It’s no secret that surviving as a musician is tough these days, but let’s not pretend like it wasn’t before this whole situation began. Being at the whims of record companies, fighting day to day for every scrap of exposure you can get, and feeling like there’s no way to make it unless you’ve already made it have been symptoms of a larger problem in the industry for a long time now, but Theyrgy are attempting to fix these problems and put out some killer shoegaze-inspired post punk at the same time with their debut EP Exit Strategies.
Theyrgy hail from the great city of Chicago (you know we love a hometown crew here), and even though this is their debut EP, the band is made up of veterans from in and around the local scene. The tenure that these musicians have had is part of the reason behind Theyrgy. Not only did they set out to start a band that combined various aspects of post-punk, shoegaze, industrial and post rock, they also started their own label, Dead Sage, where they could release their music and the music of their fellow Chicago contemporaries (including sludge giants Lair of the Minotaur). Says the band, “Dead Sage is the result of our collective frustration with the state of the music industrial complex. We seek to enable organic, creative endeavors by providing a platform that can carry the artistic message to a greater audience. We pride ourselves on providing an option that is realistic and available to the common artist, while staying attuned to the ever-changing state of the music business.” Exit Strategies marks the tenth Dead Sage release in only a few short months, and it looks like the collective has no signs of stopping, with plans to spread to the larger artistic community nearly realized. It’s the kind of noble, grassroots mission statement you would expect from a band like this, operating out of a city that, for its size, isn’t exactly a destination for working musicians like New York or Los Angeles. Theyrgy aim to fix that problem by uplifting the truly unique sounds found here and allowing those voices to operate freely and with the support they desperately need to compete.
According to the band, most of the songs on Exit Strategies spawned from a single jam session early in the band’s history, with further refining and editing as they grew tighter and more focused. Tight and focused this definitely is. Exit Strategies is a workout of upbeat, high energy post-punk with delicate shoegaze and post rock flavor, sprinkled with fits of industrial rage and punk frustration. “Crack of the Egg” starts the album off proper with a midtempo dance beat, light synths and powerfully yelped vocals before the guitars slam down in a thick wash of fuzz and the whole thing lifts off into the atmosphere in a post-rock frenzy. Similarly, “Dreamcatcher” picks up the pace on the drums and features some really beautiful synths before the insanely catchy chorus kicks in. Closing with haunting violin work courtesy of guest Kathleen Keane, it segues nicely into the simple yet extremely tasteful guitar work that makes up “Walk Away,” my personal vote for the highlight. The way that Theyrgy plays with melody in a way that seems so intuitive is what makes this stand out to me. More than just a catchy song, they really know how to let each individual instrument shine and when to let each lead the way or provide backup. “Holding Your Face In The Wall” closes the EP by replacing all that melody with unchecked aggression, with drums pounding and swirling, bellowed vocals that build continually in a fury that is contagious until the end. The whole affair is a really compelling listen, and it showcases just how much this band is capable of pulling off, and pulling off in a cohesive manner without sounding like a jumble of disparate influences.
Theyrgy’s mission has a very appealing DIY quality to it. It almost adds a punk rock aesthetic to their sound (they do actually cover Bad Religion as a bonus track on the CD version of the EP. Limited quantity, get it while it’s hot!). Whatever they choose to categorize themselves as, it’s clear they have a mission ahead of them, as a band and as a label, and they’re not going to let anything stop them. If this is a taste of what Theyrgy have in store for the future, then count me in on the ground floor of this one.