Photo: Caitee Smith
“Interdimensional trash prom.”
It’s the most concise way Muffy Reyes of The Abyssmals can describe the gritty and psychedelic garage rock band.
Reyes, on vocals, tambourine and keys, is one-fifth of crew—along with partner Jarpon Reyes (guitar, vocals), Bob Forget (guitar, vocals), Boris Cahrenger (bass, vocals) and Nick Nigro (drums). The members have all known each other for quite some time. Jarpon and Nigro were in their first bands together (“a Craigslist thing,” as Reyes describes it), Muffy and Forget’s parents are close friends and Forget and Cahrenger grew up together.
For the band members, creatively, this project has been the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone plays an equal part in the band’s narrative and aesthetic—which radiates nostalgic, ‘60s Greaser energy with an over-the-top stage presence and catchy lyrics full of crooning, screeching and all that wonderful heard-through-the wall-of-a-dirty-nightclub reverb.
In a new collaboration between The Collaborative and Swordpaw Collective, The Abyssmals performed a handful of songs in front of a small audience at their studio in the Troy Oakwood Community Center. The 33-minute set recorded by Swordpaw’s Paul Coleman can be found here.
We caught up with the band before the set, which they played amidst their northeastern tour, to talk about their recent album release Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash! (Five Kill Records), the amalgamation of the band and the creative contributions of each member that has strengthened their creepy, crawly sound.
The Collaborative: Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash! dropped in April and you guys have been busy since. What was it like to revisit the tracks, originally released on The Abyssmals S/T for this album?
Jarpon Reyes: The EP of demos, most of that stuff I had just recorded before the band came together and as the band was coming together. The new one is better. A lot of the songs are the same but its in how we all sound together playing the songs.
Muffy Reyes: It’s like a mono vs. stereo. It sounds really great but when you have everyone contributing to it, it gives it a full spectrum and helps realize that very clear aesthetic that’s being pushed through. Everyone’s involvement in the narrative is what’s achieved that.
CO: As it goes in the music scene, each of you came from different bands and influences to make up The Abyssmals. What do you think each of you are bringing to the table?
Bob Forget: We all bring our own thing. Boris listens to a lot of soul and Motown stuff, Nick plays a million instruments, I listen to a lot of rock and shoegaze stuff. Jarpon [Reyes] takes on the songwriting and [Muffy]… is the energy of this band.
MR: The resident drag queen. The Flava Flave hype man. The human octopus.
Boris Cahrenger : We’re all dedicated to making sure it all sounds as good as it can. We’re very consistently practicing and it’s really nice to be playing music with people who want it—who want to play and continue to grow, who are doing it for the right reasons.
MR: It’s like starting a business with people. Everyone shows up to work. There’s a lot of sweat equity that everybody puts into the band. It’s worth every single minute because everyone is so respectful of it and treats it like a job. That’s so rare to find in a collective of five individuals.
Nick Nigro: When the majority of what you do is going to bars all the time there’s gotta be some people in there who are not necessarily professional but we’ve all kind of done what we have to do.
BR: We do a good job of meshing all of our egos so it’s never overpowering anybody.
CO: There are plenty of musical influences as play here: from surf rock and Motown to garage rock and pop. Having seen the band live a few times, there’s this perfect sonic balance that you all seem to maintain. The stage presence, though, really makes it. How planned out are you in terms of outfit coordination and character building?
JR: I think it just naturally happened. I think we had it in mind but it was never anything too serious. We’re up there anyways, might as well put on a little show. [Muffy] is kind of the star of the show.
MR: I had this really cute outfit on last night in Massachusetts that was very military chic, a “Private Benjamin” kind of moment. I made a joke that the guys rescued me from one of those teen military bootcamps for bad kids and someone actually believed it… My stage persona also, I go for a sentient sex robot that’s also just really stupid. A lot of vocal fry. Last week at Rare Form I had just gotten off a cruise and got there late and made a whole scene.
I’ve always had this idea in my mind, when I put on an outfit and am doing what I’m doing, that it is the purest form of who I am at my core. Everything else is literally drag. I identify so much with drag queens because I have a corporate nine-to-five job where I put on my button-up like, ‘This is my work drag.’ Then I go out and I don’t want people to think I’m a weirdo so I put on my t-shirt and jeans. I try to fly under the radar because this personality is big enough. [For the band] I’m like, ‘Let your freak flag fly, girl,” I just really pull it out. I think about my outfits but it’s all how I want to express myself. It happens to fit in very well with The Abyssmals because it’s all very tongue-in-cheek, subversive but still classic.
CO: Classic is a great way to put it, very “old school cool.” Given the wide range you all are pulling from, how have audiences been reacting The Abyssmals while on tour. Do you draw quite a few older folks?
BF: What’s cool about us is that you get a little bit of everything. You really do. We really reach out to a lot of people.
MR: Full spectrum too. These guys—full substance—down to [points at self] no substance, all show. It’s great…And girls listen to it! Thirty-three percent of our Spotify listener base is non-binary, trans and women. It makes me feel so good that I’m converting them to the dark side where they can enjoy and not be scared of it, just have fun and be irreverent. It makes me so happy to see that.
NN: It seems accessible to a wide audience. A lot of older people relate to it and it’s also not watered down pop.
BC: There was a guy in his 60s last night in Massechusettes who came who had seen us before, too. He got a hotel room for our album release in Troy. He said we remind him of his youth pretty much, what he grew up on, and that’s pretty cool. We have people who can relate it to their childhood but we have younger people too. We’re all around the spectrum of age.
JR: Trying to hone in on those tweens. The Taylor Swift fans.
MR: Oh don’t worry, I’ll get there.
Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash! is available on all streaming sites. Watch the band’s Three Songs x Swordpaw Sessions set, filmed by Super Dark Collective’s Christopher Brown, performing “Death Row Messiah,” “Visions In The Night” and “For All Of Time”: