Lithics is an art punk band based out of Portland, Oregon. Their sophomore album ‘Mating Surfaces’ is due May 25th via Kill Rock Stars, a legendary northwest label that has put out releases from artists as varied as Bikini Kill to Deerhoof to Xiu Xiu. The band certainly fits on the label with tight and crisp tunes filled with a knowing attitude and a creativity you have to search to find. Featuring Aubrey Horner on vocals, guitarist Mason Crumley, bassist Bob Desaulniers, and drummer Wiley Hickson, you can catch them live this summer all across the US.
How did Lithics first form?
Bob: I wish we had a more interesting origin story. We had been friends for years already and our old bands would play shows and tour together fairly often. Initially Lithics started as kind of a side project with a mutual friend singing. She was great but didn’t stay in the band very long so we asked Mason join on second guitar to help Aubrey feel more comfortable moving over to vocals.
Tell us a little about this latest release, ‘Mating Surfaces‘. What is the general zeitgeist of the album?
Bob: Sophomore albums are usually written much quicker than their predecessors and tend to be a little lackluster so we consciously took our time with this one. It wasn’t organized around any articulated idea or set of ideas I guess but we all know what the sound of the band should be so there was no real need to discuss it.
In a broader sense there was a lot going on socially and politically during 2016/2017 while we were writing the record and we did spend a lot of time talking about that stuff and trying to help each other process. I think maybe some of the anxiety everyone was feeling crept into the writing, musically and lyrically.
‘Excuse Generator’ is extremely catchy, but in a good non-torturous-earworm way. Could you speak a bit about this track?
Bob: Like most of our songs the main riff came out of an improvisation that was later elaborated on. There’s a little bit of everything we do in there, I think it represents the band pretty well.
Do you normally start melody first, lyrics last? Or the opposite thereof? How do Lithics construct a song?
Aubrey: We often record our improvised jams and then piece together a structure from that, trying to keep intact the best parts that happened accidentally. Lyrics always come last.
Do you have a favorite track thus far in your budding catalogue?
Aubrey: My favorite song changes and is almost always something new we are working on. Right now it is an unreleased song called ‘Hands‘, but I think I’ll always really like ‘Thing In Your Eye‘.
Who are your inspirations and influences, whether musically or artistically in another guise?
Aubrey: We all have slightly different musical inspirations, but I think some of the things that may influence the band are The Fall, Captain Beefheart, The Red Krayola, Kleenex/Liliput, Devo. Lyrically, I’m influenced by both Beefheart and the poet Jackson Mac Low.
How did your collaboration form for ‘Mating Surfaces‘ with the Kill Rock Stars label?
Mason: We are good friends with Ben and James at Kill Rock Stars, and it seemed like a good deal! Of course they have put out a lot of music over the years that is important to us, like Quix*o*tic, Deerhoof, Erase Errata, the Kleenex/Lilliput and The Raincoats reissues, etc.
What is the northwest DIY scene like to you? Do you have a favorite venue to play? A favorite record shop to peruse?
Mason: It’s pretty good! Definitely contains a lot of cool and unique bands. We have had many fun shows at Turn Turn Turn, and love to play at the Spare Room, where we are having our record release. Portland has a vast abundance of great record stores, like Mississippi, Little Axe, Musique Plastique, Exiled, many more.
You’re about to embark on a US tour, joining Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks for some of their dates. You’ve had an interesting assortment of artists you’ve played with, does that bring a different sort of energy to a Lithics performance based on your gig collaborator? What is Lithics like to behold live?
Wiley: Playing with bands that we love is always exciting and I’m sure it adds a little something to our stage presence and individual moods. I think we approach most shows with an even mix of excitement and nervous energy, along with a general feeling of awe and gratitude that people are interested enough to come out and watch us play. Joining tours with other bands has been really fun in the past. It’s a cool way to get to know people you wouldn’t usually get to hang out with and there’s always a handful of really wacky moments that catch you by surprise. We’re certainly looking forward to this upcoming tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks.
On a related note, I saw something about a stingray that only eats gummy worms on your Instagram. Who’s decision was it to make it your official tour totem? Do we have a gummy worm addict in the band?
Wiley: We seem to pick up little trinkets here and there from friends in different places and they become our dedicated tour totems. I think it’s safe to say all four of us have a healthy (unhealthy) love of gummy worms. Or gummy bears. Or sharks or coke bottles or… We can definitely keep up with even the most seasoned gas station junk food experts. Tour brings out this conflicting sense of survival/reckless sugar binging. Partly we need to stay awake on the road, and partly we are crazed candy freaks, and no prospective stomach ache seems too great to get us to stop. Currently there’s a debate about the best gummy brand. It’s gotten kind of tense. We hope it doesn’t break up the band.
Photo credits: Christie Maclean