The Inspirational Power of Hate
Seattle Synth-Noise Provocateurs Crypts Draw Blood
In a little more than a year of existence, synth-noise pugilists Crypts have become one of Seattle's most hated bands. Bitter sniping, especially from anonymous internet saddos, hits musicians in all cities, of course, but Crypts have been especially prodigious in the anger-accumulation department. One unregistered commenter on The Stranger's music blog, Line Out, wrote: "Crypts: brought to you by cocaine, girl jeans, and an utter and complete lack of talent. They still trading handjobs for crack rocks on pine street?" For the record, Crypts say that it's blowjobs, not handjobs, as those bring in more crack.
"We researched the troll, and it's always the same kid," vocalist Steve Snere notes. "That guy should come to the Comet show and talk to us. So far, people either love what we're doing or want to fucking kill us. That, to me, is great."
"But there are fucking crazies out there who really want to kill us," synthesist/beatmaster Bryce Brown counters. "There are a ton of people who would do that or who are pissy-pants about life in general. They're pissed off at us because they think we're snorting mountains of blow or because we wear tight pants."
"And that's all true," says Snere. "And we're going to fuck your girlfriend."
Brown announces, "We switched to meth, because it's a lot cheaper than coke."
"Every time you guys post something on us, we're like, 'Here we go, here we go!'" Snere says. "I feel like they're waiting for us to respond, but we're like [lip-zipping gesture]."
Crypts—who include keyboardist/visual artist Nick Bartoletti, who's provided imagery for the Lovetone and Penetration DJ nights—thrive on antagonism. Haters' bile (among other things) fuels them to create electronic music that alternately swells into grotesque malevolence or grandiose, bruised beauty.
Crypts' reputation for provoking ill will skyrocketed after their shambolic performance of Nirvana's "Endless, Nameless" at EMP last September to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind. Dealing with failing gear and crappy sound onstage, Crypts took out their frustration on a guitar and a mic stand. At one point, Snere reached into his trousers and gyrated. A crowd member tussled with him for a bit. Afterward, Snere reasonably explained to the audience, "That's how Nirvana would have done it, motherfuckers." EMP officials eighty-sixed Crypts, and they didn't get the complimentary copy of Taking Punk to the Masses that all the other Nirvana tribute-payers received. That must have stung.
But, going by Trent Moorman's account of the set on Line Out, it sounds like Crypts really captured the spirit of Nirvana that night. Would Kurt Cobain and company have wanted solemn reverence on this occasion?
"We weren't trying to do Nirvana karaoke there," Brown says. "We thought 'Endless, Nameless' was perfect for us. It's just seven minutes of chaos and noise. So we're going to go up there and embody what that song meant. When I was at the EMP show [puts head in hands], it was nothing like Nirvana."
Snere says, "People were like, 'Rolling Stone is here! They're going to take our picture because we played "Lithium" tonight!' My girlfriend was outside the EMP with [Soundgarden's] Ben Shepherd because I couldn't get her in, no guest list. She told him I was playing a Nirvana song. He said, 'Fuck that shit, blah blah blah.' A couple hours later, she said, '[Steve] just got thrown out of there,' and Shepherd said, 'I love that guy!'"
"We were just trying to bring out what it's like to be chaotic and have fucking fun and not be what [the rest of the bands were doing]," Brown says. "And it just sounded bad in there. What do you do when it sounds terrible? Make a fuckin' spectacle. We didn't imagine it being, 'You guys have to get the fuck outta here.'" Threats of legal action for indecent exposure and assault never came to pass, however.
"You can't buy promotion like that," Snere concludes.
"People who hated us there weren't going to like us anyway," Brown says. "But a lot of people got what we were trying to do." Snere adds: "Sticking my hand down my pants is as natural as singing into a microphone at this point. If they wanted it to be a family affair, they should've booked the Presidents of the United States."
Bartoletti says, "It's nice that you're educating your kids about Nirvana, but at what point are you going to explain to them that Kurt Cobain blew his brains out?"
"The only reason I did it is because I love [Bryce] and know how much he loves Nirvana," Snere relates. "We should not be doing this, it's fucking ridiculous. But I found out Duff McKagan was there, and I love GN'R, so I thought, all right, I can hang out with him."
Crypts put this fiasco behind them and worked furiously on their self-titled debut album, which they just finished recording with producer/engineer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Moondoggies). It still needs to be mastered and sequenced, but they're hoping to release it themselves on vinyl and digitally in March or April, and then go on tour shortly after—preferably in a hearse, if Snere has his way.
The eight songs on Crypts are not witch house, a tag that's somehow latched on to the band. Rather, Crypts tilt more toward industrial, noise, and goth in a much more aggressive manner than heard in witch-house productions. They've drawn comparisons to early Skinny Puppy and Atari Teenage Riot, and the Ononos likened Crypts to "Marilyn Manson meets the New York Dolls." Brown offers, "Wolf Eyes meets Christian Death."
Growing up in Cleveland, Brown was weaned on "angsty fucking sounds" like Nine Inch Nails, Ramones, and Nirvana. "When [witch-house popularizers] Salem popped up, I thought, 'Fuck.' Don't get me wrong: I love a lot of [witch house], but we're more abrasive." Brown, who has played keyboards for local rap eminences Grayskul, cites the Southern hiphop of Bun B and UGK as inspirational to his beatmaking style. Snere used to feistily front These Arms Are Snakes and Kill Sadie, but he became fed up with rock orthodoxy and found Crypts' unconventional electronic approach—using modified Roland and Casio keyboards and Omnichord—more liberating and catalytic.
Recording with Blood was revelatory for Crypts. "I first started hearing about him when he was doing Shabazz," Brown says. "I thought they sounded awesome. Then I realized he'd done that band the Lights. Their record was super fucking noisy. [He] did that and that? This is the guy we need to work with. He can pick up the beat and also realize there's chaos going on and that it should be there. It's hard to find somebody who can do that."
For his part, Blood loved working with Crypts. "[It was] unlike anything I've done yet. Their music finds this harmony between beauty and terror that I've only heard done well a handful of times. Bryce Brown has a deep relationship with rhythm and sound. He's the real thing. Ridiculous beats! Though every element of the band is harmonious to me, no single part tempers or alienates another. Each piece elevates the whole. Nick's parts glisten where Steve's burn over the solid-but-volatile ground Bryce has laid down. It's dangerous and sexy, like fire."
In a city overflowing with nice, squeaky-clean rock bands, Crypts deliver a welcome sense of menace.
"I don't think danger is an intention of this group," Snere clarifies. "We are what we are, and the element will show itself when it's needed. There's a violence to the music, but it's a yin-and-yang thing. For me, onstage, a second personality takes over, and that personality can do what it wants. I don't care if somebody's jumping on somebody or spitting on them. That's all irrelevant. Is the music dangerous? I hope so."
"We're not trying to ruffle your feathers," Brown says, while Snere adds, "But if you ruffle my feathers, I might ruffle yours back."