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Post-punk is supposed to have a sharp, concise edge to it — but I Sank Molly Brown ushers the genre down meandering byways littered with warbling vocals, wobbly rhythms and weird cul-de-sacs of dissonance and dynamics. And then, of course, there's the humor; named after one of Denver's most hallowed celebrities, Titanic survivor the Unsinkable Molly Brown, the trio doesn't mind letting the air (and maybe even a little blood) out of some sacred cows. With a self-titled EP comprising four long, luxuriously inventive songs ready to drop, we spoke with singer/guitarist/bassist Caleb Tardio about I Sank Molly Brown's penchant for intricate music, funny names and the body language spoken between him, singer/guitarist/bassist Dylan Self and drummer John Moses.
Westword: The EP has a lot of hidden pockets of complexity. Do you go out of your way to smuggle in odd time signatures and chord progressions, or are you guys just wired that way?
Caleb Tardio: For me, it used to be the priority of the day. Around the time we were writing our last full-length, Al Green Tractor Beam, we still had two guitarists, and we wanted to have all these crazy, complex, dueling lines. But since we lost our bass player, Dylan and I have been trying to just write good rock songs. At the same time, we're still driven to play things that are intricate.
At points it even feels like you've packed three or four songs into one.
We've been a band for about five years now. We're so comfortable with each other's body language and the way we write for each other, I think we just do those kinds of complex things automatically.
What makes you want to avoid the conventional? The masses love that stuff.
Actually, one of my first bands was a hardcore band, and I've always wanted to make things mathy, heavy and totally crazy. Growing up listening to albums like The Shape of Punk to Come, by Refused, and The Relationship of Command, by At the Drive-In, made me lose the taste for pop songs that didn't have some sort of intricacy, something a little cerebral yet with a lot of heart.
What's the story behind your song title "Debbie Does Dostoevsky"?
I don't even know. Our titles are usually so disconnected from the subject matter of our songs. Sometimes the lyrics come kind of randomly or in a hurry, and then they'll gain structure later. But "Debbie Does Dostoevsky" I just thought was funny. You know, Debbie Does Dallas. I guess I thought it was clever. I'm sure there are a lot of people who might see that and say, "Aw, I like Dostoevsky! That's lame." But the lyrics of that song have a lot of youthful ennui: who we are, where we're going, where we get direction from.
Is the band's use of funny titles an attempt to keep things grounded?
Totally. I'm not going to name any names, but there are some local bands who think they are the shit. They get on stage, and their attitude follows them. We're just there to have fun. That's why we didn't spend a lot of time producing this EP. We wanted it to sound like we just showed up, had a good time and left.