ERASE ERRATA with the Numbers and controller.controller at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (September 9). $10-$12. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Erase Errata's one of those cutting-edge-of-cool hipster bands that bored me with their buzz before I had any idea who they were. It started with Kathleen Hanna, who casually name-checked the Bay Area post-punk quartet in feminist shout-out Hot Topic during Le Tigre's 2001 gig at Lee's Palace. Then a cutesy line drawing of Erase Errata's self-titled 7-inch showed up in the sketch of feminist necessities on the back cover of Le Tigre's Feminist Sweepstakes disc. A DJ pal of mine named Erase Errata's now out-of-print vinyl debut a major score in her Riot Grrrl-heavy record collection. Sonic Youth tapped the 20-somethings as tourmates and invited them to play 2002's edgy All Tomorrow's Parties fest.
I figured Erase Errata was one of those vanguard names to drop in a bar to let scenesters know you were in the know. You know?
Then I heard 2001's lauded Other Animals (Troubleman) and realized the underground hype was justified. All frenetic angles, awkwardly jagged chiming guitars, breathless yelped vocals and low-belly drums, Erase Errata combine the sonic complexity of Sonic Youth with Steve Malkmus-style cryptic lyrical barbs and the desperate soul Sleater-Kinney lost somewhere along the way.
Like local death disco squad controller.controller, the foursome of vocalist/lyricist Jenny Hoysten (who also fills in frantic trumpet bleats), drummer Bianca Sparta, guitarist Sara Jaffe and bassist Ellie Erickson make a kind of logarithmic chaos that could get even the most hardened folded-armed shoegazer on the floor.
With West Coast peers like Deerhoof and tourmates the Numbers rounding out the sudden surge of noise-rock outfits on the rise, you have to wonder whether the new wave of challenging post-punk signals a turn in the pop cult climate. Has the straight-up rock 'n' roll revival had its day?
"Everything's really cyclical, and it does happen in reaction to what's going on in the mainstream," admits bassist Erickson, who's juggling her cell while trying to change lanes en route to the San Francisco airport. "But I don't think our music is just reactionary. I mean, we're not doing this just because we don't want to sound like anyone else. We're doing it because we like the way we sound.
"It's just hard to have role models in music right now, because everything's changing so fast. So everybody's in a totally different position than a band two years ago would've been, because of the Internet and major labels losing so much money and indie labels having distribution problems. It's hard to figure out exactly how to make your band work, although Sonic Youth is an obvious answer, because they've been able to stay true and still make a living at it."
Juggling an anti-capitalist bent (check the title track on Other Animals, with its evisceration of how technology's making the human race "devolve") with trying to be a full-time band is one thing Erase Errata struggle with, says Erickson. They're still young enough, both chronologically and as a unit (the band formed in 1999) to be working out the kinks.
One solution emerges out of their collective writing process, which Erickson claims they maintained on their about-to-drop At Crystal Palace (Troubleman/Blast First) disc. The team spirit seems to pervade Erase Errata's entire approach; without her bandmates to back her up, Erickson's shaky answering questions about the new record and the band's musical philosophy.
"I just have no idea how a regular rock band works at all," she confesses. "I don't know if we're lazy or really thoughtful. I've always wanted to just watch some crappy modern rock band's band practice, just to see how they write songs. We've always written songs in this very specific collective way, and I'd be interested to see how other people figure their things out."