Meet local label Heel Turn's 'anti-band'

In the press release for Messrs second record for local label Heel Turn, the musicians describe themselves as an “anti-band.”

“Did we call ourselves an anti-band?” asked guitarist Bo Davis. “Seems like something we may have said. Basically we keep being a band because it’s good, cheap therapy. Everyone should bang on drums and throw guitars around. It’s good for your mental health.”

Given Davis’ penchant for brutal noise (he plays drums in Unholy Two), disintegrating jangle pop (which he creates with his partner, Emily, in Ipps) and his wild history in the Columbus punk underground for the last decade with Necropolis and the CDR universe, it’s fitting that Messrs sounds like a nihilistic race to the bottom.

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On this album you could even call it a de-evolution of sorts. Here the conscious metrics of hardcore — to be louder, faster, tighter, uglier than you were in your previous skin — are front and center. Davis, along with drummer Mat Bisaro, bassist Josh Draher and vocalist Aron Nichols, know this all too well. They’re veterans more concerned with “documenting exactly what is happening in the moment” rather than trying to keep up with any prescient youth scene.

“I honestly think I’ve probably aged out of knowing what the hell is going on in the Columbus music scene at this point,” said Davis, who will join his bandmates in celebrating the release of the new album with a Dirty Dungarees show on Saturday, Dec. 21. “It seems like there are still plenty of bands playing shows all the time, but I’m not sure I see enough of the new blood’s shows to have any opinion on them. I feel like the most thriving D.I.Y. venue in town at this point is a laundromat, so that’s pretty cool.”

And should they have to compete? Messrs has made one of the gnarliest records of the year, no contest.

The slash and burn of the self-titled album’s first two tracks, “Specc” and “Lizzard Boy,” instantly set the pace, the band striving for a sonic void. Songs rarely extend past 90 seconds, most utilize just two chords and virtually every track either pushes toward a maddening confusion or a cathartic thrall. There is no gray area, no ambiguity. Like the band’s forefathers in Jesus Lizard and Pussy Galore, it knows its audience.

On the album’s flipside, Messrs stop with the berating for a spell and move into some intriguing explorations. The circuit-bending, swinging doom of “Never Good Man” and the exorcising romp “Pig’s Last Ride” take up as much space as the entire first side. The guitars breath and then suffocate, and a faint tune might even emerge, still everything remains obfuscated enough to keep it overtly woozy. This on-the-cusp-of-2020 version of Messrs has layers.

Beneath it all, there’s talk of science-fiction, dystopian malaise and a growing numbness to our year zero political existence. But it’s hard to attach anything too deep to Messrs, and that’s not a knock. This is, after all, an “anti-band,” and sometimes it’s best to step back and enjoy the purely utilitarian assault.

In a lot of ways, the new Messrs record is a furious, 19-minute exercise in doing very much with very little, be it time, resources, direct inspirations or fucks. Being “old timers,” some with kids, with fewer opportunities to blow out the speakers, the decision to keep it going is almost a necessity these days.

“My kids are usually kinda bummed out when I go to practice and play shows,” Davis said. “But I just treat it like work. I have to go to work. I have to play shows.”