Since the release of April’s excellent and hook-laden EP Haller Meets The Machine, Brooklyn-based duo Laughing Fingers have woken up from a post-tinnitus dream. The condition of tinnitus is often described as a constant ringing sound that never stops, a ringing that gets even worse in silence. Sometimes the afflicted can’t sleep at night or have to listen to music to drown out their body’s own feedback, even though listening to music was probably the source of the problem. Some live with it, while the rest enjoy the ringing throb of the post-show stupor, beer-spilled and sweat-chilled. The noise of the VHS after a horror flick.
To me, this is the exact feeling of the “Seed In Your Beak” and “My Left Hand”. Both come from Laughing Finger’s upcoming release, Two EPs, due out next Tuesday via Death Rehearsal Cassettes. The first half of Two EPs is the first Laughing Fingers recordings to feature both vocalist/guitarist Chris Broom and drummer Ian Taggart (Chris recorded the second half, Haller Meets The Machine, at The Silent Barn before Ian joined the band). “Seed In Your Beak” and “My Left Hand” seem to make up a single composition as the first song slides into the second, marking a shift to a sludgier sound with a stronger emphasis on long-form stream-of-consciousness songwriting. Even the lyrics feel less grounded in reality: “Resin on my lips cuz I’m melting down my baby teeth,” Broom sings in his lilting alto on “Seed In Your Beak”.
But “grounded” might be the wrong term for describing these two tracks. They feel assigned to the dingy basement but also seem to hang above in dreamy pop, and that pulling tension can certainly be heard in Broom’s floating vocals and guitar crunch, in Taggart’s booming church-hall drums. And still, “Seed In Your Beak” and “My Left Hand” cut through the ropes of their contradictions as Laughing Fingers sway their way into the final seconds of the EP, and out into the sobering cold.
Stream the new tracks from Two EPs below, and keep scrolling for our interview with Broom. Some topics covered include the San Diego scene vs. the Brooklyn scene, writing in a full-band setting, and cryptomnesia.
So the last time we talked you said you were moving out to California. What’s that been like in terms of music and also in terms of how it compares to Brooklyn?
Yeah, I moved out to San Diego in August. It’s been a strange transition in some ways because there are too few all ages DIY spaces in the area (the Che Cafe at UCSD is the best, but hosting fewer shows recently), so I haven’t really found a scene in the way that I experienced the DIY community in Brooklyn. In BK, I could be at shows three nights a week, and see most of the same friends.
So would you say it isn’t as conducive in producing new acts that would want to play DIY spaces?
That might be the case. Then again, it’s possible I’ve only skimmed the surface. I hate to make broad generalizations, but yeah I’m learning why it is that DIY spaces are crucial: they’re so much more likely to take a chance on a new band, or a band from out of town, etc. I don’t have any “connections” in San Diego, so there have been fewer opportunities to play live and connect with other bands, etc. Whereas in Brooklyn, I was able to sort of hit the ground running because several people took a chance on us and were kind enough to add us to their bills.
Okay gotcha–that seemed to be the general vibe I got from you the last time we talked and I asked about how you broke into the scene a little bit. But you’re in a band out in San Diego too, right?
Yeah, definitely. I moved into my friend Derek’s house, and he left behind a full range of instruments. So I’ve been working on a new project, Holling, which is basically me, my friend Jeff, and my girlfriend, Briana. It’s a much different sound than Laughing Fingers, much more bedroom pop.
I see what you mean about the stripped down nature of it. It reminds me of the more dreamy vibe of the solo EP you were planning on releasing over the summer. Speaking of which, you said the new release would lie somewhere in between that solo project and the first Laughing Fingers EP, and I definitely hear that. But there’s also a sense of darkness that the two other releases don’t really have. Do you think that came as a result of working more hands on with the drummer on the new tracks?
Yeah, I think working with Ian on the new Laughing Fingers stuff had a huge impact on the songwriting process. Before Laughing Fingers I hadn’t been writing songs for years, and Ian is more classically trained than I am, so his insights helped us to craft them differently. That’s why the new EP is more of a single composition anyway. But I think the darkness of it can be attributed to the year I was having, the people around me, etc.
Yeah and the new tracks are markedly longer I find, like how “Seed In Your Beak” and “My Left Hand” just sort of run into each other and continue along the same idea. Was the goal to create a more cohesive sounding work, or did it just fall together that way?
We definitely didn’t have any conscious plan to make it especially cohesive, but the motivation behind the songs has a lot to do with the sort of spiraling train of thought I experience during anxiety, and there’s a sort of opposite or parallel I found in that when I find one riff I really like, I’ll trail off on as many variations as I can find, and I can’t really let go of any of them, so it ends up being a sort of mish-mash of variations on one or two riffs.
That sort of reminds me of the stream-of-consciousness approach of Fat/Bad History Month, just using one riff or idea to build this pretty seamless blend of ideas and riffs, which I think works incredibly well in these three tracks.
I appreciate that, really. Also, Fat/Bad history month was one of the bands that inspired me most this year… there’s a line in “Crutches” about listening to “The Future” on repeat.
Yeah, I really think that comes through in the music in a way where I can tell you’ve been listening to Bad History Month, but without ripping them off or anything. Do you find it’s hard to strike that balance sometimes?
I’m actually paranoid about it. I saw so many people this year whose songwriting was really unique and who inevitably left a huge impression on me. I’m constantly worrying about cryptomnesia because I spend so much of my time absorbing what other people create and until recently haven’t had as much of an opportunity to consciously unplug when I’m writing.
What are your plans for the future of Laughing Fingers?
With the release of the cassette, I’m hoping to play some shows on the West Coast. But I’m planning to cruise out to the East Coast in April sometime because I’d like to record another couple of songs with Ian. Hopefully, we’ll fit another Northeast tour in.
Two EPs will be released via Death Rehearsal on December 16.