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Cymbals Eat Guitars on how Springsteen inspired the epic indie rock of 'Pretty Years'

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Cymbals Eat Guitars Shervin Lainez

Four albums and nearly 10 years into their career, Cymbals Eat Guitars have fused their shout-along anthems with multiple-movement tracks, dense vocal melodies, songs with virtually no choruses, and experimental flourishes. 

Arriving just two years after 2014’s stirring LOSE, the most recent effort from the Philly-via-New York City band, September's Pretty Years, showcases an evolved sound that's not at all dumbed down. Joe D’Agostino is still one of indie rock’s greatest storytellers; the guitar and keyboard work throughout the record remain as ambitious, agile, and explosive as ever. 

One of the more notable influences on Pretty Years is Bruce Springsteen, and his impact is especially felt on excellent early singles “4th of July, Philadelphia (Sandy)” and “Wish.” 

In anticipation of Cymbals Eat Guitars' stop Monday at 7th St. Entry, we caught up with bassist Matt Whipple to talk shop about The Boss (who talks about himself plenty in his outstanding new autobiography). 

City Pages: What's your earliest Bruce-related memory?

Matt Whipple: My parents had a framed Born in the U.S.A. Tour poster hanging in our kitchen until I was 10 or 11 years old.

CP: What's your favorite Springsteen album?

MW: Born in the U.S.A. It's so misunderstood. People think of it like something you'd play at a Super Bowl party or something and, I guess, you would. But it also has so many of his most affecting lyrics, and the title track is like the angriest thing he has ever written -- a total sendup. People think it's this "Go America!" anthem ... and it kind of is. It’s both, and that's amazing. It's also the album my parents played in the house a lot when I was a really little kid.

CP: What about a favorite song?

MW: Probably "Dancing in the Dark.” I think it's a perfect pop song; almost line by line it evokes every feeling you'd want a pop song to evoke: "I'm fucking up,” “I'm bored,” "Let's party,” "Hey girl/boy, I dig you.” It's also completely gender-neutral.

CP: What about his most underrated work?

MW: I think this is probably a popular choice, but Tunnel of Love doesn't get enough recognition for having so many amazing songs. I think it's overlooked because it's the more restrained, personal follow up to a huge, populist mega-hit.

CP: As you've aged, have you grown to appreciate different eras of Bruce’s work?

MW: I'm definitely more into ’80s Bruce than I was when I was in my teens or early 20s. Back then, the first three albums seemed like the "pure" stuff -- the origin story, maybe. Now I kind of see that as him just getting warmed up.

CP: What elements of Springsteen inspired Pretty Years?

MW: I think there's a generosity that goes into his work that is really inspiring. Like, the more you freely give of yourself to a melody or a lyric or the performance of a song, the more likely it is to connect. Leave everything on the page or the stage or whatever; it's a cool thing to do, and people like it.

CP: Have you seen him live?

MW: I have only seen him once, at Giants -- now MetLife -- Stadium in New Jersey for The Rising Tour. I think it was summer 2002, and Joe [D’Agostino] and I were both at that show, seven years before we met. It's one of about five times that happened with different artists.

CP: What does it mean, as a New Jerseyan, to be a Bruce fan?

MW: I definitely don't think it's as much of a statewide thing as people probably think, but for a segment of New Jerseyans, Bruce Springsteen is very, very special. He's not just a rock star from our state -- he's a folk hero.

CP: If Cymbals Eat Guitars could cover one Springsteen album in its entirety, which would it be?

MW: I'd want to be able to do it justice, but also make it weird and more like us. In my mind, I think Darkness [on the Edge of Town] is the one we could tackle and not embarrass ourselves.

Cymbals Eat Guitars 
With: Field Mouse, Wildhoney
When: 7:30 p.m. Mon., 10.
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: $12; more info here