[IMPROVISED HARD ROCK] "I was kind of scared of her at first," Terrica Kleinknecht says of her Palo Verde bandmate and girlfriend, Lauren K. Newman. "I was walking down the street with my girlfriend at the time, and [Newman] was like, 'Hey, nice ass!'"
A couple years later, in December 2006—after the two multi-instrumentalists ran into each other a handful of times (for the record, Newman was just as intimidated by Kleinknecht)—a band was born. The duo got its start playing experimental drum music as Stickitin, but when state highway patrol pulled the pair over in California—guns drawn, mistaking them for "road ragers" in a similar vehicle—and Newman had to defuse the situation by handing the police a copy of her band's CD, things got weird. "We felt so uncomfortable giving these cops a CD that said 'Stickitin' on it," Newman says. "Then [in Arizona] we passed the sign for the Palo Verde Nuclear Generator, and we're like, 'Holy fuck, that's the best name ever.' That's us—two big, ominous smokestacks in the distance."
Palo Verde's improvised songs fit that description: They're chugging, dark, low blasts of Sabbath-esque post-rock delivered in concert with an unflinching intensity. Lately, the duo will brainstorm a word or subject to set the tone of a show. One recent gig was inspired by Bryan Bertino's 2008 Liv Tyler horror vehicle, The Strangers. "It was one of our best shows, actually," Newman says. "Because we were both playing while being totally freaked out."
So how do you craft an album from seven-minute shards of improvised rock music? If you're Lauren K. Newman, you hole up at Type Foundry, set up some mics, chug a case of Red Bull and hit record. "My whole body was twitching," Newman says of recording the duo's new short-run EP, History for the Rest of Eternity.
Newman says she always has regrets about recording this way. "I must look like I don't know what I'm doing," she says. "I have this stupid, obsessive-compulsive drive to do everything in one take." But any technical shortcomings on Palo Verde's new EP are squashed by the duo's tightly wound chemistry and adventurous spirit. If that's not enough to sell the disc, Newman has crafted 100 soundscapes—one to accompany each of the EP's 100 copies—that make each disc its own unique improvisation. "I've really been tricking them out with drums and piano," she says.
Practice might make perfect, but surprises are nice, too.
Palo Verde releases
on Sunday, May 23, at Rotture. 9 pm. $5. 21+.