Discovery: Earthquake Party!

We’re fully immersed in the age of EDM: each beat and synth riff pushing through the club speakers has been sequenced with the utmost precision, and there’s very little left to chance in the music of the moment. Even the most glitchy, lo-fi productions are artfully calculated as such. Fortunately, there have always been artists who lean more toward the chaotic side of things—bands who don’t always have a plan for how to get to the end of the song they’ve just launched into (never mind to tomorrow’s gig). Earthquake Party! is one example: it’s a band whose only sense of precision comes from the sharp turns of its careening noise-pop riffs and co-ed harmonized hooks on songs like “Pretty Little Hand.” The Boston-based trio released that track earlier this year on their debut EP cassingle vs. Pizza, a quick-blast primer in the old-fashioned joys of punk entropy, and a return to the feedback-drenched indie of the pills-and-power-chords ’90s. To steal a line from one of their new songs, it sounds a lot like “pretty pretty trash.”

The band has a split 7″ forthcoming this summer and are in the planning stages of more extensive touring this fall. We spoke to Justin Lally (guitar and vocals), Mallory Hestand (keyboard and vocals), and Josh Carrasco (drums) about their origins, the Boston scene, and keeping things raw.


CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: Justin Lally: Me and Mallory were working together in a clothing store. My old band was going to practice in her basement, but that never really happened. One night I was at home by myself drinking and listening to The Vaselines, and I shot her a text for the first time, saying, “Do you like The Vaselines?” She said yes, so I was like, “Do you want to start a band like The Vaselines?” and it just kind of went from there. When we were first writing, she didn’t have any instruments, so we’d go into her basement, and she used a laptop and hit keys so it sounded like a keyboard, and I used an acoustic. We played one show, just me and Mallory, but it was still super loud. We had a feedback guitar squealing the whole time. Then she had party at our house, and the band after us had a drum kit set up already. Josh’s band was on hiatus at the time, and he came up and asked if we had a drummer. “No,” we said. “Well, do you want a drummer?” he asked. We just counted out the songs, he’d never heard them before, and just kind of did a “1-2-3-4” count for each song. It was really way better than I thought it would be. We got a couple of big shows right after that. His other band never got back together.

KEEPING THINGS LOOSE AND RAW: Mallory Hestand: It’s actually just as raw as it was when we started. We don’t have a practice space; we practice when we can. Our songwriting process, how we get to shows, everything, is spur of the moment. It’s a really intuitive process, rather than being methodical. I think our lifestyles work that way. It works. I actually grew up playing classical piano, but with this band I was fresh blood. This is my first band.

Josh Carrasco: I’m okay with it. I’ve always been a drummer who likes to play more based on feel, I just like to hear a song and get into it. I mean, the first show we played, I didn’t know the songs. I just played along with them, and it sounded pretty great.

REFERENCES: Lally: I have a lot of bands that I’ll always go back to, like The Velvet Underground, Suicide, Television, really basic stuff, kind of off-kilter. But then I also get completely enamored by old stuff I haven’t heard, and I’ll listen to one band for a month or two… not try to copy them, but that opens up the songwriting a bit. Our songs come in batches, so I’ll listen to, say, Marquee Moon for three months, then write another batch of songs.

CASSINGLES ARE STILL A THING?: Hestand: Definitely. I see more and more cassettes and cassingles coming out from a lot of people. It’s mostly a lot of touring bands that do it, because it’s so cheap, and it’s pretty packable. You can carry a lot of them where you go, and you can give someone something tangible with a piece of nice artwork, and charge them $2 or $3… It’s a very practical media. Our new 7″ is a split with Bozmo [Carrasco’s side project with Hestand’s roommates Pretty & Nice and others]. Basically, right now, it’s a matter of pressing it and putting it out; we really want it to be on 7″ vinyl. Both bands recorded a few songs here in my house in our studio, Esthudio.

THE NEW MATERIAL: Lally: The songs are a little riffier, not as drummy as some of the other stuff on the first tape. We also went through the recording process in a different way. We played all together in one room in two days. We did all the music one day, then all the vocals, then mixing. It was a little whirlwind thing. They have kind of harsh, vintage sound. We definitely got the tracks we wanted, but there was no layering and no overdubs. It’s just kind of a band in a room turning up. We’ve got a bunch of songs ready to record, we just haven’t done it yet. I’m against the idea of forcing a full-length if it’s not ready. The idea is having a few short releases where each release has its own feel and gets people excited in their own ways. When we have a batch of 10 songs that work together, we’ll do that.

THE BASEMENT SCENE: Lally: The basement scene and DIY art spaces are really cool around here. There’s a lot of stuff going on all the time with a bunch of our friends’ bands, always something going every night. I wouldn’t say its one genre that’s taking over, but there’s definitely a bunch of bands that work together, help each other book shows. The DIY spaces, they kind of come and go, though. There was an awesome one that just got shut down; I think they’re going to have to cool it. Places pop up and we exploit it until we can’t do it anymore and we have to find another space. One of our good buddy bands, Pretty & Nice, are Mallory’s roommates. Bent Shapes, a new incarnation of the band Girlfriends, are great. We just caught their set when we played with them last week. They’re destined for greatness, I can’t say enough about those guys. Mean Creek are not going to be a Boston band anymore, they’re going to be a household name… Speedy Ortiz and the Needy Visions, they’re fantastic too.

NEW BANDS WELCOME IN BOSTON: Lally: I think it’s really easy here, and we’ve had nothing but support. We were welcomed in right away, got some bills with bigger Boston bands. Carl Lavin at Great Scott helped a lot. That’s one of the venues we play all the time, and started playing national opening slots there. We played that venue 26 times, I think that’s the record for second-most, all-time. Couple more shows, we get the record. I don’t know why people say Boston is hard. It’s not if you put yourself out there, immerse yourself, start going to all the others show, standing up front, talk to everyone after the show, and don’t be a jerk about it.