Track Work: The Effects, ‘Blister’

By Ally Schweitzer


Devin Ocampo has a name for the speedy, rip-roaring songs he likes the most.

“I’ve always called these types of songs ‘barn burners,'” says the D.C.-based guitarist, songwriter, engineer and drummer. That’s why his new band, The Effects, made its recorded debut with its own barn-burner last week. The song is called “Blister,” and it aligns precisely with Ocampo’s definition of the term: brief and intense—but with one foot planted in melodic songcraft.

“I don’t think there was ever a question that it was going be the first thing we wanted to drop on people,” says Ocampo, 40. He wanted to make a strong impression right away for a band that’s only been playing together—in various forms—since late 2013.

But Ocampo may already be a familiar name in D.C. rock circles: He’s played in Faraquet, Smart Went Crazy, Beauty Pill, Medications, Deathfix and alongside Mary Timony. When he plays guitar, he imparts a bracing and distinct brand of noodlery. It’s a sound that’s inseparable from D.C. indie rock of the ’90s and aughts, and Ocampo has never completely stopped playing it.

“I would say that [The Effects] is a continuation of the same sort of work for me. The songs that I wrote for a rock-trio format I think all have a certain consistency to them,” Ocampo says. “One could make an argument that I could have called it the same thing the whole time.”

The Effects—which includes drummer David Rich (ex-Buildings) and bassist Matt Dowling (Deleted Scenes)—isn’t even Ocampo’s only band right now. He also sings and plays guitar in a fourpiece called Warm Sun with his spouse, Renata, and D.C. music vets Basla Andolsun and Jason Hutto. That band just played its first show last Sunday. But Ocampo seems committed to making The Effects a serious gig.

He plans to do that by recording, then releasing, only a dribble of Effects music each month for a year. The band dropped a digital version of “Blister” (without its B-side, “Old Soul”) on Sept. 1. Next month, “Blister” will be retired from Bandcamp, and the band will upload a new track. Each digital song will also get a cassette release. In the end, the band will probably put it all on an LP—but that doesn’t seem to be the first thing on Ocampo’s mind.

“We just sort of want to keep things interesting and moving forward,” the musician says. “I’ve put out a lot of records doing the whole normal album cycle, where you build up songs and you take six months to write them, and then you try to get financing to get into a studio… then you drop this big weighty thing that you’ve spent all this time on.” He says that people don’t all consume music in album form now, so why follow that old formula? “We’re trying to do all singles, no filler. That’s been our motto.”

Not that listeners should expect a relentless campaign of barn burners from here on out.

“The band has a lot more to say,” Ocampo says. “We do have a lot more nuance in our music. But I thought [‘Blister’] was something to kind of hit people over the head with.”

The Effects play Rock & Roll Hotel with The Life & Times and Tone on Sept. 14. They play a “Blister/Old Soul” release show at Comet Ping Pong Oct. 18.