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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Absolutely Embrace Imperfections

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All emergent musicians know that the process of creating an album is littered with obstacles, hitches and other assorted impediments to progress, but many also realize that those mistakes become the character of the music, inspiring innovation and personalizing its sound. The Milwaukee punk three-piece Absolutely celebrate that process on their debut album, Learns to Love Mistakes.

Released this spring, the record rapidly accrued an upswell of media hype, local buzz and critical acclaim for its innovative, modern approach to post-hardcore rock.

George Ananchev handles the band's gritty guitar progressions and bleating vocals in tandem with bassist Andy McGuire, who both shred with hostility over Charlie Hosale's spry drum work. Ananchev cites the band's growth while recording the album as inspiration for the title.

"We are still young, and this was our first studio experience. There were lots of little mistakes we would hear, but that's part of the aesthetic," said Ananchev. "We always know where those little mistakes are, and those mistakes totally change the song sometimes. For example, Charlie did this little mess-up on drums, and it completely added to the song. That's learning to love mistakes."

While many modern bands strive conscientiously to pigeonhole their music into a narrow category, the members of Absolutely don't try to sound like anything except what they feel like playing, which ranges from retro frantic fuzz grunge to melodic math-punk and everywhere in between. So far, that is.

"In the last two years, we figured out that we can write kind of a good variety of songs, but still stick to this 'Absolutely' sound, and it's a really comfortable area because you aren't tied down to playing general indie-rock, hardcore, Americana or country. We are influenced by a lot of stuff, and we want to play all of it," explained Ananchev. "I want to write everything, I want to put out more albums; a quiet album and a loud album, or whatever."

Since the group's members find inspiration in bands all across the music spectrum, they feel unencumbered by the restrictions of labels and genres, Ananchev said. This ad hoc ability forms the crux of Absolutely's alchemical creativity and genre cross-breeding.

This mad-scientist methodology could seemed scattered at first listen, but there is careful calculation amid the chaos. Cantankerous chords convalesce into harmony among the nimble drum fills and barraging bass lines, forming intentional dissonance that is both artful and emotive.

"What does it sound like? Yeah, people always ask that, and it's really hard for me because I can't really describe it in genres," Anachev said. "I mean, I really don't mean to sound pretentious, but it kind of hops over barriers and genres."

Therein lies Absolutely's appeal. Not only does Learns to Love Mistakes play genre hopscotch; each song on the album experiences its own seamless transitions. For a few moments, the listener could be engulfed in sludgy '90s rock guitar riffs before being catapulted into a string of roiling punk charisma without even noticing.

"It's due to multiple influences, because we listen to a ton of music, and we hear a song and we're like, 'Oh, that song is awesome, I wish I could play a song like that.'  We are open to writing whatever we feel like," said Ananchev.

Thus, considering this amalgamation of so many musical influences, it is understandable that Ananchev struggled to sum up his band's sound in a single, condensed phrase, but mustered a consolidated description of "punk-rock feeling with a hardcore ethic."

Ananchev and Hosale began casually crafting this sound roughly two years ago after Hosale's band Roses separated. Ananchev and Hosale were introduced through a mutual friend, and soon after, McGuire—also formerly of Roses—joined the lineup under shared interests in bands like Fugazi, Shellac, Nirvana and At the Drive In.

"I guess the most important part for me is it's three close friends, and that's what it has been for two years," said Ananchev. "We're three people that are pretty serious about the band and making music that we really enjoy and playing shows ... when me and Andy and Charlie get together, it just works."

For such an abstract, multi-faceted sound concept, one might think that its creative process corresponds with equal profundity. But for Ananchev, boredom nurtures ingenuity.

"Honestly, it's like when I'm at work and doing something tedious like packing away food in the deli, and I get this line in my head and I'm like, 'Man, I've got to get this down. I hope I can remember that when I get home so I can write it on the guitar.' I've been lucky enough to remember a lot of those lines and get them to a guitar in time."

With all the happy hubbub revolving around Learns to Love Mistakes, Absolutely looks to the future with plans to create cassettes, do split albums with other bands and, most of all, continue putting out music.

"That's really keeping us going; we're going to keep doing this," said Ananchev of the album's success. "We're proud all this attention is due to us doing it ourselves. We really appreciate the DIY ethic across the whole music scene. You can feel the pride if you've done it."

This summer, Absolutely will look to accelerate the momentum established by Learns to Love Mistakes by touring the East Coast in August while calibrating the details of their sophomore album.

"It's going to be different. The first album is a collection of some of the first songs we wrote and then we were like, 'Let's start creating songs once we figured out what we were.' Whatever is next that comes out is going to be the product of a band that is more comfortable and really happy with themselves."

Absolutely plays at the Cactus Club on Friday, June 17 with IfIHadAHiFi, Police Teeth and Waxeater. Learns to Love Mistakes is streaming at absolutely.bandcamp.com.

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