Flesh World's Jess Scott explains that there's more to Chris Isaak than his 1989 hit "Wicked Game." She and bandmate Scott Moore were obsessed with the crooner's early work when they were writing material for Flesh World's second album Into the Shroud.
"Isaak's first record Silverstone was named after his rockabilly band, and in my opinion, every song is a million times better than "Wicked Game." The band's guitarist James Calvin Wilsey was also like the American Johnny Marr," says Scott.
You could say that the real Johnny Marr has also had some influence on Flesh World. Into the Shroud, dropping September 8 on Dark Entries, is an album of dreamy pop melody and tense post punk that goes from brittle to exuberant, often in the same song.
Like Isaak, who is originally from Stockton, California, but is associated with the San Francisco music scene, Flesh World are very much a Bay Area band. It was at the San Francisco headquarters of legendary punk zine Maximum Rocknroll that Scott, known for her time in shambolic trio Brilliant Colors, met Moore, of the influential queercore band Limp Wrist. Though Scott now calls Los Angeles home, Flesh World remain a Bay Area band with drummer Sam Lefebvre in Oakland, and Moore and bassist Andrew Luttrell living in the Mission and the Sunset neighborhoods of San Francisco.
I first became aware of Flesh World from "A Sturdy Swiss Hiker," a track from their 2013 self-titled release on London punk label La Vida Es Un Mus. A buzzing and claustrophobic punk track it was belted out with a rough rawness. Scott agrees, when I suggest that that the new album, recorded with Jack Shirely at The Atomic Garden, in East Palo Alto, has a crisper and cleaner sound than the earlier songs. "I don't want to bring anyone down about the earlier recordings," she laughs. "But it was much more a one man operation garage thing. For this record Jack was mixing the record right before our eyes."
The location was also different. "East Palo Alto is very different from Palo Alto which is on the other side of the freeway and home to Google and Facebook, explains Scott. "We used to go down there from San Francisco . We'd leave at 7 AM and commute with all the tech workers and then you'd go across the freeway, and no offence to East Palo, but it's very different."
Though the recording and location may be different, the album retains a cold feel, the kind of music that is often described as icy. I ask Scott what she thinks of some of the adjectives that have been used to describe the band's sound. "I'm sure most bands don't want their sound to fit into a precious envelope, but I really do feel like that when it comes to Flesh World. It's really hard, sometimes I just say that I'm in a rock band."
The songs on Into The Shroud speak of an eclectic period of influence of different books, ideas, drawings, saints, stories, and aims gathered in the two year writing process since their 2015 album The Wild Animals In My Life. Themes include writer, advice columnist, and Dreamland actress Cookie Mueller, icon Billy Fury, and the writings and drawings of Jean Cocteau.
"Ship Him to Shanghai," one of the oldest songs on the record features Moore's pretty guitar that contrasts with Scott singing about maritime indentured labor in California at the turn of the century. "Getting 'Shanghied' was a real thing," she explains. "Drunks and vagrants were kidnapped and then drugged. They'd wake up on a ship bound for Shanghai. The song is a tongue in cheek way of wanting to get rid of someone in your life."
Another album highlight, that Noisey is premiering, is the closing "This Great Cheap Face." Listen below.
'Into the Shroud' is available September 8 through Dark Entries.
Catch Flesh World at these shows:
September 10 - Philadelphia at Boot and Saddle
September 11 - Pittsburg at Cattivo w/ Sheer Mag
September 12 - Columbus at Ace of Cups w/ Sheer Mag
September 13 - Louisville at Kaiju w/ Sheer Mag
September 14 - Bloomington at The Bishop w/ Sheer Mag
September 15 - Chicago at Thalia Hall w/ Sheer Mag
September 16 - Madison at The Frequency w/ Sheer Mag
September 17 - Detroit at El Club
September 18 - Ann Arbor at WCBN radio event
September 19 - Toronto at Baby G
September 20 - Montreal at La Vitrola
September 21 - Easthampton at MA Flywheel
September 22 - New Haven at Three Sheets
September 23 - New York City at Trans-Pecos