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Lace’s Mask Is Off

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The journey is the key: it’s not where we arrive, but why we arrive. For Josh Bosarge, vocalist of Houston-based punk rockers Lace, getting somewhere was a matter of seeking beyond his horizon. What he found out there would become the sacredness that would shape his existence. The air blows fresher, when toward the unknown we go.

“I’ll be completely honest, I grew up in a very, I guess, country sort of town; and so a lot of radio rock was going on,” Bosarge laughs. “None of that stuff really inspired me for long, and, so, I had to figure out what I really liked on my own. I had to actively search for punk and hardcore; and I think because of that struggle, that search, all those bands I discovered back then I hold very close to me, because it wasn’t something that just fell into my lap, it was something I had to search for.”

Lace can trace a similar ark. The band’s first demo, My Mask is Off, while certainly intense, is pretty straightforward and noisy hardcore, with shards and blasts aplenty. A second two-song demo a year later saw substantial variance: a touch of lean industrial post-punk infiltrating that immediate hardcore. The group’s latest, Human Condition, released this past April via Funeral Party Records, sees the fusing of an even wider vision. The punk interacts purposefully with a grander theme — space is paramount, looseness is sought, and the shape is twisted round whole — and there is a movement within, a want to produce something that can touch each and every layer of sweat the band pours forth.

“I mean, honestly, we don’t listen to a lot of hardcore outside of the stuff that we typically play,” Bosarge notes. “So, we kind of moved on with more of our influences, got a little more experimental, more noisy, and just decided not to be inside any sort of box when it came time to playing in a hardcore band.”

No song illustrates the group’s new confidence more than “Tension,” a Killing Joke by-way of Gang of Four rocker, with heart and realness which goes straight for immersion. You can feel the band fully committed, as Bosarge extends himself with the perfect fraction of a parable.

“It’s a really interesting song,” he says. “It kind of started, well… we have a lot of practices where we just kind of play like sort of soft, and just kind of a post-punk thing, and with the bass line of ‘Tension’ we were, like, ‘ok, I feel this,’ and it became a song that everybody really enjoyed; and, it’s one of our favorites to perform… sometimes we’ll let that outro just ring out for a while, and just keep it going.”

Capturing that “keep it going” sort of thing is all over Human Condition: a record that dances a dark organic in a sea of naturalness. Outside the inner-core are heaps of expansive measures that are placed mindfully. Noise and experimentalism are at the forefront. Art rock is everywhere.

“Ha, yeah we’ve got that,” laughs Bosarge. “Someone once referred to us art-house hardcore, and another person referred to us as pissed-off slow-math. I’m into it.”

The hardcore, though, remains thick. “Moral Trip” is classic two-word, whole-universe type stuff, while “Spectator” is straight intensity, leveling visions and karate-kicks. The general misanthropy is straight-up too. There’s real anger, but with enough breath where you can imagine some different possibilities, and the music lends itself to this completion of imagination: it’s a stretched-out directness. The listener becomes the mover, becomes the dreamer. Bosarge writes to this wideness.

“Don’t get me wrong, everything that’s going on in the political and social atmosphere, you know, like the injustices that go on, especially in our country, it drives us; but that’s not necessarily what our songs are specifically about,” he explains. “Like I’ll never jump on stage and say this song is about Trump. As much as in my head I may be angry about those things, I’ve kind of written the lyrics with such a vague and general displeasure and disappointment with the way things and with people are in general, that you can basically listen to these songs and assign it with whatever you feel.”

And giving us this allowance for manipulation is what makes all the difference between a band you can dream with, and a band you can’t. Lace is as much dream-rock, as they are straight hardcore: a mix of expression and bluntness that is engaging and strong.

“Those lyrics, I’m not going to lie to you, took me a good long while, because I want them to actually represent what I feel,” Bosarge adds. “So, I’m not going to say exactly what I’m sad about or upset or angry about, but I am going to let you know that there is something in the song that points that out. I’m influenced by imagery; I like certain aesthetics to things. One thing I always loved was old Smiths records: they’d have little one liners etched into their matrix and stuff like that, and that’s something I thought was really, really amazing: just one liners that hit and stay with you, and most of the time, mean absolutely nothing.”

‘Can you fucking face it, can you fucking face it?” Bosarge screams in “Moral Trip.” Well, can we?

Follow Lace on Bandcamp.

Lace play Brooklyn Bazaar with Bambara, Blacksage and Conduit Thursday, May 17th.

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