How Much Noise Is Too Much? (An interview with Austin Smith of Triangle Rain Club)

Billed as a “music fan’s favorite band,” Chicago’s Triangle Rain Club melds the best of goth, shoegaze, post-grunge and indie rock. Their debut four-track EP, Close the Door, has a buoyant poppy energy, with lead singer Austin Smith’s deadpan baritone offering a poignant counterpoint to the biting, chugging guitars that drive the music forward. Their most recent single, “Upside Down,” builds on the vibe of the EP and would feel right at home on the soundtrack to any John Hughes brat-pack film.

Cool band name! Can you tell us about it? What does it mean? Where did it come from?

I read somewhere that David Bowie would sometimes cut words out of magazines and rearrange them to come up with lyric ideas, so I basically did my own version of that. People come up with all kinds of ideas about what it means but really I just thought the words Triangle Rain Club looked cool together (laughs).

They do! Who’s in the band?

The project is just me at this point but I do occasionally work with collaborators. It is a “band” in the sense that all the classic elements of a rock group (guitar, drums, bass, vocals) are present and represent the main focus of the music.

Looking at the cover of your first EP, I’m picking up a visual aesthetic that’s reminiscent of the Cure. How do they fit into your musical outlook? What do you like about them?

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of The Cure, both musically and visually. Their expression of darkness and existential themes is something I feel a strong connection to. I also appreciate that they have been able to change sounds throughout the years without losing the essence of the band.

Similarly, your cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” is impeccable, and “Upside Down,” though not a cover, shares a title with their first single. Coincidence?

Sonically, the Mary Chain is a huge influence. I like to think of myself as part of a lineage of darker music, from Lou Reed, to punk rock, to shoegaze, etc. The title of “Upside Down” is totally a coincidence, believe it or not.

Wow! I’m also hearing echoes of other acts associated with that era—Psychedelic Furs, for example, and Echo and the Bunnymen. What draws you to that era of music?

I am a fan of the history of rock music, but the late-70s/early-80s post-punk into the new wave era, like Joy Division, Television, Blondie, etc., seems so fun. Punk was venturing into pop and reggae and all kinds of different things that were really exciting. And then later in the 80s you start to see the emergence of early shoegaze sounds, which I love. You can draw a direct line from that to some of the stuff I do.

Yet there’s a contemporary vibe to your sound as well. What do you do from a musical standpoint to translate the sound of classics by the Cure and their ilk to today’s audience?

Of course I love the classics but I am also a big fan of modern music and try to keep up with new bands the best I can. I like to incorporate things from different eras, while taking them into a new direction.

Along those lines, I’m wondering whether Triangle Rain Club might be part of a larger scene – either locally or globally, or somewhere in between. What’s the appetite for your style of music?

I would consider Triangle Rain Club a part of the modern indie-shoegaze-internet-era scene (laughs). There are some really talented artists right now that are doing things on their own terms and growing their following through social media. There is a thriving shoegaze community online, especially on Twitter, that I have found to be accepting and inclusive, more so than in other scenes.

How do you connect with listeners to build an audience?

My favorite thing, the internet. It’s amazing that we’re able to have this conversation from different parts of the country, and that we can connect through our musical projects and help one another grow. Just talking to fans and other artists online can be really inspiring and keeps me motivated to keep doing this. The love and kind words from people has been more than I ever could have imagined when I first started this project.

You’ve said in the past that shoegaze is beautiful because it sounds like it could all fall apart but there’s also beauty in it. Can you say more about that? Fall apart in what way? And how does that tenuous nature contribute to its beauty?

If you listen to early shoegaze like the Mary Chain and my bloody valentine, there’s this balance between noise and pop melodies that feels really dangerous and appealing to me. Like how much noise is too much, you know? It’s always great to hear bands pushing the limits of sound.

In terms of recording, how do you maintain that magical balance?

Practice, practice, practice. I’m more or less always writing or recording something. Inspiration can hit at any moment so don’t be surprised if you see me humming notes into my phone’s built-in microphone (laughs).

Any plans for playing live?

I am in the process of putting together a live band and rehearsing but there is no definite timeline with it at this point. I like to take my time and make sure things stay at a fun level for everyone involved.

What’s next?

More music and more collaborations with cool people, I hope.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

Anytime, thank you for having me!

Austin Smith of Triangle Rain Club

No Rest for the Rockin’ – All About “Desperately Wanting”

“Desperately Wanting” is a new song by Brian Lambert and Marc Schuster. It sounds like:

  • New Order
  • The Cure
  • The Smiths
  • Echo and the Bunnymen
  • Roxy Music
  • Belly

You can stream it on all the major music platforms: Find Your Platform!

About…

After releasing a song a week for a full year, Denton, Texas, indie-rocker Brian Lambert had certainly earned himself a day off. But no sooner had he completed the final song of his 52-week song challenge than Philadelphia native Marc Schuster reached out with a collaboration in mind.

The pair had worked together earlier in the year when Marc contributed a synth riff and backing vocals to Brian’s song “Kids.” This time around, the collaboration would be more balanced. Marc had a track that needed a top-line—lyrics and a melody. If anyone could deliver, he knew it would be Brian.

Twenty-four hours later, they had “Desperately Wanting.” Reminiscent of music by the Cure, the Smiths, and Echo and the Bunnymen (with hints of Roxy Music and Belly), the song explores the human need for connection—and laments all the ways we feel to communicate when we need it most. In short, it’s a song for and about our emotionally fraught times.

