Music News

Feast of Reason

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As with many bands that snub indie rock's top-button-buttoned uptightness, the scarlet letter of T for "thespian" is often stitched to Pleasure Forever's tailored image. "The theatrical tag may be applied to us because, rather than playing a set list of individual songs, we attempt to present a complete performance, few breaks between songs, only an occasional few words from Andy, and some dramatic physical movements," Hughes says -- outlining Pleasure Forever's affinity for the theories of Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty.

"Our band may use certain concepts pertaining to theater, but I am pushing to transubstantiate both myself and the audience into total ritual during our performances," Rothbard adds.

"We want to invite whatever ridicule the staunch indie-rock kids can muster," Clifford says. "In making cathartic music, we may seem theatrical or over the top, but that's what I admire in so many of my favorite artists, especially people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Queen, Artaud, Bataille and Devo. They had the audacity to push their art to extremes that others would consider ridiculous. The genius of Devo was that they were a high-concept intellectual band, but they masked it well within their music."

On the other end of the spectrum from Devo's clean-cut, postmodern, silicone pop is the acid-rock drone of the late '60s that reverberates through Pleasure Forever's music. "We're equally inspired by a lot of the early psychedelic bands, like 13th Floor Elevators and Pink Floyd," Clifford says. After listening to the group's staggering, eight-and-a-half-minute "Magus Opus," the lineage is easy to trace, though the song owes as much to Bauhaus's "The Three Shadows" as it does to "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun."

All artistic and literary influences aside, Pleasure Forever has no desire to be pegged as an act with a shtick. "In the last year or so there's been a sudden and, for me, unwanted proliferation of concept bands. These bands either decide in advance what genre they want to ape or mock, or they deliberately limit themselves to creating their music inside a tiny, sterile box," Hughes says.

"I've never sat around the study with my smoking jacket and pipe thinking about what kind of concept I was going to pull off the shelf from all of the books that I've read," adds Rothbard.

So what sets Pleasure Forever apart from the gimmicky hordes of neo-goths, retro-wavers and acolyte rock stars that infest the post-hardcore scene today?

"While we're certainly a conscious band in the sense that we are aware of what we're creating, what we sound like and how we present ourselves, to say that we're a deliberate band is way off the mark," Hughes insists. "On the contrary, I think we're a very natural and intuitive band. We play music that springs from ourselves, and if we are seen as deliberate it's because we use performance and artwork to back up our music, to present a complete concept."

"We don't want to come off as a band attempting to make music for an intellectual elite," Clifford says. "There is no joke that we think the 'right people' will get. The footnotes are there for those who care to find them, but first and foremost, we play music because we enjoy it. Our approach to songwriting is simply to mash together disparate influences into something unique and exciting for ourselves and, we hope, for others."

Pleasure Forever maintains hope that the visceral impact of its live shows, as well as its daring songcraft, will outweigh more esoteric conceptual tendencies. "We're still just a rock-and-roll band, and we want to play songs for the fun of it," Clifford says. "We want an audience to enjoy our music and celebrate the brevity of life. I think Andrew W.K. said it best: 'Party till you puke.'"

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller