By Justin Vellucci
Pittsburgh Current Music Writer
The new TRVSS song “Malaria” is as infectious as its title indicates. Of course, it falls seven songs into the trio’s second LP – “New Distances,” which the band is self-releasing July 31 – so the spell has already been cast. If you haven’t been converted by then, well, there’s just no hope for you.
The song starts with wiry asides from an aluminum-necked guitar and, then, after a quick count-off, we’re pushed headfirst into the mosh-pit, rhythm section providing a scathing backbeat to the Apocalypse as frontman Daniel Gene II’s roars almost seem to max out the mics on which he’s recording. (Eli Kasan of Pittsburgh indie-rock band The Gotobeds provides guest vocals, for those keeping tabs.)
“With one foot off the edge of hysteria/ you can’t play host if there’s no carrier,” Gene shrieks. “When less is more, then the more the merrier/ She’ll kill me first but only if I bury her.”
With lyrics as acidic as this – never mind opaque titles like “The Ventriloquist Always Has the Last Laugh” – you’d never paint an accurate picture of the three guys behind TRVSS: a group of carefully spoken Pittsburghers just enjoying making music together.
“Even playing in local places, I say ‘This might be the only time I’m seeing these people in this room,’” drummer Neal Leventry, a welder and father of two by day, tells the Pittsburgh Current. “And if all I can do is play as loud as I can and that can mean something? For that, for me, I give it my all.”
Don’t think for a second, though, there’s no science behind it, no method to the madness. TRVSS returned for New Distances to War Room engineer Matt Schor, who recorded the trio’s incredible 2019 debut, Absence.
There, the similarities end. Though there are echoes of noise-rock’s rusted-nails-on-chalkboard ethos on the debut, the new record is sonically richer, with a more robust low end from bassist Jake Pellatiro and sonics that, overall, make you feel like the band is exploding inside your head. That’s because TRVSS went in with almost a fresh slate of new equipment, as well as some ideas they had tinkered with about the best way to capture their signature, eardrum-splitting sound.
“I feel we’ve come into our own in ways of writing together and [New Distances] is more of an accurate representation of the three of us,” Pellatiro says. “I love how it sounds. It’s much more true to the way we sound when you’re at one of our shows.”
Gene is modest, sometimes even self-effacing, about his approach to music. But he is a careful student and the way he attacks his Bastin aluminum-necked guitar – he jokes it’s “completely Frankenstein’ed” out of parts of other guitars – owes debts to great noise-rock and post-hardcore guitarists of past eras like Steve Albini, Duane Denison and former Pittsburgher Ian Williams of math-rock gods Don Caballero.
“We tried a couple more things on this record and we all essentially had new equipment,” Gene says. “Things fell into place, in terms of getting a little bit of a different sound.”
The biggest downfall of the record, you ask? The fact that TRVSS – curse you, COVID-19 – won’t be playing a live show to celebrate the release. Don’t fret, though. When Allegheny County went status green earlier this summer per Gov. Wolf, the band started practicing once a week after a plague-inspired hiatus.
“[Songwriting] comes really easy to us – there’s not much of people just sitting around, dicking around,” Gene says.
“We actually already have a new five-song EP written,” he added, laughing.
To that we say: God bless us, everyone.