Kyle Gibson says the word weird a lot. The Audacity guitarist/vocalist uses it at least 10 times in our conversation, mostly in referrence to his band's aesthetic choices, especially the music they started playing as kids around the age of 11.
“We were learning how to play together; [our band] didn't really resemble anything close to normal music,” Gibson says. “It was like shitty little-kid symphonies, with never-repeating parts and no real choruses or verses–just a bunch of different parts thrown together. I mean, we listened to Blink-182 and Green Day back then and still do. But it wasn't exactly a little kid pop-punk band. It was much more deranged and nonsensical.”
Technically, they weren't Audacity then. Sometime in 2001, while Gibson and guitarist/vocalist Matt Schmalfeld were in sixth grade, they formed a group with some now ex-members, calling themselves Non-Toxic. That Fullerton-rooted outfit would evolve into the Plaid, the Attachments, the Audacity and, now, officially, just Audacity. “It was always the same band,” Gibson says. “It was just [us] going through different shitty names until we got stuck with the current shitty name.”
He says most of their early tunes were built around “weird, folky parts [that] didn't really resemble normal songs.” But as they grew, the fledgling musicians got into art-rock bands and punk music–mostly British acts such as the Adverts and Wire–and even had a saxophone player for a moment. After that, interest turned toward Redd Kross and the Replacements, and the band began “making fun music, as opposed to really weird, challenging, artsy stuff–or at least having [our music] be a combination of those things,” Gibson says.
During their high-school years in the mid- and late 2000s, as other members exited, Gibson and Schmalfeld brought in drummer Thomas Alvarez and bassist Cameron Crowe. And then things started to get serious.
“We actually started playing real shows around downtown Fullerton and house parties and stuff, instead of just lame carnivals and 'battle of the bands' [events],” Gibson says. “We became more of a real, functioning rock band, as opposed to a Kidz Bop kind of thing.”
Audacity's first record, Power Drowning, landed in 2009 via Burger Records and garnered the four-piece attention from the press. They're frequently tagged as "garage-punk,” which Gibson himself identifies the band as (while emphasizing the punk), and they do share the reckless, loud spirit of the Briefs, Cloud Nothings and Mika Miko. Audacity are also often called "lo-fi,” presumably because of their output and that school of sound being one of Burger Records' calling cards. Gibson agrees that Power Drowning fits the lo-fi shoe, but not so much the 2012 full-length Mellow Cruisers and especially not Butter Knife, their Oct. 29 release on Suicide Squeeze Records.
In fact, Butter Knife shows that Audacity are still very much smitten with lo-fi. The cynical "Hole In the Sky,” the bummed-out "Cold Rush,” the rambunctious, Roman-candle-like "Pigs” and the snarling "Tell Yourself” are all swaddled in distortion to purposeful ends. When the group do avoid effects–such as on the pensive "Rooster” and the somber, piano-driven "Autumn”–that squall is conspicuous by its absence. Juicy hooks and sweet melodies abound all over the album, just masked under crunchy exteriors. Solid power-pop songwriting is ultimately their bread and butter, not artsy experimentation or a profound sense of oddness.
But hey, they appear to have lots of time left to implement those changes. Though Audacity have been at it for more than a decade, Gibson makes it sound as if the years haven't even begun to catch up. "In a way, we still kind of feel like kids, just playing around town when we were in high school with older bands,” he says. "I don't know if it's an immaturity thing or something, but we still kind of feel like that sometimes. We've kept our youthfulness in that way.”