ABOVE: POP. 1280
Pop. 1280 kicked off their first LP, last year’s The Horror, with a violent exclamation of the phrase “two dogs fucking.” Things only got darker from there. Vocalist Chris Bug and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Lip are never quite explicit in their storytelling, but imagery of serial killers and sexual misdeeds flit through the serious-as-death 43 minutes that follow. Totemic instrumental drones only mirror the lyrical gloom. These are long, laborious tracks that creak and moan under the weight of the booming basslines and Gary Numan-esque synth squawks.
Just over a year later, Lip and Bug are back with another record whose title and sonic makeup seem to suggest a similar sort of malaise. Imps of Perversion takes the same no-wave-meets-New-Wave template to a further extreme. But lest you think that this new record is spawned from a similar moment of personal darkness, Lip and Bug both insist that they’re trying to celebrate the darkness rather than fear it. The Horror was a headache after a long night of deviance, and Imps of Perversion is the hair of the dog and the dive back in.
When we connected over the phone from Bug’s home in New York (“The Bughouse,” as Lip endearingly refers to it), both Bug and Lip spoke excitedly about the new record and its roots in their own personal darkness.
COLIN JOYCE: When did you guys start the process of making the record?
IVAN LIP: We write songs, pretty much always, as we go. We’re not one of those bands that locks themselves into a practice space after a tour and writes 12 songs. We’re pretty much always working on one or two songs at a time. The first song was “Coma Baby,” and we wrote that in April or May of 2012.
CHRIS BUG: It’s been over a year.
LIP: We actually started laying down tracks with Martin Bisi at BC Studio the second week of January.
JOYCE: If the way you write is more piecemeal, how do you get in the mindset for something as thematically unified as Imps Of Perversion?
BUG: I think we have themes we use always anyway. Once we have three or four songs written, they tend to connect themselves. Once we have half an album written, it naturally evolves. We don’t really plan it out from the beginning.
LIP: So far, for the three 12″s we’ve recorded, it seems like it takes two to four songs and then you start to notice patterns. Even if I wrote the lyrics for one and [Chris] wrote the lyrics for another, those patterns give you a window into how you’re going to finish it. You think, “We should explore this aspect of it.” We’re always having conversations about conspiracy theories or whatever weird ideas are crafting the sounds.
JOYCE: What were those patterns that were cropping up in the early part of the writing process for this record?
BUG: We always write about the darker sides of things we’re doing in our lives, like sex and drugs.
LIP: We had an idea, even before we wrote any songs from this record, that after we made The Horror we were sick of being quite so downer—or at least sounding so downer. A lot of the songs were drawn-out and plodding. The record wasn’t as fun to make as this one. We wanted to make a Rolling Stones record, a record you might put on when you’re hanging out with people. We wanted to make a weird, strange, basement underground party record. We were just in a better mood.
BUG: The Horror was us realizing that we were miserable and Imps is us accepting or celebrating it.
LIP: Reveling in it isn’t quite the right word, but instead of heading the opposite direction from the black hole, we decided to head straight into the black hole and have fun going down it.
BUG: When we started [Imps of Perversion], we kept talking about the idea diving down the toilet instead of being flushed down it.
JOYCE: I remember reading that the last record came out of a time of personal darkness.
LIP: I think the “Human Probe” songs might be the best way to explain it. I don’t know necessarily what the human probe is, but the idea of some weird alien posing as a human or a human going inside another dimension. There was this conscious idea to have a theme of exploration of darkness.
JOYCE: That’s interesting about “Human Probe.” I didn’t realize that it actually had those sci-fi elements that everybody read into The Horror.
BUG: We don’t do it on purpose, it’s just because that’s something we like, so we’re influenced by it. We read sci-fi books and watch movies. I can’t remember what songs on The Horror people thought were sci-fi.
LIP: The chief example is “West World.” I wrote the lyrics and I just called it “West World” at the end because I needed a title.
BUG: It has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. Ironically, on The Horror, “Beg Like A Human” is the only one that’s really a sci-fi song, and no one really picked up on that.
LIP: There was supposed to be a robot in it that got deleted out of one of the verses.
BUG: But “Human Probe” is about a lot of things. We like to use this butchered version of science phraseology. We don’t know anything about science, though.
LIP: It’s mostly just stuff like Star Trek or sci-fi books.
JOYCE: What kind of books are you guys pulling from?
LIP: We both just read Triton by Samuel Delany.
BUG: We read Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs.
LIP: I nerd out pretty hard, so I don’t want to ruin my reputation here, but let’s just say we read a lot of really dark sci-fi.
JOYCE: And on stuff like “Human Probe,” that’s the kind of stuff you’re trying to encapsulate?
BUG: Honestly, the lyrics to “Human Probe” have nothing to do with that, but the vibe of the song definitely does.
LIP: I wrote some piece of music that I titled “Human Probe” and sent to Chris. Then I stepped away from it for a few months and he came back with two different songs and two different sets of lyrics. In my mind, it was always this science-fiction thing.
BUG: I imagine the human probe as the aliens sent a probe and they’re just absorbing in the midst of what we’re doing down here. Of course, it’d be pretty embarrassing to have an alien do that, because we look like complete morons. The human probe songs are just snippets of what’s happening down here. They’re windows into us, from an alien’s perspective.
JOYCE: I’m particularly interested in the quote from Triton that you read in the album promo video that you just put out. There seems to be some pretty interesting thematic ties to the record.
LIP: That was found after the whole album was done.
BUG: That happens to us a lot. We’ll write the songs and then afterward we see all the tie-ins. We found the quote after, but then everything clicked.
JOYCE: Is that idea of indulging in perversions as a way of normality something that you were intentionally exploring in the record?
BUG: It’s something that we were naturally exploring I think.
LIP: I think the exact quote goes, “My therapist says that anything to the exclusion of everything else is a perversion. So sometimes I go do something different just to prove I’m normal.” Not to connect all the dots, but Imps of Perversion was a bastardization of an Edgar Allan Poe essay that my mom showed me. It’s about the natural human compulsion to do things over and over again that screw up their lives and take away from their goals.
JOYCE: Do you find yourselves falling into those same sorts of compulsions?
BUG: We wouldn’t have said it if we didn’t do it.
LIP: I think I make the same mistakes over and over again. I think it’s pretty normal. Everyone does it to some extent, even if it’s something really mundane.
BUG: Like logging onto Facebook every day. To say that you didn’t do that, I think you’d be deceiving yourself.
JOYCE: Even though you guys address a lot of those perversions on the record, it doesn’t seem like you’re necessarily endorsing or condemning those scenarios. Is that intentional?
BUG: Of course there’s tons of sex and sexual things in our songs, but I don’t think it’s really clear what’s happening anyway. I don’t see them as scenarios, but more as images.
LIP: It’s not like we’ve ever written a Velvet Underground song exploring S&M. We’ve never really done anything specific.
BUG: I don’t think there’s any sexual narratives.
LIP: But we’re pretty open-minded, if that’s what you’re asking. We’ll try anything once.
IMPS OF PERVERSION IS OUT TODAY ON SACRED BONES RECORDS. POP. 1280 WILL PLAY MERCURY LOUNGE ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 16. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.