“Listen to that, man!” Craig Riggs, owner/operator of Allston’s Mad Oak Studios and lead singer of Antler, is beaming hairily over his mixing deck. The speakers in front of him are distended with wailing, thick-cylindered stoner rock, the sound of one of his latest production projects. “The guy can fucking sing! He slips out of tune just right, just skirts the edge of it and then comes right back.”
FOR NEIL: Nothing a Bullet Couldn’t Cure is the sound of hard-rock veterans turning inward.
“What is this? Pawnshop Kyuss?” sniffs Tim Catz, Antler guitarist, limping into the studio. (He’s just trod on a nail at his construction job.) “Riff-rock by the numbers?” He should know. Catz played bass in Sons of Kyuss, the most orgiastic tribute band since Sweet and Tender Hooligans. He and his band mates have been around, hoisted high by this trend, flattened by that one, fêted and ignored, gathering war stories along the way. Like the one about the time in Seattle when the Soundgarden bassist ran over the Nebula guitarist’s gear in his new truck. Or the visit to the LA office of legendary producer Ted Templeman (“like the Halls of fuckin’ Montezuma . . . layered with gold records”). Catz has been in Seka/Strip Mind (featuring Godsmack’s Sully Erna on drums), Honeyglazed, Bloodshot.
And now Antler, the brooding and keyboard-florid Yankee-rock sixpiece brainstormed together with Riggs after their previous outfit, the mighty Roadsaw, went into semi-retirement. “You don’t need a brain cell to do anything in Roadsaw,” Riggs says. His speaking voice is a cheerful shout, as if perpetually raised against some rock-and-roll din. “In Antler we’d like to think that the songs are slightly more crafted.”
“Roadsaw makes music that you want to get out to a club and hurt yourself to,” says the punctured Catz, beer in hand. “Antler is the record you listen to when you get home. When we’ve played a show, we don’t get on the bus and put on fuckin’ Black Sabbath. We put on Neil Young. . . . So now we’re playing what we listen to.” Catz is also the author of two fine books of short stories: ‘Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, about bodyshops and unregulated gene splicing in the backwoods of New Hampshire, and Hangover Palaces, in which a tatty young rocker staggers through his rites of passage in the big city. (Both books are published by Gato Loco.)
Antler’s second album, Nothing a Bullet Couldn’t Cure (out June 13 on Detroit’s Small Stone Records; the band play Great Scott this Saturday), is the sound of hard-rock veterans turning inward, away from the braggart chords and pumped fists of their early manhood and into beards, songs about loss, autumnal ponderings. Classic-rock tunes composed with ringing ears. Bassist Marc Schleicher, who in his time with Quintaine Americana metallicized the headcase blues lurch of the Birthday Party’s Tracy Pew, joined a year ago, and he’s made his mark. Album opener “The Gentle Butcher” lands on a murky, Bad Seeds–like chord and Schleicher’s bass line at once goes looking for trouble, roaming moodily around the rhythm until the guitars corral it into a riff that, played louder, wouldn’t be out of place on a Scissorfight album.