The restless punk foursome continues its evolution with new album
The four bandmates in Malibu Stasi are all die-hard record collectors, as well as music fans with wide-ranging tastes, which means that inspiration often comes from unexpected places.
Recently, workshopping new song “He Tried,” Tim Naskeli was toying with bass guitar parts when he considered the record ZUU, by rapper Denzel Curry, which is steeped in weird, swampy Miami bass music, allowing aspects of the album to bleed into his playing.
“One of my favorite musicians is the hip-hop producer Madlib, and he would go on airplane trips to Brazil where he would just go crate-digging for sounds he might never have considered using,” said Naskeli, who joins singer Gabe George, guitarist Cameron Harrison and drummer Jeremy “JB” Burgess in concert at Spacebar on Thursday, Oct. 17, where the band will celebrate the release of its new cassette, Sitting Wild. “I want to do the same thing with my music. I like that mentality.”
While ostensibly a punk band — all four bandmates have divergent tastes but a common affinity for 1980s punk — there’s a strong experimental component to Malibu Stasi’s music. Guitarist Harrison, for one, isn’t as enamored with soloing as he is with shaping sound, using feedback to create buzzing textures that give the songs unexpected dimension. Witness the loping “Dark Light,” off Sitting Wild, which builds around whirring passages that sound akin to industrial sheet metal being cut.Get news and entertainment worthy of Lisa Lionheart delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
“We’ll typically have parts where I’m not even playing the guitar so much as I’m pushing it at things and aiming it at amps and making feedback. It’s more about creating a textural part, but also using the noise more rhythmically so that it’s not just like, ‘Here’s some feedback,’” Harrison said.
Even singer George refuses to play it straight, at times barking his words in a way that they almost become another instrument in the mix, syllables hitting like sharp snare snaps. Lyrically, George and his bandmates favor restraint, with most songs building around phrases short enough that they could be inked on listeners, as Naskeli points out.
“I remember earlier on, Gabe was writing a lot, and we kind of talked and I was like, ‘Man, what if you just pared it down a little bit?’” Naskeli said. “Now he’s getting it down to these very central words and phrases. I like to say that Gabe writes phrases that you’d like to get tattooed on you, like, ‘Great artists steal. I’m a crook.’ That’s something a bad-ass biker dude would have on him.”
The phrase is also loosely accurate, as George is quick to point out, pirated from the saying, “Good artists copy and great artists steal,” often attributed to Pablo Picasso.
“I consider myself a one-trick pony. Having been in punk bands my whole life, I don’t got a lot of range, but what I do got is a selection of words,” said George, who jokes about his lack of musical acumen, noting that he’s only adept at playing “the Gabe.” “But I love dub reggae and the influence that had on bands like Public Image [Ltd.], and that is definitely a voice being used as a percussive instrument.”
Malibu Stasi formed in December 2017 when George connected with Naskeli, who had previously all but given up music, caught up in too much drinking and doing drugs. “I just didn’t really give a shit about anything,” he said. When he stopped drinking, his interest in making music returned.
Following a few early roster changes — one drummer was dismissed after he got too loaded to play a show at a hair salon in Lancaster — the group cemented its current lineup with the addition of Harrison, who joined the fold in late April, just prior to the recording of Sitting Wild. Harrison’s addition, and the chemistry that has blossomed in the months since, has the players excited for the band’s future prospects.
“There were parts [on Sitting Wild] that were holdovers from the first guitar player,” Naskeli said. “This new song we just recorded at Capital University (‘He Tried’), it’s a quantum leap. … It’s more us now.”