Photo Credit: Grant Beecher
It should be noted that Athens rock band Deep State took up its buzzy moniker years before the term became a go-to bogeyman on far-right Twitter (and, somewhat more conspicuously, in the Oval Office). Yet singer-songwriter and guitarist Taylor Chmura has long displayed a knack for capturing the current culture’s fear and anxiety, from the economic angst of 2014’s Bein’ Mean EP to the self-flagellating, post-election rave-up Thought Garden.
Deep State’s fierce, hooky pop-punk—delivered not quite with a smile but with something of a grimace—has, paired with a constant stream of local gigs and cross-country tours, earned the group a loyal following, as well as affirmative write-ups from national press. The band’s third full-length, The Path to Fast Oblivion, is out Friday, Feb. 1 via California label Friendship Fever and promises to further expand the band’s reach.
Chmura cites three main influences on the new LP, which explores new textures and territories and is arguably Deep State’s crowning achievement thus far.
‘The Lone Wolf’
Again demonstrating his knack for sharp, topical lyricism, Chmura says The Path to Fast Oblivion was informed by recent episodes of real American carnage—mass shootings and other episodes of violence carried out by solitary attackers in presumably safe public spaces.
“[The lone wolf] archetype has been characterized in a sickening way by mass media. Violence against masses of people inspired a lot of the vitriol in the music,” Chmura says. “The thematic thread running through the album deals with a man who has cut himself off from the world. This man feels nothing any longer and wants to leave a legacy of pain.”
While it stops well short of displaying sympathy for perpetrators of such acts—“You are the worst person I know,” Chmura sings on the same-named eighth track, continuing, “It’s hard to let those feelings go”—The Path to Fast Oblivion makes an impassioned case for listening to others.
“We want to understand why these things happen,” says Chmura of these persistent tragedies. “We want to prevent bad things.”
“We have toured a lot in the past couple of years,” says Chmura. It’s an understatement. “We have been coast to coast a few times in [bassist] Brandon [Page]’s ’88 Dodge Ram,” he says. “Touring in such a capacity made us go a bit crazy sometimes. Maybe some of that crazy is still stuck to us.”
Aside from fine-tuning the group’s already-electric onstage chemistry, that time on the road helped the band evolve creatively.
“We seem to have a more focused energy, whether it's the way we sound or what we are sounding about,” Chmura says. “The final song on the album, ‘Captain,’ is a reflection on some of the tougher times on the road.”
That eight-minute closer—a new frontier for a band known for its two- and three-minute bursts of melodic garage-punk—unfolds deliberately, itself a sonic road trip, steady pacing and wistful pedal steel conjuring up snapshots of vast Midwestern farmscapes and striking seaside vistas.
Songs like “Captain” and “Ideals,” in addition to presenting some of Chmura’s smartest songwriting to date, also showcase the singer’s vocals in a new light, stripped of fuzz and fervor and with a surprisingly earnest melodic approach.
More than any local record in recent memory, The Past to Fast Oblivion radiates Athens-scene camaraderie. “This LP features many of our friends singing, playing and leaving me voicemails,” says Chmura. “It was fun to involve many folks that we love.”
The recording process itself was a townie-family affair, Chmura says.
“We recorded most of the songs at Chase Park Transduction with Drew [Vandenberg]. I somehow convinced him to record vocals at Kindercore. Then, [I] convinced him to come to my house to finish everything with his mobile rig. That day might have been my favorite day of 2018: friends coming in and out of the house, contributing to something that is more than just our band.”
The album’s penultimate track, “Oblivion,” is a measured, Yo La Tengo-esque jammer featuring recorded phone messages from a couple of Chmura’s friends, including one asking to be bailed out of jail. The tune, which Chmura calls his “favorite moment on the record,” is both mellow and unsettling, a satisfying encapsulation of Deep State’s cool incongruity.
“It's the milk and honey,” Chmura adds.
DEEP STATE Local band playing driving, punky, melodic guitar-rock. Album release show! See story on p. 11.
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