By Peter Lillis. Big Hush photo courtesy of Lang Kanai.
The contradictory name of rising DC band Big Hush is sort of like jumbo shrimp. It’s a functional oxymoron: hushed sounds are small, but there is a hefty quality to the intimate music created by the four-piece. Their omnipresent guitar fuzz has led many to label the band as “shoegaze,” which is an accurate enough description – “My Bloody Valentine is a big influence of mine, especially as guitar goes,” shares co-singer/songwriter Owen Wuerker.
On Wholes, the band’s latest EP available now from DZ Tapes, Big Hush shucks the limitations of the shoegaze sound, pushing vocal melodies and lyricism to the forefront and using their noisy instrumental texture to as support rather than the center of the song. The result is a huge step forward for the band; their loudest tendencies now affect the emotive character of the compositions, and showcase their deft songwriting. While their earlier records still rip, Wholes is an assured statement from this exciting band.
Big Hush will be celebrating the release of Wholes this Saturday at house venue Babe City in Dupont Circle, alongside Philly space rockers Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, DC post-jazz wunderkind Anthony Pirog, and the breezy Golden Triangle. The early show is being thrown by DC-based journal of culture and art Frontier Psychiatrist. We catch up with co-singer/songwriter below, edited for length and clarity.
Your music is often identified as shoegaze, although I hear more than just the wall of noise. How is the music of Big Hush ‘shoegaze’? How is it not? What drew you to that style?
I don’t think we necessarily identify as shoegaze. My Bloody Valentine is a big influence of mine, especially as far as guitar goes, but that band’s sound to me is pretty singular. I don’t know a ton of shoegaze bands, but I think of it as being a pretty specific genre that most of our songs fall outside of. A lot of shoegaze that I hear tends to focus on atmosphere and texture, which is something we tried to do on Wholes, but our songs are lyric driven, and we try to put the words front and center, which to me is very unshoegaze.
Big Hush has gone through a series of lineup changes. How have the moving parts shaped your sound and songwriting?
When we recorded Wholes it was our last time playing with Andy Gale as our drummer. He’s an amazing drummer and we were really lucky to have him while we did. That being said we’ve all been really good friends with Emma [Baker] since forever and having her in the band now has really helped us find a more natural feeling band dynamic. Something about the her style has made us be able to play looser and louder and still sing the way we sing.
What’s the creative dynamic in the current iteration of Big Hush?
We write our newer songs more collectively than before, taking a loose idea for a song to the whole band and fleshing out the instruments and vocals through a lot of repetition and experimentation. It’s cool, I used to be more involved in writing everyone’s parts, but at this point our songs are less preconceived and more products of each person figuring out for themselves what feels good to play. We’re recording a new batch of songs right now. We’re still recording to tape, but these ones are a little noisier and uglier.
How has your time in the close-knit DC scene shaped your band and music?
We’ve all been playing and going to shows in dc for years now. Maybe it’s just about getting a little older, but it seems like a lot has changed in the last year or two. As long as I can remember dc has had a music scene that seemed pretty insular, and some of the people I’ve been seeing around the longest have become the least approachable. Good news is there are way more bands around here than I realized, doing tons of different stuff. I used to be more easily discouraged about fitting into what I thought of as a kind of small town, exclusive crowd, but we’ve met a lot of new people in the last year or so, and it’s hard to tell how much of that old sentiment was just in my head.
How is your working relationship with DZ Tapes? Are you pleased with the Wholes final product?
Working with Brett from DZ Tapes has been really awesome. He did more to help us out than we ever expected. I haven’t seen the tapes yet, but my dad already got his in the mail and he says it looks great. Too bad he doesn’t have a tape deck.