by Michael Alan Goldberg


w/American Death Ray, Killers Kiss

Sat Feb 1, the Sunset, $6.

It really sucks having neighbors. And we've got every lousy variety here in our little building: the 24-Hour-Boot-Clad Stompers, the Creepy Bearded Smoking Staring Guy, the Obnoxious Yuppie Dinner-Partiers, Idiot Frat Boy (whose loud deposits of piss and puke in his toilet occur nightly on the other side of our cardboard-thin bedroom wall), the No Parental Supervision Junior High Thugs, the Mail Stealers (whoever keeps swiping my box sets, you're toast), etc. Believe me, there's never a shortage of animosity or agitation around here.

But, as A-Frames drummer Lars Finberg (who also plays in the Intelligence) notes, having neighbors has actually been beneficial for singer/guitarist (and chief songwriter) Erin Sullivan, at least musically speaking.

"Erin's been doing all the writing on a four-track at his house," says Finberg. "And we've both joked about how strange it feels to record at home when you think the people next door are listening as you scream. So he sings in a more kinda subdued way or comes up with beats that are a little quieter, and he ends up doing mellower, more weirdo stuff."

Well, you can thank those neighbors, in part, for making the A-Frames one of the most consistently compelling punk acts in town. Such self-consciousness at the point of creation has allowed the trio--rounded out by bassist Min Yee--to frequently twist out of the genre's usual one-two-tree-foah filth-slop straitjacket with slower-paced, tense, and somberly mechanized compositions that invite comparisons to Wire, the Fall, and Joy Division. At the same time, the A-Frames aren't entirely on some angular alienation trip, either. When the mood strikes, they'll serve up the kind of straight-up punk noise that would freak the bejesus out of the Obnoxious Yuppie Dinner-Partiers.

"I think playing live reminds Erin that he wants to be loud, too," says Finberg. "A lot of times we'll do shows for a while where it's the whole one-drumbeat-for-the-whole-song thing and the kind of slower depressing stuff, and then we'll play a show where we play a bunch of old crazy shit and he'll go, 'Oh yeah, we should write some more songs with loud cymbals in them.'"

The band's upcoming release, A-Frames 2 (due in April), promises to explore that dichotomy even more than last summer's self-titled debut. "It's taken a little step forward," says Finberg. "It definitely goes in both directions. Some of it's kind of robotic and bleak, and then other parts are more rockin' and poppier. We'll start out doing a few bleak songs and then do something the opposite of that. I think they both work together pretty well."

If all goes according to plan, you'll actually be able to get the album in stores this spring. Excellent reviews and word of mouth helped to quickly sell out the initial pressing of the first record, a vinyl-only affair. That's great, but nary an A-Frames seven-inch can be found in the city at the moment.

"Yeah, we get hassled all the time by people in town wondering when we're gonna re-press the album or put it out on disc," Finberg chuckles. "It's just a matter of getting up the money. We did 500 copies on 180-gram vinyl, which sounds great but it's pretty expensive. The thing about vinyl is that not as many people bother with it, so the quality of music is getting better in that medium, I think. 'Cause like every shitty metal-funk band is like, 'Dude, we can fuckin' burn a CD!' But we know we gotta get a CD version out--that should happen next month."

Still, it shouldn't be a problem to get your A-Frames fix, as the trio can often be found playing around town. With their dark, art-punk-influenced sound, you might expect the hipster quotient to be high at any given show, but the band's lack of pretension is reflected in the crowds they draw and the places they prefer to rock.

"You feel ugly just walking into Chop Suey," laughs Finberg. "Clubs like that are all right to play, but they're never as much fun as a party or Zak's, the Comet, Industrial Coffee, Fallout, something like that. The only people going to those shitholes are the people who wanna see good bands and hang out with cool people. They fuckin' care and you can feel it when you do shit there.

"I think we're completely removed from that scenester shit," he continues. "You can easily stay away from it and just kinda build up your little insular bubble. We're used to it--living out in West Seattle there's not anything to do, so you kinda hole up in your house with friends and have your own fun. I think it's better that way."

Unless, of course, Idiot Frat Boy lives next door.