The name is usually the trickiest thing about starting a band. Blues Control's Russ Waterhouse insists that he and his partner and bandmate Lea Cho didn't have that problem.
"Even before we had the band, we had the name for it," he says by phone from somewhere near Chicago. "We liked that there were so many interpretations." Naming their first record Puff, though, did have unintended consequences. "We thought it just meant something soft--everyone else thought we were talking about marijuana as a way to cure depression."
Odd interpretations aside, the East Coast-based Blues Control have steadily increased their profile thanks to a series of captivating releases, most recently with this year's Local Flavor, which showcases their ear for rhythmic, entrancing music that flows between (and recombines) electronic drones, roaring feedback and pounding drums. Their work suggests any number of styles and eras--from the earliest blasts of psych rock and proto-heavy metal to the relentless guitar experimentalism of more recent acts like the Dead C and Flying Saucer Attack--without sounding quite like anyone in particular. The concluding "On Through the Night," a quarter-hour long track, with its ambient buoyancy and shadowy, pulsing beats, achieves a serene beauty.
The band's textural focus, not to mention the feeling of captured-in-the-moment performances, suggests that Blues Control's work is at least partly improvisational. Waterhouse says that, if anything, it's nearly the reverse:
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"The way we work is to write a song, introduce it into our live sets, then over the course of time we'll revise and rewrite parts before we lay down to tape, and we stay relatively faithful to the recorded versions," he says. "[Local Flavor's opening track] 'Good Morning' is different live now, but that's because we don't travel with the people who played horn on that track, Jesse Trbovich and Kurt Vile." Unlike "Good Morning," most of their songs are recorded live with minimal overdubs, though Waterhouse notes that the band are currently working on a 12-inch that was "conceived in-studio, one track at a time."
Blues Control's upcoming show at UC Irvine on Nov. 10, which also features the excellent L.A. band Pocahaunted among others, will be one of the last for the duo before the end of the year. Waterhouse says they'll be moving to Philadelphia and taking "a bit of a break" given how busy they've recently been, including both U.S. and European tours. But the latter provided one moment Waterhouse remembers fondly:
"We were playing in Italy in the middle of nowhere, totally exhausted, and there were these two, three kids up front being vocal and aggressive. We didn't know if they were making fun of us or not--I thought, 'All I can do is pretend I'm cool with this.' Turned out they'd driven two hours to see us! The whole experience felt more like a party than a show, but it turned out that all these people in rural Italy were familiar with our music. That was exciting!"
Blues Control, Pocahaunted, The Light Rays And Dash Jacket at UC Irvine, Social Science Trailer 103, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m., $5. More info at acrobaticseveryday.com.