It’s difficult to reconcile the music I’ve just listened to and the face now in front of me when I meet with Kirsten Carey for the first time at a nearby Ypsilanti coffee shop. Along with her partner and drummer Nicole Patrick, Carey is one-half of the Ann Arbor-based punk rock duo Throwaway.
The morning I speak with her, the pair are fresh off a show at The Blind Pig celebrating the release of their eponymous EP, and the adrenaline is obviously still pumping.
“The show went really, really well,” Carey tells me over coffee. “I was really surprised by the size of the crowd we got.”
Smiling but slightly reserved in person, Carey’s off-stage demeanor, like many artists, is much different from what she presents in her music. She pauses, searches, and considers her answers to the questions I lob at her.
The contrast between her onstage persona and the person sitting in front of me makes more sense as Carey describes how she and Nicole came together to form Throwaway after meeting at the University of Michigan. Originally conceived as more of a performance art project than an actual band, Carey says that the original intent of the project was to give her an outlet to deal with nagging doubts about her self-confidence. The pair have gradually transitioned into a more straight-up band, but still walk a fine line between embodying onstage alter egos and delivering a more traditional show.
The most obvious call-back to the band’s performance arts roots is the paper bag mask that appears on the cover of their new album – an idea born out of the desire to hide while simultaneously being the center of attention.
“This music is sort of a natural kind of bursting point for me,” says Carey. “In that way I think it actually goes quite well with the paper bag mask concept, just not in a super obvious way.”
Bursting is a perfect adjective to describe Throwaway’s music. Songs off the new EP like “I Work!” and “Pyromania” combine Patrick’s driving drumlines with Carey’s quick, conversational delivery and distorted, frenetic guitar. Listening to their music is like embarking on a white-water rafting trip and emerging battered and soggy, but ultimately enjoying yourself.
The one song on their EP that doesn’t come at the listener like a level 5 river rapid is the track, “Willow,” a slow, haunting melody on which Carey, who wrote all songs on the EP, proves her vocal chops.
Anyone looking to check out Throwaway live is quickly running out of time however. Carey is embarking for Los Angeles, where she hopes to continue pursuing a career in music and adapting Throwaway for the West Coast.
Before she took off, I wanted to pick her brain about what it’s like to find your place in the local music scene. The biggest thing she highlighted was a schism between what goes on at the University and the rest of the local scene. Combined with a lack of venues for local artists, Carey believes that can make things difficult for new, local artists to find their audience.
“I think Throwaway lies in sort of this word space where it’s more of a rock-band than the average experimental group—but more of a experimental group than the average rock band,” says Carey, laughing. “So I think we’re filling that niche, if that’s a niche that needs to be filled.”
Audiences can check out Throwaway before Carey skips town at the following dates:
Thursday, October 8 at the Live Wire Lounge in Chicago with Future Thieves and Andrew Paley and Saturday, October 10 at Bright Red Studios in Madison, WI with Lovely Socialite and The Lindberg/Packer/Pireh Trio
For updated concert listings, visit www.kirstencareymusic.com