Kansas-born noise-rock trio Bummer had just traversed the Mojave Desert. For most of the trip, the members listened to country crooner Marty Robbins, whose songs reference Kansas as much as Bummer does. After all, it's "where we get our history,” says guitarist/vocalist Matt Perrin.
Bummer will open for Atlanta-based noise rockers Whores at the hi-dive on Wednesday, June 15.
The band — Perrin, bassist Mike Gustafson and drummer Sam Hutchinson — formed in 2012 in Olathe, Kansas, and migrated to Kansas City, Missouri, where it continues to write and perform. The group has released two full-length albums, four EPs and a couple of collaborations with other bands.
Bummer plays a loud mix of sludge metal and noise rock somewhere in the neighborhood of Melvins or Scratch Acid, and perhaps heavier. The songs often boast snarky titles such as “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick" — a song not so much about the Boss as it is about the high number of people in Kansas who listen to his music. Perrin is quick to credit — or perhaps blame — Gustafson for the song.
“It’s also just about being from Kansas,” he says. “It’s about being in a little wasteland you can’t get out of.”
The band writes the music together, and Perrin goes back and fills in the lyrics. He says he takes a lot of inspiration from his home state, as well as the city that bears its name (even if most of it is in Missouri). The band’s latest full-length,Dead Horse, which boasts a nightmare-fuel piece of cover art, is no exception.
“A lot of that [album] was tied to being in Kansas at that point — the Kansas side of Kansas City at that point,” he says. “Just really digging into the state’s history of the Dust Bowl and just what it means to be from the plains.”
Kansas City might get written off as a boring cowtown, but it was the setting for a Mafia war in the 1970s over control of the River Market neighborhood. The city has a vibrant hip-hop scene the band enjoys, says Perrin, who is fascinated by the city’s history, specifically the racist redlining policies and political machines that shaped what Kansas City is today.
He adds that when people listen to heavy music by a specific artist, they often don’t understand that the place it comes from defines the band. That's especially the case for Bummer, which has chosen to stick around its home locale.
“We are just trying to spread a message,” Perrin says. “We’re just trying to have fun. This is what it sounds like out here. This is what life sounds like to us.”
Perrin adds that he takes inspiration from other areas — "stupid sci-fi shit," as he puts it. “Kid Spock,” for example, sprang from an old science-fiction story: The Cold Equations, by Tom Godard, which has been adapted several times and tells the tale of a stowaway on a space ship.
He’s delved into what is perhaps more traditional rock-and-roll territory and written about dealing with personal addictions, going through changes in life and doing things he shouldn’t be doing. It always comes back to Kansas eventually.
“Song by song, it kind of intertwines,” he says. “A lot of it is really about that stasis of living out here on the flatlands. … I’m just trying to give people a picture of what it’s like out on the plains.”
Bummer plays with Whores and Capra at the hi-dive on Wednesday, June 15, at 8 p.m.; tickets are $18-$20. Dead Horse is now available via Thrill Jockey Records.
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