Photo by Jordan Kuyper
Track by Track is a recurring new music feature in which an artist offers a comprehensive rundown of their new album.
Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Mike Tony, keyboardist Nick “Demo” DeMolina, lead guitarist Cooper Formant, and bassist John Paul “Puppy” Frank of The Fluids are here to blow out the speakers of Brooklyn rock. Unwilling to let their hometown’s indie scene dominate the discussion when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, the upstart band deliver a howling mix of no-wave art punk that’s always set to 11. Today, they’re sharing the first salvo in their battle against mundanity with their debut full-length, No Kidding!.
After introducing themselves with the lead single “Creatures” last month, The Fluids are here with 10 tracks of wild, blistering sounds. “When I started writing songs again, I was going for a ‘What if Pavement covered Bowie?’ vibe,” Tony recently told Noisey. “I wanted to make short, contained pop songs with interesting structures that all kind of sounded distinct. My biggest fear is having someone go to a show and say ‘well it’s cool, but all the songs kinda sound the same.’”
That’s definitely not a concern on No Kidding!, as the album stretches from the riff-tastic “Lines” to the dreary afternoon drudge of “On Ice”. Pre-order the album here or here, and take a listen to the full thing below. You can also check out The Fluids live at their album release show tomorrow, October 26th, at New York City’s Mercury Lounge.
For more insight into how they’re reshaping Brooklyn rock, Formant and Tony broke down No Kidding! track by track. Check it out:
Cooper: Mike had this song with a quick two power chord riff. It was simple but powerful, but kind of a blank canvas. This is full-speed Fluids with a Devo-like synth lick superimposed by Demo. I wanted to add something that created even more momentum and excitement so i added this Hendrix/Prince frantic blues lick with these major 3rd double stop slides that kind of create an off-kilter carousel vibe. The coolest thing about this song is the contrast in amplitude as well as tempo between the slow verses and the full speed instrumental jaunts that alternate. And then there is this bizarre bridge part where we go to Madagascar for a few bars before returning to the 1950s slow dance in outer space.
Mike: A challenge — both to play and to listen to in some ways. A low synth gong sound and a blast of feedback is the first thing you hear on the album. It swings and changes and punches and churns and it’s all very unexpected. You leave it not knowing what we are going to sound like over the next 9 songs. The song is a fucking boxing match. There is a tension and a struggle between the parts that comes through musically and vocally. It’s a conversation, reasoned on one side, unhinged on the other. It’s the band at its most versatile and its most disorientating.
“Sign N’ Drive”:
Cooper: When this song came about we were listening to this song called “Fantastic Man” by William Onyeabor as played with the Atomic Bomb band. When The Fluids were a new band, we would jam on things and play other’s songs and such. This was one of those times Mike heard that song and kinda used it as a springboard to do his Mike raps over. It has that same (I-ii) soul chord sequence in the verses. I felt like the song had a ton of empty space to fill so I wanted to come up with a guitar hook. I always loved jazz and I kinda wanted to make something that sounded like a saxophone would play it. The solo section I try to do a Sonny Rollins St. Thomas type rhythmic motif to try and keep the excitement up. I also think you can hear some Led Zepplin, classic rock vibes in there; I play a Les Paul. I was really happy this was a single in a time when guitar is not considered cool anymore.
Mike: Named for it’s inevitable use in a car commercial, this is an infectious sounding song with a killer guitar hook. Lyrically, it’s mostly about isolating yourself in crowded spaces.
“New Land Sale”:
Cooper: This might be my favorite song that we play. This is an opener usually. I really like how the recording came out for this one. There is a really striking and interesting figure/ground relationship between the count off and the start. And then at the end there is this return to normalcy that is almost musical in and of itself, the contrast. The drums count off and then I make noise on the guitar. Then there are these soccer chants that Mike sampled that are triggered. It’s really bananas. The lyrics are ridiculous too. It’s like a kraut rock/Dinosaur Dr. hybrid. For the “solo” in this song I detune my low string all the way and play it by yanking the string. Then when Mike comes back to the mic, I start tunning up the low E string so it hits E when the next part comes. It sounds like a motorcycle coming or something. Very low tech but this is rock and roll. Shit is raw.
Mike: A statement of intent. An anthem to kneel to. Shouted from lungs of soccer hooligans worldwide. New Land Sale! New Land Sale! Reach out and touch the face of God!
Cooper: This is a rousing power ballad, you might say if you are high. I have my own ideas what it’s about but you would have to ask Mike. My main contribution is an e-bow thing in the chorus that kinda hangs in the air and shadows Mike’s full throated lament from above like an extra-terrestrial orb or something lol. Ok, it’s not that intense but it’s cool, I think.
Mike: It’s a dramatic reading of The Economist set to a melancholic chord sequence. The slow funk bass groove does the heavy lifting. I wanted to make something that had a little more room to breathe and I wanted to relax for a second during our sets. I don’t have much interest in writing an overtly political song and this is by no means that. But I think it captures a certain unease and feeling of desperation we are all becoming familiar with. The solo at the end is a cathartic moment. It’s like punching a hole in a wall.
