows. A few times, fights have broken out. Sometimes Chris gets attacked, and I get hit every now and then. I did get my ass kicked for good reason inAlabama last year. I was kicking monitors off the stage during the first song and some people in the crowd and the sound guy attacked me. I deserved it, though.
Chris: Now we’re on the Internet, so we have to be careful what we do. I’ve wondered sometimes if Gary Numan had a Facebook profile when he was starting out, whether he would have seemed a lot less cool. It kind of destroys the mystery.
On being termed a new-generation “pigfuck” band:
Chris: We don’t even know what that means. I guess it’s describing some bands, but we’ve never really listened to those bands.
Ivan: Especially when we started, a lot of people would say “AmRep” or “AmRep bands,” but other than Helios Creed having a couple records on AmRep, I never listened to Killdozer or whatever. I don’t even know if Killdozer were on the label.
On the influence of ’90s industrial music:
Chris: Probably me more than Ivan, but I definitely listened to a lot of industrial music in the ’90s. I think some of our rhythms and sounds we take from that, but we try to cut out the cheesy aspect of that music. The lyrics are pretty horrible, usually. But Ministry, Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 and stuff like that [are influences].
Ivan: I just like the way synthesizers, pedals and drum machines sound. I think they sound more cold and impersonal, and also you can make them sound more unique. There are certain aspects of rock music that just need to go. Certain drum sounds and whatnot just bother me. Who decided that crash cymbals sound good? They have their time and place, but most bands should use them more sparingly. That’s where more electronic stuff that can be more manipulated interests me. Or even regular instruments played differently. Get some sheet metal. It has more character.
On literary pursuits and Jim Thompson, author of namesake Pop. 1280:
Ivan: If one of us finishes a book, we usually pass it among friends. We like Jim Thompson a lot. I think I’ve read most of his stuff. The (band) name just sort of happened. We thought it looked cool. The Killer Inside Me is actually my favorite book by Jim Thompson. What I like about him is that he gets it so you’re reading about this evil guy but then you start to root for him. There’s something about the conflict of rooting for the evil guy that I really like.
Chris: I don’t really think about the book (Pop. 1280) much, but part of why we chose the name is it had a good ring to it. It looks cool when you write it down, you can do graphic stuff with it.
Ivan: I like the fact that it’s open to interpretation how you say it. We usually say “Pop Twelve-Eighty” but there’s probably at least half a dozen ways you can pronounce it.
Chris: I’ve also been reading Martin Amis.
Ivan: We’ve been reading a lot of Bret Easton Ellis, but it’s been a little bleak. It doesn’t seem like he actually has that many good books. Less Than Zero was really good. The first half of Lunar Park is good.
Chris: We were really into American Psycho for a while. But then his other books sucked so hard we kind of lost interest.
On cinematic influences:
Chris: We definitely have a sci-fi influence. I read lots of sci-fi books and we watch sci-fi movies. The song “West World” has nothing to do with that movie except the title. The movie is pretty mental. It’s a cool mix of Westerns and sci-fi, which is rare. Westerns influence me a lot, too; I get a lot of lyrical ideas from Spaghetti Westerns.
Ivan: David Cronenberg and John Carpenter were a big influence on us in the beginning. I wanted the band to sound like those movies.
On the two of them:
Chris: I think we met when we were in high school. We hated each other growing up and then became best friends.
Ivan: [Sarcastic] We went to prom together. I’m not really sure what made us not get along at first. I think that eventually it was going to punk/industrial shows at DIY venues when we were in high school that got us to get along. We talked about music a lot.
On sharing lyric-writing duties:
Ivan: There are some songs where [Chris] writes all the words, some where I write all the words, and some where one of us starts it and one of us finishes the lyrics. Sometimes we collaborate, like on “Burn the Worm.” We were drinking mushroom tea and just throwing different lines at each other. We have a shared wavelength that helps us be able to write together. There’s a sense of humor and interest in certain themes that we connect on. A lot of our lyrics are actually begun as jokes – just dumb things we yell at each other. I think that we can write things that both of us feel comfortable presenting as our work. There are probably certain lines that the other one wrote that the other wouldn’t 100-percent endorse, but that’s part of artistic compromise. I’m excited that we’re writing more together because I believe groupthink leads to more out-there ideas that one person wouldn’t think of on their own.
On the pros and cons of New York City:
Chris: The shitty part about being in a band inNew York is that unless you’ve got a trust fund, you have to work a lot to support your music. So that’s been an obstacle for us. A lot of my friends who live in other places work three days a week and have enough money to live and can spend more time doing band stuff. I think working has influenced me, though. I think it’s made us, not bitter, but miserable sometimes. And that comes out in the songwriting. It also makes it feel like we’re working extra-hard.
Ivan: I think that cities are kind of a sensory overload and it can lead to a pretty bleak view of humanity. Even if there are disgusting things happening in the woods, you share a square mile of land with only a dozen people instead of 12,000, so it’s easier to ignore. Any city,New York included, just has random shit happen. I saw a dude get destroyed by a guy with a baseball bat at noon on my block one Sunday last year. Cities are also really attractive, though, all that action and intensity, having grown up in the woods. I think that conflict is part of what makes our music have the vibe it has.
On the ever-so-slight possibility of interests that are not dystopic, doomy or dark:
Chris: [Sarcastic] Every Sunday, we wake up and bake muffins.
Ivan: You never say they’re good, though.
Chris: I hate your muffins. It’s the dark stuff that usually does make me happy. Reading depressing books makes me happy.
On the scene, or lack thereof:
Chris: One of the things that’s annoying right now is we don’t have anyone to play with. Our last favorite band, Pygmy Shrews, just broke up. There’s no scene here for this kind of noisy, evil bands, at least none that I know of.
Ivan: There are some really good bands inNew York, but when we first started there were all these bands –
Chris: Pigfuck bands!
Ivan: Yeah, pigfuck bands on AmRep. You couldn’t fall down without hitting an AmRep band. But slowly, people moved away, bands broke up, venues didn’t book the same shows.
Chris: All these damn kids and their loft music and god knows what else.