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