Sensory Overload: SRVVLST adopts a pack mentality at the Dude Locker

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From the April 17, 2014 edition

SRVVLST (pronounced “survivalist”) is a fitting name for the searing post-punk quartet, which specializes in raw-nerve tunes that sound like they could have been constructed in the wilderness using some combination of animal bones, sweat, teeth, mud and spit.

The band, which opened for Circle Takes the Square at Dude Locker on a recent Thursday, blasted through a half-dozen songs in just under 30 minutes, including all three cuts off its about-to-be-released 7-inch, The Seven Year Inch: “Thoughts,” “Executies” and a tortured “Ambulette” that ended with drummer Will Ong standing over his kit and screaming as though he were being flayed alive.

Though SRVVLST's music sounds endlessly tortured, the band itself has actually flourished in recent months. In addition to the new 7-inch, which the crew will mark with a free release show at Carabar on Thursday, April 17, the musicians have landed some higher profile supporting gigs, including a slot opening for Chicago’s Into It. Over It. and a place on the bill at Fest, a sprawling music festival slated to take place in Gainesville, Florida, this fall. The group will also embark on a short headlining jaunt later this month, playing stops in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.

This relative good fortune appears to have had little effect on the band’s general mood, and there were times absorbing its music felt like digging into an open wound. So while the guitar patterns weaved by dual axe men Aric Jones and Zack Holloway were often as intricate as elaborate spider webs, steeped in elements of math-rock and brainy punk, the vocals were delivered as a communal roar, and often without amplification. As such, few actual words could be distinguished in the mix, and there were instances the vocals adopted more primal, animalistic qualities. Such was the case on “Executies,” a twitchy, nervous number that opened with the four bandmates howling at the moon like a pack of untamed wolves.

It’s a herd mentality that filtered into everything from the crew’s music (Jones, Holloway, Ong and bassist Ryan Douglas moved as a singular unit even in those instances the angular compositions pulled in different directions) to the audience itself, which encircled the band so tightly that it felt like an extension of the quartet. Expect a similarly intimate feel when SRVVLST hits the cozy confines of Carabar this week.