SOUNDS LIKE: An unearthed Calvin Johnson-Bilinda Butcher side project.
FOR FANS OF: Sonic Youth, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Liars, Beat Happening.
Havania Whaal still has blood in the fridge—leftovers from the spooky video shoot the band just wrapped for "Skulduggery," a track from its upcoming "twee-gaze" cassette, 13 A.D. "We filmed the slaughter scene in our living room," says drummer and vocalist Noelle Magia, explaining that the video ties together references to The X-Files, Psycho, Twin Peaks and Scooby-Doo. "It's 15 minutes long. It's pretty ridiculous."
Clearly, Havania Whaal is here to entertain. That's been the case even before Magia and guitarist Paul Billy Sobiech met three years ago. Magia was in a band called Glitter Express, whose onstage experimentation often involved—you guessed it—glitter. One night, at a shared bill, Sobiech's band, Best Supporting Actress, decided to match the energy. They wore dresses and brought a vanload of helium balloons that Sobiech stole from an open house. "It was cute," Magia says. They began dating and started Havania Whaal, whose name is an inside joke mashed from a series of mispronunciations.
Since then, the band has shifted its lineup as well as its sound. Where their past releases have been ear-biting experiments in noise, 13 A.D. is surprisingly smooth and spacious despite the heavy distortion, shoegaze breakdowns and Magia's uninhibited drumming. The new tape recounts Havania Whaal's 2014 East Coast tour through the allegory of The Wizard of Oz, an idea Magia and Sobiech cooked up during a trip to the Eastern Oregon desert while listening to the Flaming Lips' ominous 2009 album, Embryonic. "I like the music to be dark and dreary," Sobiech says, "but also with a bunch of texture."
Despite the changes, Havania Whaal's knack for theatrical live performance remains intact. "We're doing this whole play, basically," Magia says of the upcoming 13 A.D. release show. "We're playing the album in its entirety, but we're doing the story behind the concept album with live actors." Expect costumes, giant papier-mâché heads—and maybe some fake blood.
SEE IT: Havania Whaal plays Habesha Lounge, 801 NE Broadway, with Golden Hour and DJ Turvey, on Saturday, June 20. 9 pm. $5. 21+.