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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Estates’ Full-Throttle Throwback Emo

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Though it didn’t receive much attention beyond a handful of appreciative write-ups, Pretty Wounds released one of last year’s most vital local punk albums, a viciously grungy six-song sock to the gut called Whatever, Go Away—the kind of discovery that justifies spending hours rummaging through the deep halls of Bandcamp. What the trio did next shouldn’t surprise anybody who follows punk even passively. With an assured debut under their belts and an auspicious future ahead of them, they followed in the footsteps of so many other promising young punk bands by promptly breaking up.

There’s nothing unique or even especially tragic about that story. Young bands break up all the time; bands are often the first thing sacrificed when student-aged musicians wrestle with big questions of what they want to study, where they want to live and who they want to be. If there’s comfort in this cycle, it’s that many of these musicians carry on in new projects that pick up where their last one left off. Whenever a punk band ends, there’s always another one to take its place, and sure enough two members of Pretty Wounds, guitarist Mike Carini and drummer Matt Tomashek, didn’t waste much time before forming a new trio.

“Me and Mike have always wanted to be in a slow, melodic emo band,” Tomashek says of their new group, Estates, which tames Pretty Wounds’ churlish punk in favor of a much wider emotional palette. “At first we were going for more of a slowcore, weird lo-fi sound reminiscent of bands like Red House Painters, but our sound got a lot fuller when we added a bass player. Since then we’ve been gravitating toward more of a ’90s alternative sound, while maintaining that emo lean. We were also really influenced by early Jimmy Eat World.”

Like Pretty Wounds, which proudly owned its debt to Nirvana, Estates isn’t shy from wearing its influences. Tomashek compares the band to nearly a dozen acts in the span of just a short conversation, from expected touchstones like Mineral and Smashing Pumpkins to less commonly cited relics like Silverchair, but one influence looms largest over Estates’ debut album, Gleam: Hum, the cult ’90s band whose 1995 album You’d Prefer an Astronaut struck an almost perfect balance between the underground and commercial sounds of the alt-radio era. For as widely loved as that album is, it’s not a common influence in the Milwaukee scene, which tends to prefer rawer, more naturalistic recordings to full, studio-perfected spectacles. Even workhorse producer Shane Hochstetler, who records heaps of local albums each year, found that direction unique.

“He kind of joked when he was recording us, ‘Hey, this is cool, because this is like my chance to make a Hum record,’” Tomashek says. “Shane has recorded so many bands, but I really don’t know any bands that sound like us that he’s recorded before. I think we stick out a little bit from all the post-hardcore bands in this city because we’ve got that fuller ’90s influence, but we’re alright with that. That sound has been the basis for the kind of band I’ve wanted to be in since I was in high school.”

Gleams is streaming at ourveryownestates.bandcamp.com.