Fuzz Fest is coming up in less than two weeks: a multi-day local music festival celebrating the might and glory of all facets & subgenres of rock n’ roll music. It goes down June 1st – June 3rd at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor (more info).
Meanwhile, I caught up with one of the most valiantly intense and certainly voluminous rock outfits in the Ypsi area—Disinformants. This band came together about six years ago, with singer/guitarist Anthony Gentile, bassist Jheremie Jacque, and drummer Larry Johnson churning and shredding this quaking and cathartic brand of rock where the distortion of the guitars match the blood curdling static growling through the lead vocals. The drums love the cymbals and show a fine sense of dynamics to fall back into the pocket of a nice groove when needed, before going back on a marching onslaught; the bass, disarmingly, is almost as smooth as a kind of funk-soul silk beneath much of the chaos—making it an interesting listen.
Disinformants perform on Sat., June 3, just one of more than 30 bands performing at the 4th annual Fuzz Fest! They’re working in the studio right now, so we wanted to ask about the new stuff, as well as pick the very contemplative brain of Anthony Gentile, an all-heart kinda guy who has a couple decades’ worth of experience in local music scenes across the state of Michigan, particularly Ypsilanti.
While he’s been in several bands before that blend punk’s unhinged grit with Americana-rock’s forthright crusades, it’s this group that finds Gentile potentially at his most impassioned to date. And what better time for a band’s lyrics, energy, and name, to be stoking are awareness and global consideration in an age of true disinformation.
Just tell us about the last two years, and how much the bands changed/progressed in that time… How different is it from day one?
Anthony Gentile: Bands I’ve played in, in the past, have always tended to progress in the same common direction towards something heavier and more aggressive. I recently became more aware of that, and so I started to pick it apart, maybe find out why… Without sharing the outcome of that self-reflection in full, I’ll say that I completed my earlier missions to the best of my ability, and felt satisfied with what I had done. Eventually, I just found myself feeling differently inside. And I felt Disinformants wasn’t going to last without songs that reflected this change. That change might be happening inside of Jheremie and Larry too, but I can’t be sure.
How would you describe where you’re going, sound-wise?
Last week at practice, Larry said he feels the songs are more relaxed and psychedelic. I definitely agree. I’ve always had an appreciation for different types of music. Since I was not even a teenager, I’ve oscillated between punk rock, psychedelia, and everything in between. I always kept those identities separate, assuming they wouldn’t form a realistic bond, but maybe that’s changing?
How’s your songwriting approach changed?
We don’t play as many shows as we used to, so songwriting became less about writing these perfect vehicles for a live set, and more about the value of the song as a whole. I’m done writing parts with loops that are solely written for the sake of giving me time to drop the guitar and get nuts. I also prefer to stay away from songs that simply go back and forth between a verse and chorus. I still have an appreciation for pop songs, I just don’t enjoy playing them.
You’re recording at The Loft, with Andy Patalan, out in Saline…
The Loft is my favorite studio for vocals, by a long-shot. And that’s no offense to some of the other great studios where I’ve recorded, like at Key Club or High Bias. Even when (my former band) Rome For A Day recoded with Bob Weston at Key Club, we ended up coming to Saline. There’s a huge comfort zone for me (at The Loft). The recordings there, like (with my other band) Propeller and Rome For A Day were some of the best I’ve ever been part of, and I wanted to bring that type of quality to (Disinformants) new recording. These songs are very close to me, personally, and to the three of us as a band.
Talk about working with Patalan as an engineer.
We went to school together. I have memories of Andy and Tim Patalan from way back in the 80’s when I was still in junior high. Even though we don’t spend time hanging out, we do have a history that goes further back than anyone else I know in the local music community. The set up, the way they work, everything about The Loft puts me at ease.
Fuzz Fest is coming up and that always stokes a sense of camaraderie amid the music scene. But you’ve got quite a perspective, having kinda been over on the west side for a period, back over here, and then working in Saline a lot… I always get the sense that you bring an energy of positivity towards a music scene. What’s the most important thing for bands to remember as they roll along…?
To me, the bands that work the hardest seem to get the most mileage from their labor. When I started playing music, I was living in Kalamazoo, and playing music with guys there and from Grand Rapids, and immediately we started coming to Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Detroit for shows. This was 1995! We could drive from Kzoo on a Tuesday night to play at the Old Miami in Detroit, just because we wanted to play in that scene!! There was a time my only dream for playing music was to get a set at the Magic Stick in Detroit. But as certain goals seem to get closer, new goals appear, and here I am still grinding away at the next one.
You’re called Disinformants. But you started the band before the true era of ‘fake news…’ Would you shy away from making protest music?
We’ve all seen this coming for a long time. Now that it’s here, it’s too late for my warning and too large for my insignificant wailing. I don’t want to put my musical energy there any more just to get swallowed up into a mass of gray matter. I don’t think you’ll hear too much overtly political music from me in the future. That said, I believe I have the spirit of freedom inside of me. I have leaps and bounds, yet, to still grow, but I advocate for freedoms on all levels. I’m trying to learn to see things through other people’s eyes and learning how to know if and when I’m wrong. I hope that translates in our music as well.
Musically, I am most focused on this new record and making it the absolute best representation of these songs and this band that it can be. I’m also looking forward to another great Fuzz Fest and to playing with more new bands in the future.
What is it that distinguishes what you’re doing on these new songs?
One thing consciously different about these songs is that I’ve been trying to paint more than draw with the guitar. So more parts from these songs originated with a bass line and groove established by Jheremie and Larry, allowing me to paint more rather than have to hold down the riff or chord progression so to speak. Another difference in focus is the desire to compose songs that are more linear than cyclical. We want a song to go somewhere.
Fuzz Fest is coming up. I like how it doesn’t delineate what is or what is not: rock….
Definitely. My whole life I’ve played in bands that didn’t quite fit perfectly into a genre. Never punk enough to claim that flag, or metal enough to wave that banner. Not experimental enough to claim that title either. I’ve always kind of wished I did fit into a genre because I think that opens up more immediate possibilities as far as bands, venues, markets and target audiences. But that’s just not the case, so we relish the times we get to be part of an event like Fuzz Fest that brings us all together.
Fuzz Fest 4
June 1 – June 3
Three nights; 11 bands per night
at the Bling Pig
208 S. 1st St., Ann Arbor
Featuring Child Bite, Human Skull, JUNGLEFOWL, minihorse, The Amino Acids, Duende, Caveman & Bam Bam, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Disinformants, and more!