When I reach Scotty Hoffman, vocalist for the Atlanta band Small Reactions, he’s driving down a Georgia highway, listening to the Japanese avant-garde band Les Rallizes Dénudés. “It’s more noisy and more freaky than than the craziest Velvet Underground live stuff,” he enthuses. “The song I’m listening to right now, the bassline sounds like the ’50s song ‘I Will Follow Him’” — he sings a few bars to illustrate — “but there’s just noisy guitar and feedback over it.” Hoffman’s always been this enthusiastic about music: when he was a teenager, he took a deep dive into the Stereolab catalog after Sam Jacobsen, the band’s organ player, introduced him to Dots & Loops. “We had a CD Warehouse near where we lived, so we just went there and bought all the Stereolab records we could find,” he says.
In truth, his own band Small Reactions sounds like a bit like hotwiring of Stereolab with some burlier, more ruthless noise outfit. At its best moments their excellent debut, Similar Phantoms, smothers stiff-jointed, locked-kneed rhythms with slashing guitars and weird wreaths of feedback. On “Saint in Robes,” though, which we’re premiering today, they table those influences in favor of a bright, ringing guitar pop song. Hoffman stretches out notes with the same kind of urgency and desperation as Hamilton Leithauser, and the song sports a wordless, lightweight, heavenbound chorus. “This song was just an instant song,” Hoffman recalls. “It was the first thing we played that day, and it was fun to watch how quickly it came together.” You can hear that feeling in the final product, the sense of discovery captured in every ringing note.