Washington, D.C. trio finds meaning in the mundane on debut album 'Constant Image'
Asked if there's a different feel in Washington, D.C. these days than even three or four years ago, Daniel Saperstein answers in the affirmative, though there's no mention of President Donald Trump — or to politics whatsoever — in the explanation that follows.
Instead, Saperstein, who plays bass guitar in the D.C.-based punk trio Flasher, focuses on an increasingly heterogeneous music scene, where DIY crust punks are breaking off and experimenting with free jazz, and avant-garde musicians are increasingly sharing all-ages spaces with underground noise-rock bands.
A similar musical freedom informs Flasher's full-length debut, Constant Image, released earlier this year, with Saperstein, drummer Emma Baker and guitarist Taylor Mulitz frequently introducing colorful flourishes into the typically muted post-punk template — a discovery the trio hit upon early in its existence.
“The last song on our EP (self-titled, from 2016) is called ‘Destroy,' and that song draws from a wide swath of what we're bringing, or what the Flasher experience is,” said Saperstein, who joins their bandmates in concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, Dec. 5. “[Prior to ‘Destroy'] we were trying to figure out, ‘What songs do we want to try writing?' And we decided to try that song out even though it didn't sound like anything that we had been playing already. … We were kind of breaking off with the rest of the sound, like a fugitive song, and increasingly coming across those moments like, ‘Oh, we can do that. Who cares?' As if there was some sound we were supposed to be pursuing.”
Though political and cultural undercurrents run throughout the album, songs tend to dwell on the mundane, filled with lyrical allusions to sweaty, sleepless summer nights (“Pressure”), bad haircuts (“Punching Up”) and the omnipresence of consumer culture (“Skim Milk”).
“I think part of that is because we're three people who are white, and we're not trying to speak to experiences or political stakes that we don't actually experience. … First and foremost, through our music we want to teach ourselves how we can participate in politics that will make a difference, given our capabilities and given our privilege,” Saperstein said. “And so that means starting from a place that is really personal, and often the personal is both political but also really mundane.”
Musically, Flasher benefits from the long-developed camaraderie between its members, who grew up in the same region and have shared history from bouncing around the tightknit D.C. scene (Baker and Saperstein's fathers even knew one another, having spent time together at a rabbinical school in New York). Regardless, Saperstein said it took time for the bandmates' offstage comfort level to exhibit itself in the practice room.
“Part of that, too, is because, like all bands, a lot of what we wanted going into Flasher was to not know what we wanted and to be open to figuring out what the band is and what and if there is a sound or some kind of cohesive aesthetic that could emerge from the collaboration between the three of us,” Saperstein said. “And I think in doing that it's been conducive to us learning to be more humble, to listen. … It takes a lot of trust to let someone else tell you to shut the fuck up and to feel like that's a creative suggestion.”