You probably know Eric Slick and Dom Angelella from the bands they play in full-time. But there’s another act that the two Philly musicians have been associated with for way longer than the former has drummed for Dr. Dog, or the latter has performed in DRGN King.
Lithuania has been active for going on ten years, but is often spoken about as a “side project” or a “duo project.” That’s not how the guys see it, and year the band takes the spotlight to release its long-in-the-works full-length debut. Hardcore Friends comes out this summer on Lame-O Records, and it’s the culmination of a collaboration Slick and Angelella began as UArts freshmen in 2005.
“Dom and I were kind of the freaks of the jazz school,” says Slick. “Everybody else was heavily invested in learning jazz music, and Dom and i were the outliers of that, we knew that from the first day we met.”
Sick recalls that they would sign out rehearsal rooms on campus, not for classwork, but just to jam out and see what happened. The connection was immediate, and maintained even as they each began to busy themselves with other projects – Slick in Paper Cat with his sister Julie on bass and guitarist Robbie Seahag Mangano, Angelella in Nouveau Riche with rapper Dice Raw and singer Nikki Jean. Lithuania became an on-again-off-again part of their roster, but they kept it going because they felt their vision could be something special.
“Eric told me in like 2005, ‘we’re gonna start off like Lightning Bolt and end up like The Flaming Lips,'” recalls Angelella. “We had these fantastical plans for the band as maybe 18-year-olds do. I really like that it never went away.”
In 2010, Lithuania independently released the Heavy Hands EP – a breezy set of wry, unconventional DIY pop – but the project was soon back-burnered as Slick joined Dr. Dog on drums and Angelella founded DRGN King. The idea lingered, though, through albums and U.S. tours and hangs back home in Philly. When Slick moved to Asheville briefly in 2013, the big life change opened his creative floodgates and he and Angelella began frantically exchanging song sketches back and forth over email.
“We both had this big surge of creativity, and every day we were sending songs back and forth to each other,” says Slick. “And we realized ‘Oh, these are all Lithuania songs! These aren’t necessarily DRGN King songs, they’re not necessarily Eric Slick solo songs.'”
“That really kicked us into high gear,” Angelella says. “We really honed in on what songs we’re going to pick for an album and how to make them better. It was a cool workshop over a period of a couple months.”
The Domesticated God 7″ dropped last year, and it featured some very noisey, abrasive moments. Hardcore Friends, by comparison, is some of the hookiest, propulsive punk songwriting the guys have offered (check out the video for “Pieces” above).
“Eric and I bonded over a love of Lightning Bolt and Boredoms,” Angelella says. “And also a love of and Husker Du and that ilk, the SST Records, Minutemen type stuff, songs that are super catchy. On the earlier [Lithuania] stuff there was some sort of middle ground between that and the noisier, more experimental stuff. For this, we were going for something a bit more straightforward. I was thinking The Minutemen the entire time we were working on the record.”
“I think that the EP that’s a lot rawer and darker is just because Dom and I didn’t have any money for recording,” Slick adds of Heavy Hands. “We did it all on our laptop and the noisiness is there to cover up how bad we were at engineering. And I wasn’t confident as a performer yet, so I was drowning out the stuff I was doing in noise. But now, we did our record with Joe Reinhart and Kyle Pulley at Headroom Studio, and you can’t really hide there.”
The album is loud and lively, but warm in tone and rich in arrangements; it’s two guys who started the project as kids taking a more mature approach to recording. (Though, when the record drops, we will hear the jangley “Coronation Day,” a rebooted song from 2008.) The growth isn’t just in the writing, but also in personnel; as fans saw during their slot opening for mewithoutYou and The Districts’ secret show back in December, the two-piece is now a four-piece, and Slick has stepped out from behind the drumkit to co-front the band with Angelella on guitar.
Dom recalls that Lithuania performed as a duo while making Hardcore Friends; it was upstairs at Kung Fu Necktie, and it was a disaster. Strings broke, a borrowed drumkit fell apart, and the guys realized they needed to expand to make the project sustainable.
“Being a duo is really econmomical and great and some people do it really well,” Slick says. “But sometimes limitations can be a real drag when you’re trying to putting a cross a big sound.”
“It’s nice that Eric is playing guitar too,” adds Angelella.
Slick laughs, and says “It’s really exciting for me not to be sitting down. My whole life I’ve been sitinng down, and now I’m like wait, I can move around? No wonder people like to do this!”
Lithuania’s Hardcore Friends is out this summer on Lame-O Records, and the band will go on a short run with Hop Along – who took them out on their first ever tour back in 2010. “We were pretty immature when we started,” Slick says. “We didn’t know how to do it on our own, and then we were lucky to have friends like Frances [Quinlan of Hop Along].”
Angelella adds “She was like ‘Come on guys, get it together. Stop being dinguses.'”
Check out the tour dates below, and for more news and info, keep tabs on Lithuania via Facebook.
May 28th – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
May 29th – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
June 1st – Boise, ID – Neurolux
June 2nd – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
June 3rd – Denver, CO – Lost Lake
June 4th – Omaha, NE – Slowdown (Front Room)
June 5th – Chicago, IL – Subterranean
June 6th – Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo
June 7th – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern