“It cost more than our van,” says Dan Pantenburg of the making of the aptly titled Debt Sounds—Autonomics’ new record that’s due out this spring. “It's our most layered record to date and it was expensive as fuck for us to make as an unsigned band,” continues the three-piece’s vocalist and guitar player. “We financed the entire record working full-time jobs between tours.” Such is the state of music today—hustling to make ends meet while finding outlets for creative expression. But this is the life of a modern-day musician, and amidst the daily drudgery come packed dive bar and basement shows in their hometown of Portland, Oregon, and European tours—opportunities for the garage rockers’ punky energy to boil over, slapping you in the face with exuberant, tightly woven, two-and-a-half-minute pop songs. Their ability to get along under any circumstances—from absinthe blackouts in Prague to slogging through rainy days in the Northwest—is borne of a fraternal history together. In fact, drummer Evan Leikam and bassist Vaughn Leikam are twins, and the three gelled during freshman year of high school, jamming on and off or covering Metallica songs. Since their first official show in 2008, the trio have been a solid unit. Debt Sounds is the culmination of several year’s worth of material alongside freshly penned tracks. Entering the studio with a desire “to make something really dense and heavy sonically,” Rola Studios producer and engineer Dominik- Lukas Schmidt (Thanks, Giantree) frequently referenced early ‘90s classics “Dookie, Siamese Dream and Nevermind during the tracking,” Pantenburg describes. Both the rewritten and new songs burst forth from the record with a vital resolve and fuzzy, ‘90s rock vibe, thanks in part to mixing by Jeremy Sherrer (Modest Mouse, Gossip) at Ice Cream Party Studios and mastering by Pete Lyman (Weezer, Matt & Kim, Wavves, Best Coast) at Infrasonic Sound. “Superfuzz,” the record’s first single, is ready for a singalong with its classic Weezer catchiness and party hookup mojo, while the record’s other 10 songs teem with purposeful lo-fi punch and pop punk power akin to fellow Portlanders The Thermals. Carefully crafted simplicity, “We try to write music that's entertaining and bombastic throughout, from start to finish,” Pantenburg says. Debt Sounds achieves both, notwithstanding the reality that being in a band like Autonomics gives you license to be a mild degenerate. “You start to justify getting caught up in the nightlife when it seems like you have a purpose and the people around you are into the band or the show,” Pantenburg explains. “At the same time, you're trying to live and have relationships with people and be good to yourself while still having one foot in an isolating and often destructive lifestyle.” While “it can be really taxing emotionally and physically trying to do both, there's a hopeful side too—because of the joy you get from being able to write and travel and play music for people.” Whether you’re in a riotous indie rock band or not, you can likely relate to Autonomics’ highs and lows, which are both addressed on Debt Sounds. “People have creative sides to them and have to balance their financial and social lives around trying to be expressive in a successful way,” Pantenburg says. “We live in stressful times, but there’s definitely optimism in spite of that.” One look at The Beach Boys-lampooning artwork (and title) will tell you that Autonomics have a sense of humor. And one spin of Debt Sounds will let you hear the sound of Autonomics’ optimism.
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MGMT: Dominik Schmidt - Dominik@rolamusic.com