Hear a new song from the Madison band's forthcoming Rare Plant tape.
Three or four years ago, I saw a lot of Dharma Dogs, a Madison band that packed an improbable amount of melody and rich emotion into grunge-slathered punk songs. Guitarist Chris Joutras and drummer Nate Karls traded off on songwriting and lead vocals, and while I liked both their songs, I had a special soft spot for the charged, Circle Jerks-like fury Karls brought to his turns on the mic.
We hear a different side of Karls’ songwriting, and a more subdued vocal style, on “Umbilical,” a track from Semi-Canon, a new tape by The Momotaros, a five-piece band that also features Joutras. The song starts off with an oozing but to-the-point synth hook, before the band kicks in with a criss-cross of chunky chords and angsty lead guitar lines. It evokes a fraught, slightly overstuffed headspace, and that’s in line with Karls’ lyrics.
"The verses deal with the give and take of relationships, how they can turn on you,” Karls says. "The imagery in the chorus is kind of apocalyptic, but it's also keeping with the theme in that its about insecurity, being left out in the storm and looking for someplace to go.”
While Semi-Canon generally builds on scrappy garage-punk, it also sneaks in a lot of dimension, thanks to Jon Paul’s versatile synth hooks and the trade-off between three different vocalists and songwriters: Joutras, Karls, and former Paint member Joe Darcy.
"I wanted the song to feel kind of hallucinatory and spacey, and I think the keyboards really contribute to that,” Karls says about "Umbilical." He adds: "There's also an effect we put on my vocals leading out of the choruses that makes it sound like I'm being sucked into a black hole, so that's pretty cool.”
Give the song a listen below. The Momotaros will be playing December 16 at Mickey’s Tavern, and the tape is available through Madison label Rare Plant. Karls is also working on some new solo material to follow up the handful of acoustic releases he’s made under his own name. He also says there are some "rumblings" going on with Dharma Dogs, but won’t say much else about that right now.