John Pfeffer of Capillary Action is a unique songwriter. Having dabbled in free-form avant-rock in the past with his band – which, as he acknowledges, has been more like a name he uses for whatever music he’s currently working on – he just released a new, very avant-garde track under his own name called “Bodega.” It features collaborations he’s done with a handful of fellow Philly artists, including Ricardo Lagomasino of Many Arms, Eric Slick of Dr. Dog, YIKES the ZERO,Lushlife, and Jeff Zeigler of Arc In Round. The track is wildly experimental, and largely instrumental until around the 7 minute mark (it’s 10 minutes in total). Check it out for yourself below, via Soundcloud.
The Key kicks off its month of curating Tuesday Tune-Out at PhilaMOCA with a special solo performance by local multi-instrumentalist Eric Slick. Best known as the drummer for Dr. Dog and Norwegian Arms, Slick will be improvising a set to his new short film Primal Essence, filmed specifically for this event. Opening up the night will be short sets by Jonathan Pfeffer (Capillary Action) and Michael Johnson (Ape School). Admission is a suggested $5 donation at the door; more information can be found here. Below, watch Slick show off his drumming skills in a Madoff Productions promo video.
Yesterday evening, Andy Molholt of Philadelphia psych-pop group Laser Background and his longtime friend Brendan Mulvihill of the junkyard folk act Norwegian Arms moved into Dreamcastle, a house-show space in South Philadelphia. They’re living there temporarily, leading up to the kickoff show of their house show “tour” tomorrow night. The plan is an imaginative one: the band is performing four DIY spaces in Philly over the next four weeks. They have to live in each house for two days prior to the show, possibly constructing a pillow fort. They must adhere to “a strict food / drug regimen.” And they’ve got to write music, and perform the results. I grabbed drinks with Molholt and Mulvihill last week to talk about the unconventional residency series, its ambitions, and their affinity for Philly’s vibrant DIY scene.
THE KEY: Let’s sum up this mini-tour (that you’re not leaving the city for). You’re playing four house shows, and the rules are you have to stay in the house two days before playing the show, and collaborative preparational activities will take place while you’re staying there…
ANDY MOLHOLT: Collaborative preparational activities, I like that.
BRENDAN MULVIHILL: That’s really good.
AM: Make sure you put that in there.
TK: …and a song may result that you’ll perform at the show?
AM: More like a song must result.
BM: It’s a must?
AM: It’s a must! We’re good enough songwriters.
BM: We’re in this house for three days, we might as well do something.
AM: We didn’t really ever talk about if the song was going to be collaborative or not, we still have to figure that out. I thought we’d each write a song for our respective projects and perform them as our respective projects. But since I play in Norwegian Arms, and Brendan’s going to play in Laser Background for one of these shows where some of the guys can’t make it, maybe we can do that too.
BM: We’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen. It’s kind of just a big experiment. We might get into a fight. Or we might make out, that might be cool.
AM: If any of that factored in, it was definitely unintentional. I used to play with Netherfriends for a little bit, but I didn’t think about that. Residencies are kind of a silly idea to begin with – why would you want to go see a band in the same venue every night for four weeks straight?
BM: Not every night! “Come see us play 31 times…”
AM: [laughs] You know what I mean, though. I get that it’s good for the venue if the band’s popular enough. And you get different crowds each night because there’s different openers playing. But I just think it’s kind of silly. I thought it would funny to self-anoint our own residency at house shows. Then the actual living there idea developed, and Brendan had the idea that we had to write songs too.
BM: I mean, why not, right? Only seems natural.
AM: Brendan and I have known each other since we were 13, so these kinds of ideas come naturally.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Philadelphia is a hotbed of weird. The region’s pedigree of experimental oddities from Need New Body to Pattern Is Movement and Da Comrade! evidentially attracted members of long-standing avant-prog act Capillary Action, since the band is now geographically split between Philly, Brooklyn, and like four other cities. CapAct’s latest, Capsized, is a baffling, distressing, but ultimately engrossing race through irregular time signatures, underutilized noisemakers, and surreal lyrics. The blend earned a respectable 7.1 from Pitchfork, and the band hits the road this week. They’re in town on Sunday, April 10, for a show at Johnny Brenda’s. Swarthmore students: They’re also at Olde Club on Friday the 8th.