Fury Things are not revivalists. Sure, the Minneapolis rock trio are carrying on the loud and proud indie tradition of the Twin Cities’ illustrious musical past – even being personally selected by Bob Mould himself to open for his band at his old stomping grounds, the 7th St. Entry. Fury Things are taking that untamed, raucous sound in a thoroughly modern direction — and they are doing it better than any other local rock band at the moment.
The title of their debut LP, VHS, may evoke a simpler, analog time long before Netflix and smartphones, but the nine fitful songs on the record sound thoroughly of the moment. There are just enough underlying echoes of power-pop’s past to reveal the band’s myriad influences, but they’ve added their own roiling twist on the past three decades of garage rock and made a combustible yet utterly catchy sound that is entirely their own.
Singer/guitarist Kyle Werstein began writing the tracks that constitute VHS in the summer of 2014, just after graduating from college. The songs teem with the boundless possibility and uncertainty that comes with that final, unsteady step into adulthood. Despite having a series of well-received EPs under their belt, Werstein’s celebratory milestone helped him refine and focus his artistic voice. “The writing process for this album was very effortless for me, since, for the first time, I felt like I actually had something to say,” Werstein admits.
The trio – rounded out by bassist Devon Bryant and drummer Andrew Carson – holed up with engineer Jonny Records in their familiar Northeast Minneapolis recording space (Acrylic Fabricators Corporation) and banged out these spirited new jams over the course of one productive weekend, with the intention of releasing them as their third EP. After hooking up with Tom Loftus of Modern Radio, they decided to expand the release to an LP, and put it out on vinyl on Loftus’s venerable local label.
“We had five songs that we’d imagined as the EP, and two that we saw as a standalone single,” Bryant, who also mixed the album, explains. “We reorganized the track listing on the spot, and I created a sound collage interlude for the end of Side 1 by layering every second of the recording session in which we weren’t recording a song.” The results are an assured, urgent statement by a well-seasoned band that has been building to this moment for three long years now.
Fury Things pummeling, boisterous arrangements drive a majority of the 29-minute album, with the angsty and alienated “Silence Is OK” giving way to the guitar-fueled pulse of “Honest” and the melodic, Sugar-like crush of “Shakes.” The standout is the rowdy “Bruised Fruit,” which anchors the middle of the record, and comes across as Hum tying a rope to the back of Shoegaze’s bus. But layered underneath these animated numbers are reflective, searching lyrics, with Werstein trying a different approach to his songwriting this time out.
“VHS is different than our other releases in that most of the songs are written from a deliberate first-person perspective,” explains Werstein. “Until I started writing VHS while navigating the fog of post-college life, I would abstract my experiences to avoid writing about myself because I felt at odds with my own identity and importance. I still feel that way, but as I started writing the lyrics to these songs, I felt more confident in speaking specifically about what I was experiencing at that particular moment in time. It became therapeutic and cathartic. So VHS as an album is kind of my way of making peace with a number of personal demons, and all the songs on the album deal with that in a different way.
That genuine self-reflection and creative maturity is rare in a 23-year-old, as is his musical gifts, which are augmented by the estimable talents of Bryant and Carson — who Werstein affectionately describes “as much my big brothers as they are my bandmates.” That easy camaraderie permeates all of the material that Fury Things have released so far, and their creative partnership truly gels on the new record. And the band couldn’t be more excited to finally put out a vinyl release of their work.
“I’m just really proud of VHS,” says Bryant. “I’ve been making music since I was 12 or 13 years old, but not until this year was I ever on a piece of wax. Being a vinyl collector myself, I have to say that all of the records I made before didn’t feel as real. You can pick it up and look at it, and it’s big and physical, nobody can deny that it’s actually there in your hands! MP3s have no weight; they just drift past your ears. But a record you have to interact with, touch, flip the sides, take care of it, and clean it. It takes on more of a life and a character than it would just living in the digital world.”
The band isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon, with an album’s worth of songs recorded with Ed Ackerson at Flowers Studio set for release sometime in 2016 as a follow-up to VHS. On Saturday night, at least, they are taking a well-earned moment to celebrate all of the hard work that went into their full-length debut – a record that has been a long time coming, but one that emphatically proved to be worth the wait — with a release show at the Triple Rock Social Club.
“VHS is kind of a huge culmination of who I am as a creative individual,” says Werstein. “I’ve always taken great care in cultivating our visual identity and to see this record in-person – that I made with two of my best friends – is like seeing hundreds of hours of work finally pay off. We’re all really proud of how it’s turned out.”
Erik Thompson is the clubs editor at City Pages, and a freelance music writer in the Twin Cities.