Blood on the wall with psychic ills and Don Vail at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Sunday (December 11). 8 pm. $10 advance. 416-532-1598.
The members of Brooklyn's Blood On The Wall might look like three fuds more accustomed to playing scratch lottery tickets than raucous rock 'n' roll, but appearances can be deceptive.
By day, bassist Courtney Shanks works at the popular Rejoice second-hand clothing shop she runs with her guitar-playing brother Brad, but on the nights when they hook up with former Ida drummer Miggy Littleton, they become the mighty Blood on the Wall, the hottest power trio in the whole hipster enclave of Williamsburg.
Of course, Blood on the Wall haven't always been able to sell out their New Year's Eve gigs a month in advance. In fact, for most of the five years they've been clanking around together they couldn't buy their way onto a New Year's bill like the Pitchfork 10.0 Anniversary Party they'll be co-headlining with Montreal's Wolf Parade at Chicago's Viaduct Theatre.
Clearly, things change when you become one of Pitchfork's "chosen" bands. All it took was a little gushing praise and an 8.1 rating for Blood on the Wall's crankin' Awesomer (Social Registry) disc and suddenly the hapless threesome were getting rock star coverage in the Village Voice, Rolling Stone and Time Out New York. The sudden burst of attention caught the group by surprise.
"I never paid much attention to the Pitchfork site," explains Courtney, taking a break from selling vintage denim and rock Ts. "It really wasn't until someone at our label said that Pitchfork wanted a copy of our disc that I checked it out and saw all these harsh reviews. I thought, 'Oh no, what if they don't like it?'
"I haven't really figured out what kind of impact it's had - I live in this weird little bubble with my cats and tea - but it seems like more people have been calling us up for things."
The Awesomer album - overseen by au courant producer Nicolas Vernhes (Fiery Furnaces, Black Dice) - lacks the obvious Modest Mouse and/or Neutral Milk Hotel signifiers that typically inspire high ratings from Pitchfork writers (Wolf Parade's Apologies To The Queen Mary got a 9.2), but Blood on the Wall make no secret of their Sonic Youth, Pavement and Pixies inspiration.
And since geeky record nerds love to play spot-the-influence, especially when it involves familiar 90s alt-rock moves, it was inevitable that Awesomer would be embraced by the dweeby subset who like to refer to themselves as rock critics. While Courtney insists that the songs of Awesomer were not recorded with journalist appeal in mind, she can understand the connection.
"I think it's because most rock critics have a lot of records, and we've got a lot, too. We're all music lovers and we listen to a lot of different stuff. I've got at least 1,000 records, but Miggy has way more, you know, just crazy shit like Moondog 78s and all kinds of old reggae singles.
"Actually, when I first met Miggy about eight years ago, he was selling records on Bedford Avenue, I mean right on the sidewalk! That was two years before he opened his own record shop."
The sudden rise in Blood on the Wall's profile has naturally led to more touring possibilities, which is now calling into question the future of their used clothing operation. There's an old saying in the shmatte biz: it's hard to sell furry pants in Brooklyn from a truck stop in Dearborn.
"Well, we're going to have a couple of buddies watching the store for us while we're on tour. We went on the road with Black Dice, and just being away for a few weeks was really difficult, so I'm not sure what's going to happen. Once this tour is over, we're going to need to sit down and figure stuff out."