Track Work: Two Inch Astronaut, ‘Foulbrood’

By Lang Kanai

Silver Spring band Two Inch Astronaut says "Foulbrood" may be one of its poppiest songs yet.
Silver Spring band Two Inch Astronaut says "Foulbrood" may be one of its poppiest songs yet. WAMU/Lang Kanai

Discussing the story behind his band’s name, Two Inch Astronaut frontman Sam Rosenberg has two versions of the truth: In one telling, the name subtly references Tom Robbins’ novel Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. In the other, it nods to a side effect of space travel: A two-inch elongation of the spine that can occur when a person is subjected to the weightlessness of space. Rosenberg prefers the latter.

Listen to the Silver Spring trio’s 2013 LP and you, too, might feel a little stretched: the experimental Bad Brother packed in abrupt shifts in rhythm and melody, snaking through a succession of distorted, percussive wormholes. The band might eschew the rock-criticism cliché “angular”—“What does that even mean?”, Rosenberg asks, grinning—but it’s not a bad adjective for the hairpin turns and unexpected tonal shifts on that 2013 release.

foulbroodThe band jokes about what its sound could be called, throwing out monikers like “angular spaz rock,” “spazzy math rock” and “post-feelings indie.” Rosenberg says, “It’s a balance between being earnest when asked about the type of music we play, but also not wanting to get pigeonholed into a small box.”

Bassist Andy Chervenak (who recently replaced Daniel Pouridas) says “Foulbrood” might be the most accessible song from the band’s forthcoming LP by the same name, out Nov. 25. Laughingly, he calls the track an “ass-kisser.” He’s not completely joking: The song is polished, and it follows a melodic thread unlike some of the more acrobatic songs on Bad Brother. But drummer Matt Gatwood insists that “Foulbrood” still sounds recognizably like Two Inch. The drums still crack, and Rosenberg’s vocals, while bright at times, sound ringed by edginess. The hopeful notes that dot the track fade into memory by the song’s moody end, which leaves its ideas weightless, suspended in space.

On the new album, the trio says to expect a more grave, patient sound, born from a developmental and productive year as the band grew as songwriters and joined Exploding In Sound Records, whose roster includes Speedy Ortiz, Krill and Pile. When Chevarek joined the band, he lent a fresh perspective, Rosenberg says, “because Andy really has a knack for seeing the whole picture.”

For those of us still on Earth, the astronauts’ new album could bring that picture into sharper focus.

Two Inch Astronaut plays Oct. 21 at The Beehive.