Cooper: This was the song that made me want to join the band. It sounded classic to me with a repeated bass line playing the same chords throughout the song similar to a song like “Once In A Lifetime.” Mike also had some great guitar riffs in the tune that create an arc and keep the flavor. The beat is pretty original in my opinion and gives the song its real character. In the early days of playing this song live I used to play a timbale solo after the second chorus but in the studio we just wanted to focus on making it grooving. Puppy really shines on bass on this number too.
Mike: “Creatures” was my return to songwriting. It was the track that opened up my eyes to the idea that the right groove could sustain a song endlessly. Three chords. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s me trying to be sexy like Prince. It was about my surroundings. It’s about making plans you won’t keep, internal tug of wars, and people that are all pretty fuzzy to me at this point. It’s a party, but not one I am sure I want to be dancing at.
Cooper: This is The Fluids at our most (*holds nose*) “Bruce Core.” I like this, it’s like a futuristic, steampunk Rolling Stones-type number. It’s always a crowd pleaser.
Mike: Another song brimming with critical self-reflection. Trying to navigate the disparate poles of my personality; my desires to be ‘good’ and ‘better’ and the reality of what I present to the world. The song is very visual for me. I like to think of the ‘room filled with sand’ quite literally. My favorite part is hands down the outro where we all pretend to be members of the E-Street Band and jam to a saxophone, played by our good friend (and Caveman’s keyboardist) Sammy Hopkins. This song was born into existence with the idea of a sax solo and few things are satisfying as creating something that matches what you hear in your head.
Cooper: This is probably the newest song on this record. We recorded it in one take basically as an afterthought. It was messy but it had a vibe so we decided to include it. This song BURNS live and Mike really makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up vocally. Mike is a super chill, quiet guy in life but a MONSTER on-stage. This is one of the songs where he basically has a gran mal seizure live when we play it.
Mike: This is probably what I would listen to if I exercised. This song is a breathless sprint, an anxiety-ridden deep dive into the psyche of a lonely mind. One thought to the next with limited connective tissue. I love how it starts, each of us slowly finding our way into the groove. It clicks and we’re off. The chorus is, for all intents and purposes, the Greek chorus in my head – ‘I should’ve taken it easy…”
Cooper: This is one of my favorite songs to play mainly because I get to play multiple guitar solos. There is a loopy, delirious, atonal lick that counts the song off and then it soars into this Strauss-like, highly dramatic D-minor hurricane. The sonics in this song are familiar but there is a twist. Something is “off.” I feel like it captures the feeling of the times in some way. I hear mass shootings and chaos in that song. It’s a song about fighting to live and you can hear the blades clashing sonically.
Mike: “Turnt” is an explosion, an eight man blitz on third-and-long. I like to think of Cooper as a middle linebacker, blasting through the line of scrimmage, knocking the quarterback sideways into the dirt. The lyrics are somewhat schizo in nature, a vitriolic lecture from a disgruntled and disenchanted professor. In this song, ‘home’ is the idea of stability and the familiar. That was long ago. We are now Magellan in uncharted waters. We left home and have succumbed to a new, uncomfortable normal, living without any semblance of direction. Stop the world and let me off. The confusion is palpable. Grab your jacket and say goodbye to no one.
“Just Like Me”:
Cooper: This and “Creatures” were the first 2 songs Mike and Nick ever shared with me when we worked at the bar. It’s Mike at his most poignant, lyrically and it’s the one song that kinda tells a story. I love this song. I added some guitar parts and a tremolo-picked solo but really tried to keep things minimal from my standpoint. The song is so strong it really didn’t need a lot of ancillary bells and whistles.
Mike: One of the few instances where I can actually remember the writing process. I was trying to combine a couple of different elements – namely “Silver Cloud” by La Dusseldorf and
The Beautiful Ones” by Prince — and things sort of fell into place naturally for me. I knew I wanted that high pitched, droning synth. I knew I wanted it to be big. The words spilled out. It was a very introspective process. Before I knew it, I was calling myself, ‘dusty and spineless.’ I’m glad I didn’t run away from the self reflection (and criticism) because I think it’s what people connect to. The chorus is a come to Jesus moment – this is who I am and it’s not going to change even if I wanted it to.
Cooper: This has been our closer for most of our shows. It started out as a very drum heavy (even with drum solo) hard rock number. Our founding drummer Alex had a lot to do with how the song it structured, I believe. I think it started as a jam between Mike and him. It’s really a live song. Besides the Muppet-like, background echoes, I think this was all recorded live in one take. I didn’t want to really play a long solo in the middle of this so when the breakdown comes I do noise things. I love avant-garde shit and noise-based music so I wanted to makes some metallic, messy squeaks and squawks to break the expectation of a straight-ahead guitar solo. Guitars can make so many noises even without a lot of effects pedals. My favorite part of this song is how the end gets so heavy we sound like we are falling down a flight of stairs.
Mike: “On Ice” is the cherry jubilee at the end of the album. Sonically, I wanted something rough and almost uncontainable. Structurally, I wanted it to be all over the place but in a way that makes sense. The outro jam, like most good things, happened spontaneously. After the second chorus, the sound narrows in on the drums and bass line. Four bars later, the dam is broken and the flood has begun. I love the idea of introducing the ‘signature’ riff of the song over 3 minutes into it. The end sounds like we’re playing our instruments in the middle of an avalanche, being tossed and thrown around.