Of all the Chico bands Arts DEVO could be asked to help write a bio for, XDS is probably the one for which I’m most qualified to do so. I’ve been friends with the players and a fan/tour mate/one-time recording engineer of/for the band since an earlier version called MeYow was making circus noise more than two decades ago.
XDS has a new recording, Bicycle Ripper, out now on Mt.St.Mtn. Records (also home to Chico’s The Wind-Ups), and they are celebrating the release (available at mtstmtn.com) with a new video and a release party June 1 at 8 p.m., at Argus Bar + Patio (with friends Scout, Oakland’s Fuckwolf and DJ Aloexvera).
Here’s the bio the band and I wrote together:
It started in a cafe in Chico, California, with a flier, covered in glitter, wires, feathers and assorted melted items, with a three-word advertisement: “Noise person wanted.”
It wasn’t a sign. It was a sample. A tiny piece lifted from the visionary environment that the band XDS would continue building over the next couple of decades, hoarding an eclectic stockpile of collage materials/influences/approaches for assembling psychedelic dance-punk jams played with homemade instruments, blown-out samples, off-kilter drumming and dub baselines.
Shoko Horikawa had come from Japan to (the small, music-crazy college town) Chico for school, and responded to Jesse Hall’s mysterious flier and a pitch to collaborate on making interesting sounds. The partnership would end up featuring her syncopated polyrhythmic drums alongside his vocals (through a duct tape-and-PVC-pipe mic) and custom-built Guitar-o-bass, plus synths/samplers and various noise-making devices. The two-piece Experimental Dental School eventually morphed into XDS as the duo moved the operation from Chico to Oakland to Portland and back to Chico, touring the world (playing alongside the likes of Deerhoof and other innovators) and releasing 11 recordings (on Cochon Records, German label TCWGA, etc.) as they went.
On the new XDS album, Bicycle Ripper, the band’s genre-bending roots are as deep as ever, but the goal now is to be less “noise” people and more “fun” people. The songs are weird yet cohesive, with jittery grooves and inventive hooks.
Throw a dart at the album and hit “Hot Panther, Cold Moon” for one random sample: an unrelenting fuzzed-out bass dances with insistent drums; a sharp turn into sparse tin-can-guitar break; then a return to the dance floor with a bonus overdriven bass riff and full-throttle drums. The Panther stays hot whether she’s under the “hot hot sun” or the “cold cold moon.”
It’s all very irresistible and, yes, really really fun.
This month, my wife and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary of marriage. All I need to say here about this is, look at this picture of Connie Cassidy, sitting outside a cafe in Rome, Italy, just as a parked car on the street turned on its headlights to illuminate just how lucky this guy is.
La dolce vita con un bella donna.
Happy anniversary, beautiful.