Peer Review: Congress on Human Skull

Current Magazine is proud to present Peer Review, our newest recurring music feature. Every week we’ll be posting a short conversation with a local band member about who their favorite local band is and why. The following week we’ll talk with a member of the band that was previously named and the feature will perpetuate itself in wonderful succession.

This week I talked with my favorite local band. Ypsilanti’s Congress has been on the scene for several years at this point and earlier this year released their debut full length album. Ugly Eye is a wonderful album, full of discordant and propulsive post-punk music, which would not seem out of place on Dischord Records in the 90s. Here is the track “Haunts Yr Brother,” one of the many highlights from the album:

For the first Peer Review post I asked Congress drummer Aaron Quillen to talk about his favorite local band.

Who is your favorite Washtenaw County band?

Ann Arbor’s Human Skull.

How would you describe Human Skull’s live show?

Congress has played with Human Skull four times, according to my count. They and Minihorse are the closest things we have to “buddy bands” that we play regularly with. It’s always fun to share a show and stage with Human Skull. I believe Joel, Brent and Stefan are a little bit younger than us (I could be wrong), and they always bring a good energy. They’re approachable and fun to hang out with at shows, and they’re a blast to watch play. They usually play super fast. I’m always jealous watching Stefan play drums up-tempo and even faster for an entire 20-to-30 minute set. I can’t touch that.

What musical influences do you hear in their work?

I would definitely consider them a punk band with some garage rock leanings. Stooges and MC5 come to mind, but maybe more melodic. There’s folk and 60s psych that comes through a little bit too, so I’d throw in The Kinks and Zombies as influences too? Lastly, I can’t shake some Tyranny of Distance era Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vibes, too. I’m having a hard time explaining what I hear, but, I think that’s what makes them such a great band. They draw from sounds of the past, but, sound like their own thing.

What about them makes Human Skull your favorite local band?

Human Skull are just bad ass. Their songs are good, smart and deceivingly intricate. Joel’s guitar playing is jangly and folky while maintaining some fuzzy garage and punk edge. His vocal melodies are subtle but gorgeous, Brent’s bass lines are bouncy and wonderfully melodic, often times being the element of their songs that catches in my head the most. And, Stefan is a relentless drummer. He can break from his speedy, propulsive beats to throw in some nice fills or go to something more off-kilter impresses the hell out of me. I wish I could drum like that.

All of this to say, they just have an awesome combination of things (talents and sounds and songwriting decisions) that make them an utterly fantastic band.

Human Skull released a self-titled full length album earlier this year, which can be purchased on their Bandcamp page. Listen to “Putting On” from this release below.

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