Bad Shapes is a Philadelphia-based DIY rock band formed in 2018. Drawing influence from the experimental inventiveness of post-punk and the atmospheric elements of post-rock, Bad Shapes’ music seeks always to create commonality between discomfort and discovery. The result is a cohesiveness found between heavily effected guitars that shimmer and surge over driving rhythmic foundations, modulated synths that bounce and bend, and found-audio samples carefully deployed both in earnest and irony. Bad Shapes has described themselves as “The AV Club of Bands,” with a light show that mixes live video synthesis, oscilloscope, and glitched-out imagery to ensure that every performance is a unique audio/visual spectacle.
Bad Shapes’ self-titled debut LP is the manifestation of an internal dialogue, struggling with the highs and lows of indecision and self-doubt. This theme came through naturally for the band, as all four members have come from other successful bands across the states, and found their way to Philly to try something new. On the album, this tentative process of learning to make art with new faces is clearly presented through music. And visuals. The band has built its performances around lights, projectors, piles of TVs, and video synthesis; and this visual representation has become a core tenant of the album. This visual experimentation has become the bonding point of Bad Shapes. Where the band spent months trying to make decisions musically, they found they could achieve immediate satisfaction in creating textured, polychromatic visuals – there are no “bad shapes”.
In this setting of colorful scenes on their practice space walls – they always practice this way – Bad Shapes settled into their experimental songwriting style. You will hear this in the ethereal guitar effects across the album, and the found audio samples, appearing as narrator, or guide, at crucial points throughout. Even the song structures themselves lack predictability. This too comes from the lyrics, which often come across as more of a therapy session, and rarely repeat lines – this coming from the same honest self-doubt that inspired the album.
Honest is the word for Bad Shapes, both band and album. The lyrics are baring, attempting to show an anxious mind moving from doubt to certainty, sure-footing to spiraling. The feedback Ioop of negativity catches wind frequently, with the music supporting this through sudden dynamic changes and overtly repetitive phrases. It even comes through in the album art, in which you see Bad Shapes’ video feedback setup used for inspiration. You can see this setup in the full practice recordings that the band posts weekly, in which they show themselves as they are: artists learning to collaborate through honest, flawed improvisation in an audio/visual medium.
SELF-TITLED LP Released 2020.03.27
A blank canvas is a difficult place to start. I’ve found that if I do not give myself specific parameters when starting a creative project that I’ll never begin. Post-punk, post-rock band, Bad Shapes, agrees. Today, they released their self-titled, full length album that was created to fulfill a specific purpose. They are so committed to this specific purpose, that they’ve actually made it their band mission statement: to make music that invites the listeners to share in what is often destructive feelings of cynicism and self-doubt that individuals often punish themselves with and help create a setting to feel more connected, supported, and kind to oneself and others.” How fucking cool is that?
Bad Shapes formed in 2017 and consists of Peter Force on drums, Wes Harmon on backing vocals, guitar and synth, Mark Quitevis on guitar and Ben Taylor on lead vocals and bass. They met like most people do in these modern times; on the internet. Wes, Mark and Ben each started out playing with different bands all over the country, but all came together in Philly after connecting on Reddit and Craigslist. They released an EP in 2018, which, “felt like a nice ‘turn-page’ and start to our next chapter,” according to Mark. When they met Peter in late 2018, they got to work on their latest LP. Mark tells us, “ I think we can genuinely say that we’ve tried everyone’s ideas in the writing process, some successful/some not, but always mindful to try and execute what someone had in mind for a part.” Writing and producing the album has solidified this group of musicians into the truest form of Bad Shapes as a band.
The idea to create a mission statement came from Ben, “It seems like common sense that the band gets on the same page as to why we’re all doing this, but it’s not a conversation I’ve had with bands in the past.” I think about this all the time. This is one question that I am consistently asking every musician I interview: why do you do what you do? I think it is really admirable for a band to intentionally decide why they exist. And it definitely doesn’t hurt that that music itself is excellent. I’ve listened to this album so many times, and don’t get me wrong, i’ve thoroughly enjoyed the music every time. But as I am writing this during such strange times, I found a new appreciation for it today. When I first corresponded with the band, Ben told me, “we want to say, ‘Hey, we’re all kind of fucked up, right? We’re in this together” and it just feels so damn relevant right now. Now more than ever. We’re all connected right now in a way that is uncomfortable, unjust and sometimes difficult to discuss. What I really love about Bad Shapes is that they didn’t need a global pandemic to start talking about our shared discomforts. Listening to them today, while I am stuck inside for the 4th consecutive day, their music made me feel like I was on a road trip. I liked that. I think you will, too.
These guys were supposed to have their record release tonight. Since we cannot all be in a room together, Bad Shapes is livestreaming their record release TONIGHT at 7pm on Facebook. Watch here!
With all of the corona virus fears and precautions many businesses and venues around the country have been closing their doors. This has taken a huge toll on the music industry with bands all over the world having to cancel tours and shows. This is the time to come together and support musicians by streaming their music non-stop and watching live performances while we are on quarantine.
One group of musicians worthy of high stream numbers are Bad Shapes. The Philly based post-punk post-rock band’s music will hit home for fans of bands like DIIV, Muse, and Title Fight (all of TF’s albums combined).
The Bad Shapes’ self titled debut is out this Friday and there is a ton happening musically across this album for all rock fans to enjoy. Throughout my listens of the LP I was consistently impressed by the wide array of sounds and influences that have found their way onto this album. Pop punk, experimental, noise/drone, audio samples, break downs, build ups, and often math rock-esque guitar melodies all have a place somewhere across the dynamic highs and lows of these songs.
While all of these elements together may seem chaotic by description, Bad Shapes masterfully weaves them together for an unpredictable yet somehow calculated ten track LP. There is so much to like about this album. One of the things that really stands out to me are the variety of dynamics within individual songs. “BZE” for instance, starts hard and heavy; something to rush to the pit for. Bad Shapes will throw you for a loop when you get there (to the pit) and the song has suddenly given way to a vibey, elevator music type section. You turn to leave the pit and are almost immediately driven to return when the pounding drums and guitars jolt back in. By contrast “Pacer” starts low and soothing, gradually building to some full out jam sections and more intense vocals, eventually mellowing out with some audio samples. The attention to dynamics added a lot for something and made this an album that holds your attention start to finish. I have really enjoyed this album and I am confident many of you will as well!
Bad Shapes originally had a release show Friday at the Barbary, but due to the turbulent times it has given way to a Facebook Live Stream release performance. I hear the band is well versed in accompanying visuals so this will definitely be one that you do not want to miss. Follow the band’s Facebook page to stay up to date with band news and keep an eye out for the live stream. In case you can’t wait till Friday to listen to some new Bad Shapes music, check out their latest single “Cloisters” (leans more toward the experimental side) on Spotify or your platform of choice.
Bad Shapes is out March 27, 2020 – DON’T MISS IT!