Needless to say, the duo is very excited about the release of their song. In fact, Brian’s wife says it’s her favorite of his songs. Considering that he just finished writing and recording 52 other stellar songs, that’s really saying something.

As for the future, Brian and Marc have already started work on an EP together and are kicking around band names. Right now, the front runner is The Star Crumbles, an anagram of their surnames. With any luck, they’ll come up with something better before the EP is finished!

About Brian Lambert:

Based in Denton, Texas, Brian Lambert has reinvented himself more times than he can count, but his current indie-rock sound has been heavily influenced by a constantly evolving and rotating list of artists including Gang of Youths, the Replacements, and Spoon. He used to play gigs all over the Denton-Fort Worth metroplex, but took a break from gigging to focus on a 52-week song challenge that saw him writing, recording and producing mind-blowing new jams every week for a year.

Praise: 

  • “Lambert’s taken a step back to reshape at his own style, leading him to cozy up more to the likes of Grimes and Spoon than to the classic country folk acts he’s historically been compared to. That’s not to say that Lambert doesn’t still carry the standing of songwriters like Ol’ Hank and Dylan, but this new undertaking of indie rock is undeniably refreshing to hear, especially in this year of surprises and hard left turns.” – Jack Anderson, KUTX
  • “Fuzz-laden pop rock, that jangles in every conceivable place, yet still retains an air of languid melancholy… Lambert does modern pop-rock without frills and pretenses, just relying on his lived in voice and superb musicianship.” – Darrin Lee, Janglepop Hub
  • “Honing his craft Lambert – who has been compared to such artists as Tom Petty and Hank Williams – has been finding inspiration and writing songs since he was a teenager. Now, his blend of country, folk and rock has made him a fixture on the Texas music scene.” – Jessica De Leon, Denton County Magazine

About Marc Schuster:

Marc Schuster has been hanging around the fringes of the Philadelphia art and music scenes since the 90s. His projects are too numerous and obscure to mention, but recent highlights include the EP There Is No Down and the children’s book Frankie Lumlit’s Janky Drumkit. When he isn’t making music, Marc interviews indie musicians on his blog, Abominations, and teaches English at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA.

Praise:

  • “One of my favorite humans on the planet is Marc Schuster, who’s not only insanely creative and multi-talented, but also incredibly generous, funny and kind… Not only are his songs infectiously catchy, he has a wonderful knack for putting a youthful, often tongue-in-cheek perspective on everyday situations and problems many of us have faced at one time or another.” – Jeff Archuleta, Eclectic Music Lover
  • “If there was ever the perfect way to contemplate our place in the universe, then Marc Schuster’s plaintive R.E.M-meets-subtle-fuzz-pop, delivers it.”  — Darrin Lee, ​Janglepop Hub
L-R: Marc Schuster and Brian Lambert

Catching Up…

I love interviewing indie musicians on this blog, but I’m always wondering what my previous guests are up to. Here’s what a handful of them had to say when I dropped them a line to find out…

Saves the Witch: We recently decided to turn all profits from merch to benefit Ukraine.

The Smashing Times: We’ve been busy gearing up for the CA tour and we have a couple gigs coming up in the area. Between that and getting the LP ready we are pretty much living the dream. Not too much has changed since we last spoke, we are just putting those things into action. Zelda and I recorded some tracks last summer and I am considering releasing that. I also need to master the Midden Heap EP so we can have those cassettes when we get to the sunshine state. Everyone who has helped us out so far has been sooo amazing! Shout out to Brenden from Semitrucks and Britta and Stanley from Children Maybe Later. See you soon!

Megazillion: I just finished Megazillion’s debut album “Triple Phoenix” which now needs to be mastered. I spent a year and a half making it with the Secret Weapon on drums. Very excited!! You can expect a mix of rock, shoegaze, punk, doom, post punk, even a little electro. Hoping for a late spring release!   I will be making a few music videos for it as well. Not long after that I will be releasing an EP of acoustic guitar based ambient music. Very pretty, hypnotic and chill. Then a remix EP of my song “The Sea and We.”

Also, I am starting a series called “Low-fi High” which is going to be releases of experimental music I used to make with my old 4-track. I never really put any of it out besides one release and it’s a huge archive. Also, we will start tracking the follow up full length album with the more “song” related material ASAP, the drummer and I have about seven tunes we already play, plus a bunch of songs that need to have the layout finished and I got some beats that need vocals, might end up being enough for two albums. Find me on Twitter, IG, Bandcamp and YouTube! I have a bunch of videos and singles already available from 2020! Please check it out!

Eric Linden: I’ve got a new song called “All and Everything.” It’s a song about that thrilling feeling of finally having a breakthrough after years of searching. This is a really personal song for me. It was inspired by my wife, Jenner. I overheard her talking to her sister on the phone and she was so excited that her business was starting to take off that she could hardly get the words out. She told her sister “It’s all… It’s everything I’ve been working for all these years.” About two hours later I brought my acoustic guitar upstairs and played her this song. I could hardly get through it I was so emotional. I was so happy for her time to shine.

Jeff Willet of Table for 26: I’ve been busy planning for the next Table for 26 release! We’re recording (and filming) nine cover songs this time with an even larger string section, so it’s a huge endeavor but we’re already seeing some great results! I’m also anxiously awaiting the late-April release of a film by filmmaker John Welsh (Rare Light Media) that I scored, wrapping up the recording of drums and percussion for a video game, as well as continuing to make great progress mixing my own solo album!

Photo courtesy of The Smashing Times.