The Absurd are America's favorite rock band, based in Nashville and founded in Detroit. Their latest EP, NOX is out now and their third full-length will be out later this year. They'll be playing this Sunday July, 23rd at The 5 Spot and September, 14th at The East Room.
The Pamphleteer: What is the origin story of The Absurd — how did y'all start playing together?
The Absurd: Josh (the bassist) and I met when we were going to Michigan State. Actually, we had a mutual friend who told him that I was one of the other losers who opted to remain in town for the 4th of July. (All the cool kids had somewhere to go.) He wandered over to my apartment and threw rocks at my window until I woke up. Groggy and hungover, I pulled back my blinds to see him standing down there. When I opened the window, he yelled up, "hey dude, wanna take some acid and go watch fireworks?" And just like that, history was born.
I moved out to Colorado a few months later to focus on writing music and hone the craft, and he took an interest as soon as my songs started to be slightly less than awful. I knew that I wanted to move to LA to pursue music further, and he wanted to move out to LA to pursue a career in music, so he floated the idea of joining up with me to form a band. The songs are all folk/Americana, but we were both passionate about hard rock, so the early songs from The Absurd were essentially hard rock versions of folk songs I'd written before moving.
Once we had a poorly produced bedroom EP under our belt, we went about finding a drummer, which is an arduous undertaking when you don't have a reputation. Neither of us were particularly good at our instruments, but we could write cool stuff. After cycling through four or five drummers, we found Colin Jensen, which is who you hear on all the recordings. He was more of an academic jazz guy, so we had to go through some growing pains. (A jazz guy and two guys who can't play walk into a bar to play hard rock...)
We were relentless in the early years. Constant practice, constant honing of the craft, constant writing. We played as often as we could, which is a no-no in the LA music scene. After a few years of doing that, we finally had the sound down and the band sounding good. We understood how to light up a crowd and deliver a high-energy show. From there we started working on forming a local scene, which is where the initial buzz about the band got started.
The Pamphleteer: If I'm not mistaken, The Absurd relocated to the Nashville area from LA — how are you holding up being so far away from the beach?
The Absurd: We did indeed relocate from LA to Nashville, and we're extremely happy we did. I never cared much for the beach anyway.We were already entertaining ideas of moving away from LA when the pandemic hit (LA is not what it used to be), and once the lockdowns and insanity of all of that really took hold, we knew we had to get out. The draconian nature of all that stuff really just revealed LA for what it was: an authoritarian hellscape with a monocultural population of drones who all think and act alike. Outside of our niche that we'd carved and audience that we'd built, we were not loved by the rest of the artistic community there. And we enjoyed that. We enjoyed the punk rock nature of what we were doing, which was trying to buck norms and conventions and provide people with a different option for entertainment and art. But when the pandemic hit, it was pretty much game over there.
The Pamphleteer: What do you say to the claim I frequently hear that rock n roll is dead? Is The Absurd one of the last rock n roll bands?
The Absurd: Rock n roll is definitely dead in the mainstream, but who cares about the mainstream? There are tons of rock bands still doing it today, and a lot of them are starting to pick up steam. I can't think of a single person in my life who turns on the radio to find new, good music these days. It's all algorithms and playlists. And if you look to Spotify or YouTube or Apple or whatever, you'll find a ton of good stuff.
To me, the issue is that there isn't a consolidated audience for anything, so it's virtually impossible for a rock band to gain the traction of, say, The White Stripes or some other band from that last "big wave" of rock music. But if you look at the festival circuit (which is something we're having increasingly good luck trying to crack into), there are a bunch of bands out there playing rock music.
I will say that the rock n roll (or punk rock) ethos seems to be dead. Today's rock bands are more concerned with smoking weed and chilling out than they are with saying "fuck you" to today's increasingly lame and vanilla culture. In that sense, The Absurd might be one of the last punk rock bands, and we don't even play punk music.
The Pamphleteer: Your most recent release, NOX EP is excellent. What were the main influences behind it?
The Absurd: Appreciate it! To be honest, we got on and end of year list of albums when we were in LA through Heavy Metal Magazine or something like that for our album "The Sun Still Rises." One of our favorite bands, All Them Witches, had put out their album "ATW" that same year, and this publication ranked our album just above theirs in their top 10 list. We found that astounding and the publication ended up driving some solid sales for our album and our merch. At the same time, the online heavy/doom community was starting to give us some attention, so we decided to go in a heavier, more stoner kind of direction with the NOX EP. The result was the songs you hear, which have been some of our best-performing to date.
The Pamphleteer: Are y'all planning on releasing an album anytime soon?
The Absurd: We do, and it's slated to be released later this year. We're a little over halfway through mixing it, and it's going to be a little different from the previous releases. Personally I think it's our best work yet, but I'll leave that up to the listeners to decide.