SIGNAL’s “BLL” Is Distilled Sensory Overload

Photo credit: Jeanette D. Moses

The Brooklyn punks' new video premieres today

It seems like New York's most storied artists are all characterized by distinct sounds that can be teased apart and traced to myriad local influences, or else placed among the unrelenting noise and overstimulation that comes with the territory. The city just has a way of embedding itself in your consciousness like that. Brooklyn punk band SIGNAL are a very contemporary example of this pastiche effect; their debut self-titled EP consists of what sounds upon first listen like organized chaos but has been refined into five ultra-compact tracks.

The band's four members came together a year and a half ago, each bringing their own backgrounds and tastes to the table. "This is a really weird project in the sense that we never came in like, 'Let's write a song today,'" says bassist Beck Kitsis. "We more kind of came in and just started playing our instruments and trusted that each of us could bring enough to the table."

With each member drawing from their own experiences with different subcategories under the general umbrella of punk, their collaborative dynamic hit a sweet spot. "[Our songs] kind of have this weird thing where sometimes, if you isolate the instruments, they don't really sound like they're interacting with each other, but then they kind of do," says Kitsis. "They come together to build this collage of different sounds."

Each member's sensibilities are explicable in their contributions to the EP, from guitarist Carlos Salas' crashing, angular riffs to Aida Riddle's grrrl punk-tinged vocals. "We can fluidly be influenced by one another and what we're playing at the time," says Salas. "Things come together from that, which is really cool, because I've never been in a band that's written that way before."

The band caught the eye of Trip Warner of Wharf Cat Records after they played a show at Trans-Pecos in Brooklyn, and he invited them to record with him for free. Faced with an impending hiatus due to drummer Allie Brasch's eight-month departure for school in Indiana approaching, the band made quick work of laying down their first track, and ended up cranking out five songs within a month. "They each have a very particular sound," says Salas. "They're almost like five different experiments." The end result is a brash, succinct EP that neither overstays its welcome nor takes itself too seriously.

"BLL," for instance, derives its name from Bud Light Lime, an apparent non sequitur with regards to the vaguely existential content of the song. "They have the dumbest names ever," sighs Kitsis, "We all love Bud Light Lime." The video for "BLL" is a 90-second visual onslaught, packed with archival footage from soap operas and horror movies as well as flashing graphics. "We had a couple of people who'd never heard us listen to this song and write as they listened, so it wasn't necessarily the lyrics that are flashing at the bottom, but it's their immediate initial listen of the song," explains Riddle. "I thought it was funnier than actually writing the lyrics as closed captions."

"It became a parody of the song itself, because it's not even the real lyrics," adds Kitsis.

Riddle and Kitsis, who directed the video, drew inspiration from a segment on TV Party, Chris Stein and Glenn O'Brien's public access show from the late '70s, featuring the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat writing stream-of-consciousness words across the screen. "There were a lot of errors in what he was writing, but I thought it was really cool and organic," says Riddle.

The no-wave reference point is a touchstone among the canon of New York punk, a lineage upheld by acts like SIGNAL. "It means a lot to me to put New York into our music," says Riddle, a native, "I think it's a really weird city with a lot going on, and I feel like there's so much to draw from creatively." While there are certainly plenty of bands from New York, the categorization of being a "New York band" is one that Salas, a transplant of three years, considers an honor. "What's exciting to me is that something about the energy in the city has gotten into the art that we're creating. It's like transformative energy, and I think it's really cool that that's picked up on by people."

The tedium inherent to the hustle and bustle of the city has also played a part in informing the band's irreverence; despite the intensity of the music, there's a healthy dose of playfulness to take the edge off, particularly in Riddle's lyricism and delivery. "I think that in writing lyrics, especially, I'm often just trying to make fun of what I'm feeling so that it feels less dramatic in my head," says Riddle. "I think that's like another New York thing, too," says Salas. "Life here is so grueling that you kind of have to find the humor in the grind that you're going through."

Kitsis uses film as an example: "You can't ever have a movie that's 100 percent all drama, or all horror, because then you completely fatigue the viewer," she says. "They can't take it. If everything was heavy all the time, it's just not representative of what life is like. Life is bizarre and absurd."

Watch the new video for "BLL," below.

SIGNAL - BLL [Official Music Video]

Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Agyness Deyn also star

Elisabeth Moss is trying to keep it together as punk rock artist Becky Something in the trailer for forthcoming movie Her Smell. She's surrounded by iconic faces who make up her band Something She, Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff and Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell, as she grapples with the fact that her musical prowess just doesn't draw as big a crowd as it used to.

In addition to the wavering fame, Becky is "grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom," according to a press release. "When Becky's chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success." And what's clear from the trailer, Moss is absolutely meant for this role, transforming into the punk on the brink of collapse.

Rounding out the cast are Ashley Benson, Cara Delevingne, and Dan Stevens. Watch the official trailer, below. Her Smell hits theaters on April 12 in New York and 14 in L.A., with "national expansion to follow."




Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

In an acceptance speech at the BRIT Awards

As The 1975 accepted the BRIT Award for Best British group, outspoken frontman Matty Healy shared the words of journalist Laura Snapes as a way of calling out misogyny that remains ever-present in the music industry. Healy lifted a powerful quote from Snapes' coverage of allegations against Ryan Adams for The Guardian: "Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of 'difficult' artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don't understand art."

Snapes reacted almost immediately on Twitter, saying she was "gobsmacked, and honoured that he'd use his platform to make this statement." Snapes had originally written the line for an interview she published with Sun Kil Moon singer Mark Kozelek back in 2015, in response to Kozelek publicly calling her a "bitch" who "totally wants to have my babies" because she requested to speak in person rather than via e-mail, which she brought up in the more recent piece on Adams. Kozelek's vile response, and the misogyny that allowed it to play out without real consequences, it could be argued, could have easily played out in the same way in 2019, which makes her reiteration of the line, and Healy's quoting it on such a large platform, all the more important.

It should be noted that back in December, Healy caught a bit of heat himself on Twitter for an interview with The Fader in which he insinuated that misogyny was an issue exclusive to hip-hop, and that rock 'n' roll had freed itself of it. He clarified at length on Twitter and apologized, saying, "I kinda forget that I'm not very educated on feminism and misogyny and I cant just 'figure stuff out' in public and end up trivializing the complexities of such enormous, experienced issues."