Nearing two years as a group, ATL-based Shouldies are soon approaching the release of their first full length titled :). Audiences have tasted :) through live performances, the post-funk of “Bed” (and its video, below, featuring photographer Maggy Swain), and from the ritualistic trance of early electro-punk single “Statue” (which WUSSY premiered in 2017). Each member provides different pieces to a well-laid table, though vocalist Yancey Ballard, guitarist John Pierce and synth Daniel Eberlein are by no means super-glued to specific instruments on this 9-song record.
“For me, I try to make the most out of playing little,” Pierce explains of his contributions to the minimalistic but lush layering of sounds. “I try to get the most expression out of the least amount of notes.”
:)’s newest material is the appropriately outro-oriented “Running”, a glimpse into the shape of Shouldies to come. Belting with bratty momentum, “Running” wells into an electro-damaged punk manifesto of radical queer proportions. Ballard refers to the song as an exploration of “body through different contexts, environment versus self”, a recurring reflection and personal affront for the vocalist/lyricist.
“Being a comfortable trans person, maybe just a person in general, in the South relies on destroying your environment’s influence on you, destroying the cis heteronormative design that constantly reminds ‘you are not one of us’, an idea that invaded my thoughts when initially coming out because I craved some sort of normality and understanding, not necessarily to be cis, just to be understood,” Ballard recollects. “So often the the trans narrative is ‘I was born in the wrong body’ with a binary narrative attached - I can’t relate. I was born with my body defined without question and then I was assumed this ‘wrong body’ role in transition.”
Like much of the record’s use of repetitive mantras, the lyrics are Ballard’s response to close ones who continue to misgender him years after being out. “A body in disguise, a body does not fit” speeds into furyful strength regardless of the social spectatorship and relationship disconnect around him. “Running” is a crescendo of declaration, Ballard finding his own measure of self-support and definition without approval from the cis regime.
The intensity of “Running” is supplemented greatly by the group’s growth as a unit. “This song showcases us refining our parts and using our instruments more effectively. With this song, personally, I finally figured out how to crack into more texturally dense noisy territory with the same equipment I’ve been using for the rest of the album,” Eberlein explains. “I have always been interested less in melody and more in texture and this song is a very satisfying excursion into that world.”
:) is a smorgasbord wielding wild cohesions through an oft times unsettling emotional rainbow of urgent energy. With Cleaners from Venus guitar moments, hoppy minimalistic ditties similar to Young Marble Giants and the warm lo-fi production of old school electro acts like Solid Space, :) is the hidden 2019 indie gem no one saw coming. Available March 22nd as the maiden voyage release of NEVERNOTGOTH, a subsidiary of Graveface (Xiu Xiu, The Appleseed Cast), Shouldies fits perfectly with the sub-label’s plans of darkwave reissues and contemporary indie projects.
Sunni Johnson is the Arts Editor of WUSSY and a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.