THE SITUATION On a recent Thursday evening, I'm at Pony on Capitol Hill with three-quarters of Grave Babies—vocalist/guitarist Danny Wahlfeldt, bassist Mitch Saulsberry, and drummer Keith Whiteman. (Keyboardist Tyler Robinson is absent.)
GRAVE BABIES With Thee Oh Sees, Total Control. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618. $10. 8 p.m. Tues., Nov. 29.
HOW THEY GOT HERE The band has only been back in town for a little over a month, after a six-week tour across the country. They tour in a van owned and driven by Whiteman ("I think we've got one more trip left in that van, and that's it," he says), use the Motel 6 iPhone app to find places to sleep, and share beds. "Once we start to hate someone, we move around until we hate them, and then we move again. 'I'm not sleeping with that guy.' That's how it works out," says Wahlfeldt. "Around it goes."
SHOP TALK Grave Babies' most recent release was the weighty seven-inch "Pleasures" b/w "Deathwish" that Hardly Art put out in August. Of the songs, for which Wahlfeldt writes and records all the instruments, he says, "They're about nothing. It's more or less nihilism, as I envision it." Grave Babies have a murky, hard-to-parse sound, and Wahlfeldt says, "We played with TV on the Radio in Vancouver, and people thought my mike was broke . . . I'm getting tired of people talking about the recording quality. They're like, 'This sounds bad, this sounds fucking blown-out' . . . People don't bitch about painters having a specific style."
"In my opinion, it's not that they can't hear it, they're hearing it in a way they're not used to," says Saulsberry. "They have a hard time adjusting to it."
The band's heavy sound has also gotten them frequently tagged as "goth," something Wahlfeldt didn't quite anticipate. "I just started recording it, and to me it sounded funny or exaggerated or bizarre or whatever. I think there's a lot of humor involved. It's really deadpan," he says. "Like in Pulp Fiction, when people die, it's funny."
"I bet Bauhaus didn't call themselves goth either," says Whiteman. It's not that they mind the tag, though—they're even running with it to the extent that their next release, a five-song 12-inch EP that will be ready next spring, is called Gothdammit.
BTW: Wahlfeldt, Saulsberry, and Robinson are all 28, Whiteman is 31. I ask him if he takes on a patriarchal role in the band. "He never spanks us or anything," says Saulsberry.
"Not unless Mitch is getting feisty," says Whiteman. "He likes to take up a section in the bed."
"You're a little bit of a bed hog," agrees Wahlfeldt. "But you are too!" he tells Whiteman.
"So are you!" says Saulsberry.
"Everyone's a bed hog," concludes Whiteman.