Local trio isn't afraid of the dark on self-titled debut
Eight years ago, when Angie Redmond turned 30, some friends gifted her a drum kit, and before long she was bugging people — especially Leslie Jankowski — to play music with her.
“I must have asked you every time I saw you,” Redmond said to Jankowski recently over lunch Downtown. “‘Do you wanna play? Wanna jam in my basement?'”
Jankowski's band resume includes Church of the Red Museum, Behind You with Knives and, more recently, Nick Tolford & Company. Eventually, after Tolford called it quits, Jankowski had the time to say yes to Redmond. It didn't take long before the pair asked bassist Chris Worth, formerly of Brainbow and Denovo, to complete the new band: Primitives.
“I wasn't playing much then. Brainbow had wound down. I was just sitting around writing crappy Neil Young riffs,” Worth said.
The three friends bonded over music, of course, but their shared interest in menacing forces and shadowy realms provided much of the creative fuel for Primitives. “I've always been drawn to the dark side,” said singer/guitarist Jankowski, who studied horror films at Ohio State. “I gravitate toward the villains — dark stories, dark ideas. That started from a really young age, even Disney villains. I find that richer and more interesting. My songs aren't happy. And it's not that I'm not a happy person. It's just that I don't find it as interesting to talk about. … Tolford was very happy, a party band, which was fun. But that's not really a reflection of who I am at my core.”
“I've been in book club with you longer than I've been in a band with you,” Redmond said to Jankowski, “and even the books you recommend are always [about] dark characters.”
All three musicians recounted early, formative experiences with grisly narratives that revel in the fantastical.
“The first books I remember getting out of the library were books about sorcery and the universal monsters,” Worth said. “Also, my dad accidentally taped ‘Motel Hell' on the end of the Popeye movie, so I watched that when I was like 5 years old. … It's like a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre' rip-off. It's super weird and psychedelic. They plant heads in the garden and hypnotize them with these spinning wheels and run around and turn people into sausage with pig heads on. It's a really strange movie.”
“Mine was ‘The Seventh Sign' with Demi Moore on Cinemax,” Redmond said.
“I remember seeing ‘Alien' on HBO and watching ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers' in the '80s,” Jankowski said. “All the books I got at the library were the Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown.”
“I own all of those,” Worth said.
“That's how we knew we would click,” Jankowski said. “And people are drawn to that. They're fascinated by the unknown. It's kind of a magical thinking, too. Like, wouldn't it be really cool if there was magic in the world and all this sorcery and stuff? But we live in the mundane world.”
In that way, Primitives is an escape from the banal — a way to bring mythical creatures and fictional worlds to life. On the band's seven-track self-titled debut, which the trio will celebrate with a release show at Ace of Cups on Friday, Feb. 8, songs like “Leviathan” and “Tell Me, Monster” transport listeners to another dimension through doomy guitar squalls that evoke the unlit parts of far-off planets. Worth's basslines often provide a countermelody to Jankowski's soaring vocals, and Redmond's drum parts, which she recorded while six months pregnant in the summer of 2017 at Relay Recording, give Primitives' songs a primal underpinning.
Jankowski, who works as the library director at CCAD, found inspiration for the song “Maiden King” on a history podcast about the Mongol invasion, while “Last Night Left Alive” sprang from a scene in the 2011 apocalyptic film “Take Shelter.” “At the very end of the movie, [the main character] and his wife and his kid are on the beach staring out at the sea, and this storm comes in. It's such a powerful feeling and visual that I took that into the song,” Jankowski said. “But the subject matter is more mundane than that. It's about that end-of-the-world feeling when you break up with someone. It's a life change, but in that cinematic, apocalyptic framing.”
For orchestral album closer “Bruise,” Primitives layered strings and other instrumentation, which the band will mirror onstage at the release show with the addition of noise musician Mike Shiflet and keyboard player Kate Folmar.
“On ‘Bruise,' we obviously went a little crazy. We've never played that song live,” Jankowski said.
“Everybody gets to unload on that song,” Worth said.
“I cried at the practice last week,” Redmond said. “It sounded awesome.”