With its new EP, New Blues, D.C. garage-rock band The Tender Thrill isn’t proclaiming to hit the reset button on blues music, or embark on some new interpretation of the form. New Blues just refers to the bummer du jour.
“It basically just means new things to worry about,” says singer and guitarist Brian Faust. “Every day you wake up and you have something that you’re kind of obsessing about, feeling bad about, ruminating on.”
The Tender Thrill seems especially fond of ruminating on loneliness. Several of its songs find the band yearning for some connection—or, at least, an alternative to prowling the Internet. Take “Katy P,” one of the tracks from the group’s 2012 debut LP.
“That song was about Katy Perry. But it was really kind of more of a masturbation song. Which is actually just a song about being lonely when you really get down to it,” Faust says. “I guess you can get to a point where you’re so lonely that all you really have is looking at pictures of other people online.”
The repetitious nature of obsession also finds its way into The Tender Thrill’s simple song structures, which borrow liberally from the blues and a few of its more recent offshoots. Faust cites Suicide, the highly repetitive protopunk band, as a primary influence.
“Basically their whole thing was consistent repetition all the time,” Faust says. “That was the basis of getting together for us.”
The Suicide influence shines through on “Serena,” one of the most immediate, quick-tempoed songs that The Tender Thrill has released so far. Like a few of the band’s tunes—“Katy P,” “Geena,” and EP cut “Ally”—it’s another one named after a woman. The emotional territory is also familiar: pining, particularly for someone to share the couch with.
“‘Serena’ is not based on a particular person,” Faust says. “It was kind of another song about being lonely and wanting someone to come over and hang out.”
The New Blues EP came out Tuesday on Bandcamp. While it’s online-only and label-free—unlike the band’s 2012 record, which had a home on local imprint Cricket Cemetery—it’s a pro studio recording, helmed by TJ Lipple at Inner Ear. That professional touch brings out some elements that sounded caked in grime on the band’s debut LP. Faust says Lipple spiffed up Jake Cregger’s drums (fine-tuned to emulate the skins on Bruce Springsteen’s The River, Faust says), as well as Faust’s vocals, which sound sharper and brighter. On “Serena,” Faust goes wild, hooting and yelping—all in the name of persuading someone to come chill at his place.
It’s hard-charging, near-primal, and The Tender Thrill’s proudest achievement yet, says the frontman. Could we expect more like this from the band? It sounds possible. “I think we’re really proud of that song,” Faust says, “and it’s a direction we like going in.”