Recommended: Stalled Minds
Posted on May 15, 2015
May 15, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
New bands simply are not intended to sound this immediately well-rounded. There are too many variables at play for something to not go awry—the musicianship could be sloppy, the lyrics elementary, the presentation in some way unrealized. And that’s OK. As fans we often experience growing pains with bands we eventually love right along with them. It deepens and endures our relationship with the band and connection with the music, in this weird, often unquantifiable manner that little else can. It’s personal.
But what is there to do when a band skips those growing pains, when a debut is so fully realized that it defies convention or expectation? There’s something to be said for grading a band with tempered or no expectations on a curve, but how does that band/listener relationship gestate?
There’s a sea of new music to discover on Bandcamp, much of it written and recorded by unknown bands from far-flung locales. The site has simultaneously made discovery easier and more daunting—option paralysis becomes a very real concern, to the point where you have to make some sort of likely unfair, judging-a-book-by-its-cover determination in order to decide what and what not to listen to based on a seemingly random amalgamation of things that, whether you realize it or not, have shaped your worldview.
This band has a dumb name. Pass. But wait. Aren’t pretty much all band names dumb?
I can tell by the album art that this is a new-school pop-punk band. Bright colors, goofy fonts. Their name is a New Found Glory reference. Fuck, that makes me feel old. Pass.
This band (poorly) stenciled their own cover. The preview music is punk in a “the drums sound like they’re falling off a roof” sort of way. The aesthetic is there, but the listenability is not.
Arbitrary systems aside, a patient ear can yield great discoveries. The new self-titled EP from Stalled Minds is a clear example of that. The Paris-based trio, 2/3 of whom are members of the equally great Youth Avoiders, appear to have instantly clicked. Familiarity obviously breeds chemistry, but still, these six songs are impressively dense and memorable. Christoph Schmidt, the lone German in the group, lends guitar work to these songs that, while generally melody-forward, is loaded with personality. There’s an impressive array of tempo changes and riff shifts in “Shit City” that, despite their technicality, maintain a palpably nervous energy throughout. Drummer Marlon Roux plays with an atypical ferocity himself. Listening to “Underground” and “Away,” the percussion really pops, clicks and clacks in a satisfying way, which can’t often be said for garage-rooted, tightly-wound, unapologetically vintage-sounding punk—often the drums are lost in an analog haze, foundational still, but not nearly as fierce as they could or should be. Not here.
As Youth Avoiders are the much more busy, established, and altogether more aggressive band, Stalled Minds seem to have been born out of a desire for Schmidt and Roux to create something with a similar aesthetic but a poppier sensibility. “I worked on the songs together with Marlon for a few months actually, discussing who could play bass. And then it was clear that Charlotte would fit in perfectly so we just tried it and it worked out pretty good,” Schmidt tells me. “I asked Christoph to teach me how to play bass because I was really depressed during the winter [of[ 2013 and I needed something to grasp and hold on to,” Charlotte adds. “We were spending a lot of time drinking and smoking together… and then he started to teach me Stalled Minds songs.”
Although Schmidt and Roux would likely be considered by outsiders as important parts of the Paris punk scene, especially now with the strength of these Stalled Minds songs, Schmidt seems humble about it, or at least unassuming. He tells me that the “punk scene in Paris is pretty much the same as everywhere else,” while Charlotte adds, “Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it sucks. But [the] Paris scene is pretty active. We kind of fit in… there is definitely a familiar Youth Avoiders touch in our music.”
The production on Stalled Minds is blanket-like in its warmth and allure. An obvious comparison would be Marked Men’s masterpiece Ghosts, an album packed with rewarding nuances tucked into deceptively simple songs, the sound of music proficiently played, live, in the same room, through old, weathered, warm amps covered in character-building scratches, smudges and other tiny imperfections. Musicians are obsessed with tone, but it doesn’t seem to be something considered by the average music fan, right or wrong. But it’s also one of those things that seems unquantifiable, but also weirdly immediately recognizable by anyone. Listeners may require a strong chorus, or a guitar solo, or relatable lyrics, but we probably unconsciously respond to tone in a similar way. This is a long-winded, convoluted way of saying that the tones present on Stalled Minds are immensely satisfying. “We all agreed on that light clean guitar sound and Max [Smadja] (who also plays guitar in Youth Avoiders) did a great job recording this whole thing,” Schmidt says. “He has a similar taste so it was pretty easy to find the sound. Same for the drums and the bass, we basically set up the amps and played live.”
The band hasn’t figured out how they’ll physically release Stalled Minds, but they plan to. It’s wishful thinking, because things like tapes and 7-inches are easier and cheaper to manufacture and transport, but dropping the needle on a one-sided 12-inch set to 45RPM really feels like the ideal scenario for the subtleties of these songs to really crackle like a campfire.