Oliver Cromwell once said, “subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.” Bearing that in mind, Bummer may have more integrity than most bands right now, because “I Want To Punch Bruce Springsteen In The Dick” is about as subtle as, well, an uppercut right to the Boss’s babymaker. It’s a heaving, lurching, Frankenstein’s monster-falling-down-the-stairs track that grooves and skronks like the best noise rock always does. Samples from Otto Preminger’s provocative The Man With The Golden Arm lie buried in the mix between vocalist/guitarist Matt Perrin’s raging howls, bellowing: “And to suffer is to live without relief to have everything in life but peace”. It’s one of several highlights on Bummer’s forthcoming full-length Dead Horse, their best release to date and a new benchmark for quality in an ever-growing noise rock scene. We spoke with Perrin and bass player Mike Gustafson about the album and the inspiration behind “Punch”, amongst other things.

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The last eighteen months need no introduction; did you approach writing and recording Dead Horse any differently as a result?

Matt Perrin: Writing, no. Same old shit. Somebody has an idea or a riff and we jam on it til it’s hashed out.

Recording, yes. It was approached a little differently this time around. We recorded with Justin Mantooth at Westend Recording Studios in KCK like we usually do, but this time around we demo’d the whole thing out in Logic beforehand at our practice space. We did essentially the whole record and I (Matt) did vocals in the closet of my home office at my old house. It gave us the ability to know exactly what to expect going into the studio this time around at Westend. We had plenty of time to dick around on our own with tones, vocal phrasing, guitar leads, breaks, flow and other dumb little things before hand so we knew exactly what we wanted going into the studio this time around. Felt like a fully maintenanced, well-oiled machine.

Mike Gustafson: We’ve always pulled songs out of our asses. Did the same thing for this record. During the shit show that was 2020 we met up a bunch and just kept busting out new songs. I can’t speak for the other guys but being in a horrible ass mood really helped write these suckers.

Going back and listening to Young Ben Franklin and Milk, the band's sound has definitely evolved (or devolved, in a good way) to something more chaotic and abrasive. Dead Horse sounds more aggressive than anything you've done before. Is that intentional, or just a natural progression?

Perrin: It’s just a natural progression with age. I was 17/18 when Young Ben Franklin & Milk was recorded and Mike was 20/21 around that time. Hutch wasn’t even with us back then either! Hutch joined right after Spank was released (though he was in other bands with us prior to him joining). We had Sam Hunter playing back then on Young Ben Franklin (that dude introduced us to gravity bongs. absolute game changer), and then Thomas WIlliams on Milk. Kinda wild to think about. We were just kids. Just playing groovy shit we liked in my mom’s basement without a care in the world. As we got older in this game called life we dove deeper into different influences and kept building from there. Don’t think anybody knew we’d still be doing this 8/9 years later, but here we are. Still riffin’.

Gustafson: Natural progression. The worst thing you can do while being in a band is settling with the music you’ve put out. Assume that your whole set sucks and write some better songs.

Sardonic humor is as much a part of this particular genre as great riffs, and the lyrics on Dead Horse absolutely fit the bill. "JFK Speedwagon" and "Rareware" feel intensely personal. Are they focused on a particular individual, or the current environment?

Perrin: It’s kind of 50/50. They’re both focused on the idea or events of what it means to be from Kansas. The places, ideas, relationships, geography, and culture you learn from being born and raised here in the plains. Which is what a lot of Dead Horse is about (other than the aliens and sci fi shit). The idea of being from Kansas CIty. The culture of a landlocked city split between two states that have hated each other since each other’s inception surrounded by a vast big empty. JFK specifically deals with issues and events influenced heavily by my relationships, environment, and wobbling mental health that caused me to relapse on opioids and slip into a less than pleasant headspace. Something that feels un-escable at times out here in Kansas/Missouri. Rareware is a self-reflection of a past state. It is a summary of the most recent chapter of my life before moving to the current one I am now. It is quite personal and definitely directed towards a particular individual or two, but it was done in a sense that would allow me to come to terms with that part of my life being over. It is a summary of feelings that plagued me for 2 years straight, and that’s why it’s at the end of the record. Just kind of sums it all up. I wanted out, I got out, and I'm starting over.

Gustafson: Particular genre? Do you mean rock and roll music? Matt writes the lyrics. I come up with the song names. Life can get all sorts of screwed up. We just laugh and keep moving forward.

On the same tip, "I Want To Punch Bruce Springsteen In The Dick" has zero competition for best song title of 2021. What was the genesis?

Perrin: That’s all Mike. Mike has all the good song titles. He’s had that one in the bank for 10 years. Posted it on the internet one day and kept in the bank ever since. Just felt right finally.

Gustafson: Thank you. I’ll take ALL of the credit for that bad boy. Bruce Springsteen puts out shit music and I think he’s a big cheese ball. I like to call his style of music “chili cheese dog rock”. Fuck Bruce Springsteen and fuck stadium rock.

"E1M1" is like "The Springfield Files" episode of The Simpsons when Homer sees Mr. Burns as an alien, but through filters of acid and distortion. Is this based on a close encounter one of you had?

Gustafson: This is a Matt question. The song title “E1M1” is the name of the first level in Doom. Thanks Doom.

Perrin: Haha, no unfortunately it is not. The song is loosely based on the events of July 13, 1860 in Wilmington, Delaware. In which a pale blue light engulfed the town caused supposedly by 200 foot-long something streaking along on a level course 100 feet above the town. Trailing behind it at 100-foot intervals cruised three "very red and glowing balls." A fourth abruptly joined the other three after shooting out from the rear of the main object, which was "giving off sparkles after the manner of a rocket." The lead object turned toward the southeast, passed over the Delaware River, and then headed straight east until lost from view. The incident lasted one minute according to the Wilmington Tribune. During the early stages of quarantine during the pandemic I spent a lot of time delving into the world of Public Domain noir and sci-fi films. Which soon led me down a rabbit whole of 1950s sci fi and literature on space and extraterrestrials, and the Wilmington, Delaware event just happened to be one of those weird things I stumbled upon and sparked my curiosity.

The lyrics to "Quadruple ZZ Top" address environmental degradation, but with the recent passing of Dusty Hill, I have to ask: favorite song from that little ol' band from Texas?

Perrin: "Precious and Grace". RIP Dusty, you fucking legend.

Gustafson: "Precious and Grace". R.I.P. Dusty Hill.

Outside of the first few seconds of "Magic Cruel Bus", Dead Horse never really lets up on the gas. The immediacy is palpable, almost like a live album. Would you say it's a good indicator of what listeners can expect from Bummer going forward?

Perrin: I’d say so. We’ve always aimed for the all killer, no filler mentality. If you can’t plug in play that shit live the same way you play it in the studio then go be in an 8 member experimental indie pop band or something. As to who knows what’s in store for the future? Well, as Enya would say best. “Only Time”.

Gustafson: Next record is going to be evil as shit. Hold on to your tits n’ dicks.

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Dead Horse releases October 1st via Thrill Jockey Records.