Bruiser and Bicycle make music that’s representative of their current means. The Albany duo formed as a quartet in 2017, just as they were exiting high school and their respective emo and hardcore bands were winding down. They turned out a Pavement-indebted 7” in the spring of that year, and quickly followed that up with a five-song EP, You’re All Invited, in the fall. The latter was a stylistically frenetic cross between Deerhunter and the wiry indie-rock housed at Exploding In Sound, and it seemed like the band had found their niche in that groove-driven, psych-tinged affair.
Woods Come Find Me, their long-awaited follow-up and first proper album, out Feb. 22 via Five Kill Records and Bee Side Cassettes, sounds almost nothing like that. Not because of some pre-planned artistic gesture, but because Bruiser and Bicycle have since been whittled down to their core songwriters, 21-year-old Nick Whittemore, and 22-year-old Keegan Graziane.
“We had a thing for the way our [previous] drummer drummed, and [when] they left the band we were kind of stubborn about finding another drummer,” Whittemore says during a phone call with The Collaborative. “So we were like, ‘Let’s just do a no-drums record.’”
The two applied that restriction after Whittemore, who writes in spurts, cranked out the record’s singles, “The Train” and “Casper,” neither of which contain any percussion.
“We wanted to impose that limit and just see what we could do within that,” Whittemore explains. “But after those first two tracks we wrote, things just weren’t really coming together for a while.”
After a period of writer’s block, they decided to disassemble Graziane’s drum kit and grant themselves access to the ramshackle kick drum. But that was it. The entire album was written with two acoustic guitars and the kick, and the result sounds at once claustrophobically intimate and texturally earthy, crawling with life.
Instead of scraping across taught rhythmic patterns, the streaks of shoegaze dissonance that carry over from You’re All Invited are weaved between acoustic guitar licks that are warm and organic. The percussive stomps are used sparingly and are often accompanied by succinct hand-claps that give the songs a life-like quality, whereas their previous material had more of an otherworldly character. Save for some occasional splashes of mellotron and handbells, it’s a pretty stripped-down project that’s closer to folk than anything else. However, that tag doesn’t feel quite right to the band.
“I think it’s a product of what was available to us,” Whittemore says. “It wasn’t like when we started we were like, ‘Oh let’s make a folk record,’ or anything like that. It still feels weird when people call us folk. But I think it’s just more or less the kind of resources we’re exposed to now. I had an acoustic guitar and that’s just what we wrote the songs with.”
The album’s recording process also contributed to its rustic aesthetic. They recorded it with Albany alumnus Nick “Scoops” Dardaris at The Headroom in Philadelphia. Over the years, Scoops has done a great job at capturing the live sensation of bands like Prince Daddy & the Hyena and Another Michael. For this session, he had the band record every single part into one microphone, which remained in place in the center of the room throughout the three-day period.
“If I wanted to record a guitar track I would go through the song like two inches away from the mic and then I’d step like two inches backward and record another track,” Whittemore says. “Even the drums are recorded from far away with the same microphone.”
With their ethereal, amorphous vocal patterns and cawing intonations that never lock into traditional hooks, the album may sound brittle when it first hits your ears. However, it slowly opens itself up and the literal distances between the instruments and the mic begin to reveal themselves, exposing its many tactile layers. They were going for a sound that personified a room, and it really succeeds at putting you right there with them.
“Everything we do is just a product of our environment, I guess. Whatever our environment enables us to do.”
The band is sure that there is a future to Bruiser and Bicycle, but what it might entail in terms of sound and personnel has yet to be decided. They just know that their next project will be different than Woods Come Find Me, and that it will celebrate their love for conjuring specific sonic settings.
“I think at this point we’re more excited about writing and recording music in general than we are performing.”
Check out our interview with Bee Side Casette’s founder Dan Paoletti: