“We don’t listen to music on the road,” says Dan Garrison. “We listen to the van.” He and his bandmates begin imitating the noises their touring vehicle makes as it struggles and lurches from one show to the next.
If the sound of a dying tour van isn’t brutal enough for you, try Tongue Party’s first full-length album, Looking for a Painful Death. Released in May, it’s a 20-odd minute demolition of fast-paced, noise-punk mini-implosions. Only one of the nine songs exceeds three minutes, and each is a dense capsule of shape-shifting tempos, sneakily melodic singing and chord progressions, and whaling riffs giving way to pounding power hacks.
“It’s pretty dense,” says drummer Brandon Hile. “Any more than 20, 25 minutes of that might be a bit much.” Their live performances are just as intense and abrupt.
Tongue Party—most of Tongue Party, anyway—has gathered in the band’s recording space. The skinny, scruffy-chinned brothers Hile—Brandon and guitarist Adam, both of whom sing—are layered in shirt and sweatshirt, both wearing hats. “Band dad” Garrison, who handles merch and drives, wears a black T-shirt that matches the dark tattoos sprawling along his arms. Bassist Prescott Laack is elsewhere—“probably sleeping.”
The band formed around three years ago, after the Hiles moved to Minneapolis from River Falls and also moved away from prog-rock to punk. They recorded a self-titled EP in 2015, and took it on the road. The tour was full of great gigs and horrendous vehicle luck: Brandon shudders while recalling nights of sleeping mountainside on random stretches of desolate West Virginia road, while Garrison shakes off memories of being stranded in rural Indiana for hours.
Looking for a Painful Death was drawn from these broke-boy experiences scuttling across the rural Midwest and beyond. These are songs of service-industry workers filled with the rage of being disregarded and abused by nasty customers. They even kept a customer complaint email pinned to their studio wall for inspiration.
“We’re expected to participate in society, but we are not people to you,” says Garrison of the experience.
Or, as the band puts it in “Service Please”: “What can I get for you/While I rip my fucking eyes out?/Listen man, I understand/You’re better than me, you’re better than me.” Call it a quick scream out the window into miles of gridlock, with no time for subtext. “Straight and to the point,” says Adam. “There’s no wondering.”
Tongue Party just finished a Painful Death tour this fall, and now they’re working on their next project, which they plan to release next year, followed by another tour. If all goes well, they’ll still be traveling in the same van.
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