Shake 'n' bake

The raw post-grunge pop of Earthquake Party!
By P. NICK CURRAN  |  August 12, 2010


Earthquake Party! are one of the few bands whose sound lives up their name: shattering, blown-out, blissed-out, all-enveloping. On a Tuesday morning in their Allston practice space — a Tuesday morning! — the trio play with unrestrained mania. A smattering of power chords and rapid guitar articulations; rasped male/female vocals thrown over a keyboard that gets run through a fuzz pedal; drums like Nirvana-era Dave Grohl. It's all hard, fast, and infectious — the re-emergence of grunge music for a pop era.

"This music is like before everything, when you were an amazed child," says singer/guitarist Justin Lally. "It's like when you first realized you couldn't jump off a roof 'cause you'd hurt yourself.'"

That sort of innocence-based blind leap would be an apt summation of the Earthquake Party!'s growth over the past year. It began in the summer of 2009, when Lally met keyboardist/vocalist Mallory Hestand while working a retail job. The band fell together in a moment of inebriated inspiration.

"I was drinking in my room by myself all night, and I had just met Mallory," says Lally. "So I called her and was like, 'Have you heard the Vaselines? Wanna start a band?' "

Lally was obsessed with the simple ideas behind the Vaselines' songs, the fuzz and the giddy attitude of their songwriting, and the innocence rife with double entendres and subtle sexual undertones. He and Hestand have filtered that approach through their own fuzzy lenses, injecting two minutes of grunge power with years of pop influences. Hestand's harmonies on "Fast Girl, Slow Boy" float like Belinda Butcher's on My Bloody Valentine's Loveless while remaining grounded in their girlish charm. The one-two, Velvet Underground–style backbeat and general guitar evolution of "Brains" flow like a Television song — it feels like the moment you fell in love just before blacking out at 3 am. That's all a lot to digest in just under two minutes.

"I really just want to be loud," says Lally. "And to have my friends have fun."

Sometime last August, Lally and Hestand decided to throw a show — sans drummer, and for an audience of friends — in Hestand's basement. Former Wonderful Spells drummer Josh "J-Raff" Carasco approached the two before they played a note, and he got the job on the spot. "Justin counted me in before every song and I'd just play something. After the Spells, I was in a musical depression, I didn't touch my drums. I was just part of the band after that show."

Every time I talk with Earthquake Party! (who play O'Brien's this Saturday), they reiterate the idea of music as an expression of innocence or fulfillment of childhood dreams. "Feeling like you never have to grow up because of what you do is pretty awesome," says Hestand. "Because I think that's what everyone strives for anyway."

Not that they have delusions of grandeur. Hestand refers to living off ramen noodles and Nova Schin beer ($7 for a 12-pack, she points out). No, it's the utter dedication to their idea that makes their sound so compelling — especially live.

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