Total Trash: Getting pushed around is a sensory experience
The name Total Trash breeds expectations that a band's output will be loud, gnarly, and ugly. Verily, these Minneapolis punks scream and thrash their way through 60-second train-wrecks about slutty girls and blowjobs. It's not music for the squeamish -- and that's meant as a compliment.
"I really like playing with feedback, that's the whole thing," says Total Trash's guitarist, Dustin McChesney. He's in an art studio with his bandmates, making screen prints of posters for their upcoming tour, which kicks off after they release their new tape, You Don't Try, Thursday at the 7th Street Entry. "I have this fucking huge amp that I can get super loud, and I got this crappy guitar that just squeals." He reaches his hands out to his sides, then makes a rocking motion to imitate playing his guitar.
"A lot of people want a nice guitar that sounds great, but I like fighting my shit," he adds. "It's more fun, and it's more physical."
Total Trash are still a pretty new band, even in the scheme of the typical short shelf life for rock bands. They started playing together only about a year ago, but the members of the band -- or at least most of them -- have known each other for years, dating back to high school at Robbinsdale-Armstrong in Plymouth. In fact, McChesney and drummer Jared Sather have been in bands with each other before. "It's funny because, for the longest time, Dustin and I were playing music together and he would just quit on me and start other bands that were heavier," Sather muses.
The idea to start this particular band happened somewhat by accident, though it was perhaps an accident by design. McChesney and singer Jessica Katz ordered 100 pink cassette tapes, and set out to fill every one of them. However, in order to do so, they decided to start a band. "She was playing guitar and I was playing drums for a day. Then we got in this big argument, so we just switched roles," McChesney recalls, laughing. "And then we were practicing -- we didn't really play any shows or anything -- and the bassist and lead singer of Brain Tumors ran into our practice space when we were playing and were like, 'All right, you're going to start playing shows with us.'"
Before long, the pair had drafted in two other bandmates -- the first bassist was "kicked out because he admitted he liked U2," claims McChesney -- and settled on Total Trash for a band name, inspired by a Sonic Youth song. But that, it turns out, wasn't their first idea. "You had a different name?" asks Sather, surprised.
"I'm not going to tell you what it was," replies Katz. She leans over the work bench with her hands folded, a slightly embarrassed -- and slightly pleased -- smirk on her face. "It was offensive, apparently."
Speaking of being offensive, you get the impression that Katz has plenty of, er, edgy things to say in her lyrics -- the only thing is, you can't make half of them out. The song titles are certainly provocative ("Lesbian Blowjob," anyone?) and the snippets you get here and there are, shall we say, suggestive. "To me it's more about yelling at people and having it sound cool than the actual content of the lyrics," explains Katz, who was, for many years growing up, a choir singer. Sometimes, she says, she even makes the lyrics up on the spot. "I don't like songs that are super up-front lyrically, or super straightforward. I like to be more cryptic and abstract."
None of which, as you might imagine, is the kind of thing that's bound to get Total Trash much in the way of press or radio play. Such a situation suits them well enough, though. This is a band, after all, that's most comfortable playing a show in someone's basement, getting beer cans thrown at them, rather than up on a stage. "I don't think I've ever stood on stage," admits Katz. The way she sees it, that's how punk music is meant to be played -- amongst the people, and in the shit (as it were). "I tried to do it the other night, but I just couldn't," she says.
"I think it's funny," adds McChesney, having just finished washing off the plate that he used to make the prints, "when I run into the audience and knock someone over, and they'll push me back."
Next to him, there are a stack of finished prints, done in gold on black paper, and on the next bench over there are some earlier experiments -- done in water colors -- laid out as well. "Then when I'm done playing, they'll come up to me and apologize. And it's like, 'I ran into you, man. Were you not there for that part?'"
Which gets back to their earlier point about having fun and being physical. If that's all you can ask for from a punk band, then Total Trash seem to be doing their jobs. "I like getting pushed around," McChesney says, almost excitedly. "When you're in a mosh getting pushed around by people, but it's almost like you're getting pushed around by the music [and] it's this whole sensory experience." He laughs again, then adds, almost as a footnote, "It makes me feel better about my day job."
TOTAL TRASH play a tape release show You Don't Try this Thursday, March 14th at the 7th St. Entry, with Ugly Motors, Brain Tumors, and Miami Dolphins. $5. 18+. 8 pm. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775.
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