Shaun Durkan of Weekend talks about Sports and the foibles of music journalism
Formed in 2009, Weekend started out as a trio comprised of guys from punk and hardcore bands in the Bay Area who wanted to do something with a broader sonic palette. Often compared to My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain, Weekend doesn't really sound like either so much as a pop band utilizing noise and driving rhythms.
Sounding a bit like they're doing the musical equivalent of impressionistic paintings, hazy edges and inventive use of color and all, Weekend's sound may be a bit frayed and incandescent, but the group's knack for using abrasive noises in a melodic way is surprisingly effective.
The band recently signed to the respected Slumberland imprint, and its debut full-length album, Sports, captures well the band's core sound that will appeal to fans of Black Tambourine and Deerhunter.
In advance of Weekend's show at the Larimer Lounge this, ahem, weekend -- Sunday, November 14, to be more specific -- we recently had a chat with singer and bassist Shaun Durkan about the band's background, the songs from Sports and the foibles of certain strains of music journalism.
When you were forming Weekend, what was your idea behind it?
Shaun: From the beginning, I think the idea was to balance the aggression of punk with atmosphere, texture and a little bit more of a cerebral experience. We all grew up listening to punk and hardcore. We all appreciated the Manchester bands on Factory Records, like Section 25 and Joy Division. They all did interesting stuff by taking punk and twisting it into interesting ways, which is something we've always tried to do.
People have compared you to Skullflower. Is that a band you would consider an influence?
No, but I do appreciate what they do. It's funny when one person makes a comparison and a lot of people just re-quote. So you get interesting things like a lot of people thinking we sound like The Jesus & Mary Chain, and I don't think we sound like that at all. It's an easy tag. You know?
You play bass and baritone guitar. How did you get into playing those instruments?
I started playing bass because we needed a bass player. I'm actually a guitar player. I found a bass in our practice space for free, and I started playing on that. My bass style is kind of thrashy, and I play it like I play a guitar, pretty much.
With the baritone guitar, we were playing with some other musicians [laughs]... and it's another one of those stories of how we found the baritone guitar in our practice space and started writing a lot of songs with it. Peter Hook played a Fender Bass 6 and Robert Smith, too. It's an interesting take on six-string guitar.
Why did you call your album Sports?
The whole album is sort of about conflict, opposition, so we thought it was a fitting title. A major component of our band is the noise versus the melody aspect and envisioning that as a battle between the two sides.
As a graphic designer, did you design that enigmatic cover art?
I didn't. My friend Jeff Brush, who I went to school with, did it for us. It was definitely a collaboration. He would send us some ideas and sketches and stuff, and we went back and forth, but we're really happy with it now. I think we just wanted it minimal, textural and iconic. Not photographic but more of an illustration. It's like some really weird scans from some old Japanese electronics catalog and Jeff skewed them.
You have a song called "Coma Summer." What is it about?
It's about meeting someone who sort of makes you question the way that you're living your life, to the point where you have to make the decision to change or stay the same.
What about "Age Class"?
An "Age Class" is a hunting term. When you talk about the "age class" of an animal, you're talking about a stage in its development. I liked the idea of it being a twisted take on a love song. An obsessive, twisted love song turning romance into something you're hunting for.
There's the name of a city as the title for one of your songs...
Yeah, "Monongah, WV." I've never been there but that song is loosely based on this coal mine collapse that happened in 1907 in which a third of the population died. There was one survivor named Peter Urban, and his twin brother died in the collapse. Nineteen years later, Peter Urban died in another collapse. It's about suburban oppression and the weight of life laying down on you and using the mine collapse as a metaphor for that.
You're playing the Denver date with Young Prisms?
Yeah, they're friends of ours from San Francisco.
I think they're friends with Woodsman from Denver. Have you heard of them?
Oh yeah. We toured a little bit with them in March, and they're great. Trevor Peterson's a great guy.
How would you characterize what it's like being in a band coming out of San Francisco?
This is the first band I ever formed in San Francisco, and everything sort of happened very quickly, so I can't say I've had it very difficult. There are so many great musicians in San Francisco right now, and we're all great friends. Magic Bullets, Dominant Legs, Tamaryn and Girls -- we all hang out, so it's really cool.
What kinds of places do you play there?
We played just played The Independent last night, which is a 650 capacity room, but we play a lot of small shows, too, like house parties and that kind of thing. Kevin and I, every two months, we throw this showcase of local bands in Bayview, which is one of the worst crime areas in San Francisco. The night we throw is called "Strange Dogs," and it's all ages, and it's really cheap. The bands play in an old half-pipe. It used to be the Thrasher Warehouse of Thrasher Magazine fame.
How did you get hooked up with Slumberland Records?
Mike Schulman in Oakland. I don't know how that happened, but one day he left a cryptic comment on our MySpace page. I forget what it was. But we figured that guys like Mike don't just go trolling around on MySpace pages, so there was some intention behind it. We got in touch with them and sent them some rough mixes, and he was excited about it and offered to release our record.
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