There is a sort of band whose existence seems designed as a rebuke to those pernicious and persistent "rock is dead" thinkpieces—and the fast rising NYC outfit the Fluids are among the best of them. Founding members Mike Tony (rhythm guitar, lead screams) and Nick "Demo" DeMolina (keys, background yelling) first met as roommates at Fordham College, and—after chasing an initial shared dream of becoming iconic beat-makers— they kick-started the musical project during a "post-collegiate malaise" of "endless reality TV consumption," and trudging between their corporate day-jobs and their North Williamsburg, Brooklyn practice space.
Crafting a wistful sound that's an unabashed throwback to the alt-rock of yesteryear, the duo honed their unhinged anthems around Mike's speak-sing howl, without fear of getting caught up in the almost-too-obvious comparisons to Talking Heads, _Berlin_-era David Bowie, Echo & The Bunnymen, and others.
"I think a lot of that just has to do with my tone of voice—my lone tone of voice," Mike says about the welcomed associations. "When I started writing songs again, I was going for a 'What if Pavement covered Bowie?' vibe. I wanted to make short, contained pop songs with interesting structures that all kind of sounded distinct. My biggest fear is having someone go to a show and say 'well it's cool, but all the songs kinda sound the same.'"
Rounded out by core member lead guitarist Cooper Formant and current bassist John Paul Frank (also known as "Puppy"), the group linked up with co-producers Matthew "Pickles" Iwanusa, frontman of fellow NYC-based alt-rockers Caveman, and Nico Chiotellis to helm their debut LP No Kidding!, set for release on Oct. 27 via Axis Mundi Records. The entire set was recorded at Chiotelli's 66 Rivington Studios on Manhattan's Lower East Side in just 48 hours.
After dropping their raucous debut track "Creatures" earlier this month, The Fluids return with their second single from the set, "Sign N' Drive," premiering today via Noisey.
"This is one of our older songs, and it really came together once Cooper was onboard and came up with the lead guitar that pretty much drives the whole thing," Mike says. "Puppy's bassline gets people dancing. I wanted to keep things pretty sparse so I could let Cooper's guitar do a lot of the talking. I do enjoy the baseball references though. We should cover 'Center Field' by [John] Fogerty."
Below, Noisey caught up with Mike, Nick, and Cooper to discuss the group's origins, working with Caveman frontman "Pickles," avoiding "yo-pro" happy hours, why rock 'n'roll is forever, and why EDM sucks. And also rules.
Noisey: You pride yourselves as being the anti-clean cut Brooklyn rock group circa 2017—how do you think your sound fits into the current live music landscape in the city?
Mike Tony: I don't think it fits in very well at all, but it just might be what the people need. For a while it seemed that every band in New York was stuck in mud trying to be The Strokes. We adopted a 'no leather' rule very early on and have been money ever since.
Cooper Formant: Back when we all started playing shows we felt like we were the only band for miles that owned distortion pedals. Everyone was into really well-sung, polished 80s pop inspired stuff like The Smiths or Fleetwood Mac with moderate tempos and vocal harmonies. All the DJs played the same songs and everyone was singing "Africa" at karaoke or the like. Guitar solos were strictly forbidden unless they were really short.
What are your current day jobs?
Tony: I work at a production company, shilling everything from mashed potatoes to lube. I build up a lot of angst at work and usually take that out musically, so in a lot of ways, it's pretty helpful.
Nick DeMolina: I work in advertising and it hasn't hindered my musical ambitions at all. It helps fund them and the music thing gives me an excuse to leave work early and bail on "yo-pro" happy hours and stuff.
Formant: I'm a stay-at-home dad exclusively at the current moment. Bartending and bar-backing all night and then waking up early to be with the babies was insanity inducing and made playing music impossible. The occupations "rock musician" and "lead parent" both inform each other, I suppose. It's hard for me to separate the two without taking the me out of the equation. Life is a funny thing. Playing music can take you unexpected places. It can transcend norms. I think the same can be said about having children.
Tony: The fuck?
Your LP No Kidding! is out next month—how did the demos evolve in the process since they were first written?
Tony: These songs have been in the works—and have gone through many iterations—for the last couple of years. Most of them start as demos on my laptop, but they always really come together when we can jam it out. That's really where Puppy and Cooper make their presence felt. That's also where we, as Coop likes to say, 'cut the fat.' We have a lot more songs but these are the oldest and most ready to be birthed.
I've been told you have "the best pot"— what is your preferred method of smoking? How does cannabis effect your creative process?
Tony: Bong or bust. 2017 is all about efficiency. Pot definitely affects the creative process but we aren't exactly certain of how.
I know reality TV was a major influence in the project. What's your all-time favorite show?
DeMolina: The Bachelor because it's an American institution. I'm also a really big fan of the shorter-lived The Hero, hosted by the Rock on TNT. Utopia on Fox got cancelled halfway through the first season but that was pretty great. I guess Laguna Beach, just because I had a crush on Lo. But The Bachelor reigns supreme.
Tony: I actually think Bachelor in Paradise is the culmination of the franchise. Have always been a big supporter of Keeping Up With the Kardos [ sic_]. Desperately need to catch up on _Life of Kylie. I saw the 'London' episode and have a lot of questions. I'm also all caught up on Ballers. Don't print that.
Formant: MasterChef Junior and Aerial America, really choice Ancient Aliens type of shit.
You were recently featured on The New York Times "Playlist," did that make your parents/family proud?
Tony: I think you mean 'failing' New York Times. It was pretty amazing. I was sitting at work as the article came out. Couldn't read it because I had hit the pay-wall already that month. Lot of news to keep up with.
My family is struggling to deal with my massive ego so it's been an adjustment. For years when friends asked my parents "What's Mike up to?" they would respond with a weird of mix of, "he's working and uhhh playing music and uhhh living." So this has at least been helpful on that front. But really, they are all beyond proud and it's really cool.
What would you say to people that believe that rock is actually dead?
Formant: They said this in the 1970s when disco was invented and every decade since then. The thing about the guitar is it has been around for hundreds of years. It has been shaped physically by everyone that played it and all the luthiers and composers throughout the ages. It took literally hundreds and hundreds of years to invent the guitar and its modern incarnation-the electric guitar. It can't be brushed aside so easily for something that was just invented that has no rapport with humanity. I think something also about the guitar is although it may be amplified it is still human driven. The source of power is not just electricity it is the human heart.
You can hear our messy guitars all over this record and hear our touch traced in sound. It's our hearts beating fast and adrenaline pumping. It's like a fingerprint. Why would you want to take the human element out of the music? Rock is visceral music why create more miles of circuitry between us? Why deflect the touch? Why make music asexual? Is sex dead too? These are visceral times, motherfuckers. Fuck DJ or electronic driven acts. Do you think they will be mourned like Prince or Lemmy or David Fucking Bowie when they die because they could program beats and checked their email in front of large crowds of people?
DeMolina: Like we said, Cooper is old. I like Daft Punk and stuff. Also, doesn't EDM only exist for people trying to have sex as soon as possible with whoever is closest to them?
Formant: I like to think of myself as the Ben Franklin of the band. I don't have to try and pick up women at the club anymore so I am free to say Daft Punk is French trash.
DeMolina: [Their 1997 LP] Homework was cool I guess.
Nick Williams is a writer. He's on Twitter.