Musically, Cattle Drums is a risky proposition. They’re a band that like to juggle genres and switch styles indiscriminately, engaging in a frantic approach to songwriting that can be more alienating to music fans than it is inclusive. As an artist, if you propose to offer a little something for everyone, than you better bring the fire and be amazing at, well, damn near everything. Because there’s nothing worse than hearing a band tear through a blistering riff or pummeling hardcore breakdown only to stumble into a sappy acoustic bridge or shoddy pop-punk groove. It doesn’t just kill the song’s momentum, it destroys any semblance of goodwill the band may have acquired.
Fortunately, while Cattle Drums dance along that razor’s edge, they do so with unflagging confidence and an unwavering sense of purpose. On their debut EP, The Boy Kisser Sessions, the Oneonta, New York-based quintet (the band has since dropped a member) unveiled a schizophrenic blend of post-punk, rock, metal, hardcore and Americana that enthralled listeners as much as it challenged their expectations. It was scathing, high-energy stuff with fervent lyrics that sometimes slipped into the surreal. Although they travel in the same circles, your standard punk or hardcore fare it certainly was not. Asked what makes his band unique or different, bassist Darin Gregory replies, “We like fireworks, potato guns and things that go boom. We try to channel that into our music.” Somehow this makes sense to me.
The band has begun production on their first full-length, although no timetable has been revealed yet for its release. But anyone hoping that the group will relax and try to streamline their sound, will likely be very disappointed. For their next effort, it appears Cattle Drums are doubling down on the crazy. “It’s more complex and mathier. Extremely chaotic and schizophrenic,” Gregory explains. “There’s still a good mix of of melody and aggression coming from (singer) Sam (Judd). We’ve got some parts that are a lot heavier than our old stuff, but also some quiet acoustic songs. I think the two demos we posted will give people some idea of our new stuff.”
Local fans hoping to catch a glimpse of what Cattle Drums have up their sleeves will have plenty to consider when the band takes the stage tonight at the Masquerade as part of our first ever showcase. With their sophomore effort looming in the near future, the group has decided to temporarily retire songs from their first EP and stick to playing all new material, although they’re not above taking requests from the audience. (“If someone shouted out ‘Who Punched Pat Moore’s Face’ or ‘Sluts and Coconuts,’ we would be happy to play ‘em,” admits Gregory.) So far this approach has served them well on this latest tour where the band has been greeted by mostly enthusiastic audiences including their most recent string of shows where the group has been forced to play mostly instrumental sets after Judd fell ill. “Our one guitarist (Chris Cicoria) has been able to do a few of the vocals,” Gregory recalls, “but for the most part it’s just instruments. I think our music is very rhythmic and spontaneous, so that helps. However, without Sam’s vocals it’s missing something big. He’s also extremely energetic so not having him out there sucks some of our energy out as well. But we make do and still have a lot of fun.”
It still remains to be seen whether Judd will be able to return for tonight’s show, but the rest of the band is ready to throw down regardless. Asked what audiences might expect from a Cattle Drums show, Gregory hesitates for a minute before answering. “We seem to get the most love from people who see us live. Our new stuff is a bit more sonically complex in terms of song structure, rhythm and melody. I’m not sure what people should expect but we try to bring a lot of energy to our live shows. While we take our music seriously, we don’t take ourselves and each other very seriously (laughs).”
Cattle Drums perform tonight at the Masquerade alongside local favorites Slowriter and Shepherds. Doors open at 8pm and music starts at 9. A measly $5 gets you in. Event info.