Who: Benardo Relampagos (guitar, vocals), Kevin Thrakulchavee (bass), Travis King (guitar), Ben Scott (drums, vocals).
Sounds like: Agitated emo kids too old for pop-punk and too young for prog.
For fans of: Loma Prieta, Converge, Botch.
Despite its pejorative nature in certain circles, the term "screamo" is a descriptor Dowager is pretty OK with. After all, the band's chaotic, hook-laden take on hardcore is indeed emotionally charged and filled with screaming. But they'd like it if you did your homework before writing them off as yet another quartet of Hot Topic-toting scene kids.
"Explaining it to my friends is real easy," says guitarist-vocalist Benardo Relampagos. "But when I explain it to my co-workers, they're like, 'Oh, like the Warped Tour?' The mallcore scene got really infused with the screamo scene at some point."
"Yeah, I think the mallcore band of our generation is, like, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus," drummer-vocalist Ben Scott interjects. "I want nothing to do with that band, so I just tell my co-workers we're a hardcore band."
For a band housed in a genre that has historically favored aggression over tunefulness, Dowager seems hell-bent on toeing the line between being hopelessly poppy and recklessly abrasive. The root of this lies in Relampagos' and Scott's pedigrees, which included relatively successful stints in loud-yet-melodic Portland bands Our First Brains and Sioux Falls, respectively. The two first crossed paths at DIY space Laughing Horse Books' final show, and soon joined forces with the intention of breaking out of the corners each of their primary bands had painted themselves into.
Recorded at Atomic Garden—Jack Shirley's acclaimed Bay Area recording facility, famous for birthing the entire Deafheaven catalog, among others—Dowager's latest EP, Title Track, is an incendiary halfway point between the angular bombast of Converge and the brooding introspection of seminal hardcore acts like Rites of Spring and Moss Icon. Anyone willing and able to get beyond the screaming will find a razor-sharp record packed with sticky and sinister melodies far too memorable to be written off as noise. As Scott and Relampagos have learned in their young careers, pop music is a malleable and resilient format. If there's any unifying idea behind Dowager, it's that pushing pop music to its limits can provide the ultimate payoff.
"We want to see how many hooks we can fit in a song without being tacky," says Relampagos.
"Yeah, we're interested in taking a pop song and seeing how much we can bend it to be abrasive," Scott adds. "It's like playing heavy pop music without being a dickhead and playing breakdowns and singing choruses." PETE COTTELL.
SEE IT: Dowager plays Black Water Bar, 835 NE Broadway, with Bashface, Curse League and Dranky Skelerton, on Saturday, Dec. 3. 7 pm. $5. 21+.