Kraut jams that rarely sound predictable, unimaginative or quite like anything else


Photography by Owen Richards


There are uglier words, but ‘repetitive’ is winning no beauty pageants either. For the most part, it belongs in the mutt pen with like-minds ‘slovenliness’, ‘inept’ and ‘poor planning’. No one ever says, “You’re going to love John, he’s so repetitive” or “I had a lovely chat with your sister the other day, it was really repetitive.” No, repetition is hard house and prison. It’s mindless and simple, like an isolated section of a factory line. Its end can never come soon enough, if only it would. In short, to be ‘repetitive’ is to be bori‚”zzzz [dribble].

With that in mind, Cold Pumas need another word to describe their music. Because while their relentless grooves bound forward, over and over, boring it ain’t. Like a stuck needle on an Abe Vigoda record, there’s beauty in this trio’s harsh, looping jams.

“I think the repetition thing just came from zoning out when playing something over and over and over again, that is what’s to blame,” reasons guitarist Dan Reeves. “We want people to go from liking something, to thinking ‘why are they still playing this?’, to then start zoning out with us. We all love it when you lock into a rhythm or pattern when you’re watching a band play, we want people to be excited and focused on stuff like that when they watch us. Also, that moment when you change a chord after ages of repetition, or drop in a sad bass note or the snare finally comes in – that’s the moment we’re always going towards.” Dan pauses. “That sounds like bullshit, doesn’t it? We’re into repetition because we’re lazy. And, although we LOVE repetition, we do also love songs, so hopefully there are some actual tunes in there and it’s not just three dudes infinitely jamming at each other.”

Three dudes jamming at each other it most definitely is. Live, Dan, bassist Oliver and drummer Patrick hypnotise each other, locking in mathy riffs, almost oblivious to onlookers. But to be an onlooker is a fascinating thrill, and in case you’re wondering Cold Pumas do also carry the tunes they hope for. New single ‘Altered Yeast’ is abrasively unapologetic from the off (no ambient, building intro to this kraut assault), but it’s never mindless. Sad bass notes do subtlety drop in, endless repetition does cease for a greater effect. And when you think you’ve worked the song out, just as repetition is looking like an ugly word again, HEALTH-esque zombie vocals arrive that you can’t make out. It’s far from predictable and derivative.

For Cold Pumas, making this danceable, aggressive music began in Exeter under a different name. Oh Hell No was a “more krauty” project; “a strictly-party-dance band” that played at friends’ house parties. “Cold Pumas started as a continuation of the ideas of Oh Hell No,” explains Dan “but soon found its own sound. We wanted to do something that was a bit darker but still very rhythmic and repetitious. It took us about a year of rehearsing before we were happy with the stuff we were writing.”

That year began in Brighton, where the band relocated to and are still based. Their new hometown is, as described by Patrick, “a funny place.”

“There’re a million bands in Brighton,” he begins “which gives the perception (it did for me anyhow when I moved here) that there’s a definite scene that is all encompassing, but there isn’t. There’re just lots of awful local bands constantly featured on the front of glossy local listings magazines who are supporting MOR indie outfits and playing terrible chillout festivals. There’re also a million venues too, but so many are terrible.”

“Brighton really lacks a place like The Cavern in Exeter,” continues Oliver, remembering where the band first met “which is a kind of central ‘hub’, for want of a better word, where pretty much all of the non-bland youth of Exeter go, and so you naturally end up meeting people who share your interests. Without The Cavern, Exeter, for me, would be devoid of anything interesting. The equivalent in Brighton are Sex is Disgusting shows, so hurrah for them.”

Sex Is Disgusting being the Teen Sheikhs-affiliated record label, Patrick and Dan agree with Oliver most strongly on three points; that Sex Is Disgusting throw the best parties in Brighton, that amongst the terrible chillout festival bands in the local areas there is also a handful of the most exciting bands in the country right now (La La Vaquez, Peepholes, Teen Sheikhs, The Sticks), and that Sonic Youth are their one collective influence.
“They’re the only bands we all like unconditionally,” nods Dan. “We take influences from different parts of different bands and sounds. Personally, I want our guitars to sound like Ex Models, our rhythms to ape ESG, !!!, Can and Gang Gang Dance, and our vocals to sound like The Beach Boys and Fly Pan Am.”

“There are two defining moments for me,” adds Oliver. “Seeing Ex Models play with Kid Millions drumming was the most mesmerising show I’ve ever been to. We were all pretty much in a trance by the end and it made me realise there was no need to be afraid of repetition, that it could be beautiful. And then the first time I heard Abe Vigoda, the sheer vitality and exuberance as well as a kind of frantic longing optimism to their music excited me more than any band has for ages.”

Fly Pan Am being the once experimental side project connected to post-rock collective God Speed You! Black Emperor, and Ex Models the avant-garde Brooklyn quartet responsible for 2001’s continually challenging ‘Other Mathematics’, these aren’t your usual points of reference. But Cold Pumas aren’t your usual band. Not unlike Sonic Youth, many different genres and ideas leap from their music. Krauty guitars, dance beats, math rock arpeggios, close vocal harmonies, experimental swathes of sound with unknown origins – they’re all in there somewhere, fighting to get out, over and over and over and over. Just wait ’til you hear it – repetition has never sounded so good.

By Stuart Stubbs

Originally published in issue 10 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2009

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »