Throwaway Style: Versing Finds Indie Rock Peace on Nirvana

Photo by Bebe Labree Besch

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.


The term “indie rock” has always been a bit of a non-starter. It’s a phrase you can throw out in conversation and people will nod their heads and understand what you mean if it the term doesn’t really mean anything. Sure, it’s meant to represent “independent rock,” but what does “independent” music sound like? It’s both the beauty and the frustration of the genre — ambiguity. Nerds who run music columns on blogs (ahem) will tell you its roots date back to college radio bands like R.E.M. and Pavement, but you can follow that lineage to today where bands on major labels use indie rock genre tags and the whole concept goes out the window.

I’ve wrestled with this idea for a while, always hesitant anytime I use the term and know people who won’t even use it. But let’s put semantics aside for a second. Let’s talk about that indescribable “something” that everyone seems to understand about indie rock. My theory is that indie rock isn’t really a hard line genre — it’s a feeling. You most feel it the first time you hear it. There’s a certain resonance in the way the guitars clamor or the effect in the voice of a vocalist that feels unknown and exciting. Listening to Versing‘s debut LP, Nirvana, I get those same feelings all over again.

A Seattle band naming their album Nirvana may seem a little surprising at first, but I think it’s maybe the most “Seattle move” a band could do. If you wanted to group in grunge (another disputed genre tag) with indie rock, the title offers some semblance of a lineage going on. In an alternate universe, it’s not hard to imagine Kurt Cobain naming an album “The Sonics.” But more than just a possibly coincidental shared name, the title Nirvana aptly captures what this music feels like. Throughout the fever of crunchy guitars clashing into each other and Daniel Salas’ speak-sung vocals, there’s a certain bliss that transcends it all. In a statement to The Grey Estates, Salas describes wanting to “make an album that I’d want to listen to on my walk to work” and the futile optimism that comes with that task and also is reflected in the music.

“Futile optimism” might actually be a better descriptor than indie rock for the genre. It’s this feeling of “I’m not sure what the point of all of this is, but do you wanna go jam in the basement and make some cool shit?” That spirit is felt immediately on Nirvana, opening with the familiar sound of feedback before a manic swirl of drums and guitars tumble in. Salas’ staccato melody echoes the monotony of everyday life, before erupting into a chorus that you can’t help but shout along to. “It’s hard to avoid the places you love, going back where you first felt it all start to go wrong,” he then sings on “Body Chamber” before a psychedelic solo rips through a wall of fuzz. This record feels like a homecoming of sorts. Not to a place, but a feeling. It’s that spirit of hearing a sound that feels like all those unknown emotions brewing in your gut. It’s an emotional release.

Pavement once said, “You can never quarantine the past.” (Yeah, we’re going there). Versing may have elements that sound like their indie rock fore-bearers, but they’ve made it feel fresh and new again on Nirvana. There’s some emotional note being expressed here that’s transcendent beyond just some musicians jamming on riffs. Futile optimism or indie rock, whatever it is, Versing has it nailed down.

Nirvana is out tomorrow via Help Yourself Records. The album is streaming in full now over at The Grey Estates. Stream the singles below and pre-order the album via Bandcamp now. You can catch the band playing the album in full tomorrow night at Black Lodge with So Pitted and Table Sugar.

New and News

Cock & Swan Announce New Album, Share “PERG (Honing)”

Seattle’s Cock & Swan have steadily been releasing some of the most compelling electronic music in the city with a healthy dollop of cinematic drama. After releasing last year’s Splurge Land soundtrack, the band are back at it again with their upcoming full-length Dream Alone, out Nov. 3 via Hush Hush Records. On the LP’s first single, “PERG (Honing)”, they’re at their most propulsive and sinister with heavy synthesizer bellows that rattle your eardrums — in a good way! Check it out for yourself below.

 

Baywitch Performs with MIPoPS Footage for Puget Soundtrack

Baywitchs beastly take on surf rock is awe-inspiring on its own, blending “fun in the sun” with “get out of my way” expertly. Now they’re putting these sounds to even more good use as they prep to perform at an upcoming Puget Soundtrack event at the Northwest Film Forum this Saturday. While Puget Soundtrack typically pairs bands with movies, Baywitch will instead be providing the score for archival footage from Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPS). It’s sure to be one of the most unique Puget Soundtrack’s yet. Get your tickets now.

 

Richie Dagger’s Crime Share Video for their “Steppin’ Out” Cover

Who knew how much we needed a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out”? The project led by Richie Nelson, a Chicago native transplanted to Seattle, loves to experiment and this is one of his most compelling yet. Earlier this week he premiered a video for the cover on City Arts, creating a wonderful mix of his version’s vocoder longing with stunning footage of Seattle at night. Watch the video below and vibe out to your delight.

 

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

Sept. 29: 25 Years of the Old Fire House Part I featuring The Velvet Mornings, Rocky Votolato, Whitney Ballen

 

 

 

Sept. 29: Real Art Tacoma Two Years Strong Anniversary with Lo’ There, Regress, I’m Not Me, and SLOG

 

 

Sept. 30: 25 Years of the Old Fire House Part II featuring LocoMotive, Kung Foo Grip, Naked Giants, and Triumph of Lethargy Skinned to Death Alive

 

 

 

 

Sept. 30: DoNormaal, Wolftone, RVN, AJ Suede, Brakebill, and DJ Ghost Tooth at Hiawatha Art Lofts

 

 

 

 

Oct. 2: So Pitted, Winter, Sundae Crush and Señor Fin at The Vera Project

 

 

 

Oct. 5: The Spider Ferns, Natasha Kmeto, and R-Pal at Re-Bar

 

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