Don’t go to see Show Me The Body expecting some sort of Springsteen-esque show that rocks on for three hours or more.
The New York City-based trio doesn’t stay on stage much longer than a half hour, which on the current tour is enough time to play Dog Whistle, the new Show Me The Body album, in its entirety, plus a couple of older tunes.
“We still haven’t done sets like over 35 minutes. We really like to keep it short,” frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt said in a mid-April phone interview. “Before, whenever we got to Europe, Europeans are, just because I think they’re less exposed to American hardcore or punk music, they’re always like ‘Oh my God, you only played for 30 minutes!’ That can be funny. So we got a really cool tour manager out in France, who like pulls up with us to all of our festivals and argues with all the French promoters, [telling the promoters] ‘If they played more, they’d die.’ He’s pretty cool. It’s always a battle of doing more, but we only do what the f*** we can.”
It would be a mistake, though, to consider the brevity of a Show Me The Body concert a sign that the band members aren’t invested in their music or their fan base. For one thing, the shows are physically demanding, and the sonic overload of the music could take a toll on audiences, too, if the shows lasted longer.
And as Pratt explained, the guys in Show Me The Body want nothing more than to create a community of fans that share the kind of strong connection to the band that acts like the Grateful Dead, Slayer or 311 enjoy with their fan bases.
Pratt provided an example of this ethic early in the interview, noting he would soon join his bandmates, Harlan Steed and Noah Cohen-Corbett, for a drive from Utah to Boise, Idaho, for a gig that wasn’t initially on the schedule.
“We would have an off day, but some kid hit us up and kind of figured we’d be driving through Idaho,” Pratt explained. “We drove through Idaho, I guess, twice [before] now just to get to California. The kid hit us up and was like ‘Yo, you’re probably going to be near Boise. If you want to like come and play this punk house we have out here . . .’ So we said yeah, because we do a lot of club shows now and have a booking agent and stuff. But it really is always the kids who really come through with the best-feeling stuff, you know what I mean? You book a show through a kid and he’s got him and his friends and they’re all super down to go [to the show] and tell all their homies. So we still try to do that as much as possible.”
In fact, Pratt and his bandmates so enjoy getting up close and personal with fans that during the years when the group was playing around New York City, many of the gigs weren’t in clubs, but for instance, under bridge overpasses, alleys, in basements — pretty much any place where the group could set up and gather together a group of people to share in the music and the band’s messages of inclusion, tolerance and respect.
Pratt and Steed, now in their mid-20s, started Show Me The Body when they were just starting high school. From the beginning, they wanted to create a sound they could call their own.
“This whole project is really like me and him putting our brains together and establishing a vocabulary, like a new language, together,” Pratt said. “It makes us both stronger, learning a lot from each other.”
Always fans of hardcore, punk and hip-hop, those influences have filtered through the band’s music since the early days when Gabriel Millman was the drummer. He left Show Me The Body five years ago (although Millman still serves as in-house producer for the group), with Cohen-Corbett taking over on drums.
But those styles get re-shaped — often radically — by the way the trio creates sound in the studio. Pratt primarily plays banjo, but you’ll only hear moments here and there that sound like that instrument across the three Show Me The Body releases — the albums Body War (2016) and Dog Whistle and the 2017 mixtape, Corpus I. The same can be said for Steed’s bass. Using pedals, distortion, feedback, computer programming and other means to manipulate the usual tones of banjo, bass and other instruments, the finished songs often feature walls of thick, grainy sound that serve as backdrops under the riffs and other instrumental parts that bring a measure of melody to the songs. Meanwhile, Pratt’s urgent, sometimes unhinged vocals and Cohen-Corbett’s aggressive drumming add passion and energy to songs that are generally aggressive, dissonant and just plain sludgy and noisy — yet fascinating and immersive at the same time.
Pratt feels that with Dog Whistle, Show Me The Body took an important step forward in their musical development. Where on the previous releases, certain songs were identifiable as punk, hip-hop or hardcore, the new album blends those styles more seamlessly into a sound that isn’t so definable and is considerably more original and unique.
“This album actually has more samples and more electronics on it than Body War,” Pratt explained. “But the thing about it is that it’s all interwoven, I think, a lot more and a lot better than on Body War.”
Even with all of the sonic manipulation, Pratt said the group can replicate their songs quite faithfully on stage.
“When we record, we don’t do anything we wouldn’t be able to do live. That’s a big component while we’re recording. It’s not just about replication, but it’s sort of like keeping a human element on the record,” he said. “Even when the music . . . becomes post-human, like electronic or something like that, we always try to keep the element of humanity there so that it can be replicated in a human situation.”
The band’s music and work ethic appear to be paying off as Show Me The Body crosses the country on the current first leg of touring in support of Dog Whistle. And it’s drawing better than ever at the shows.
“We don’t play straight-ahead hardcore or punk or electronic music. We really do our own thing. So that made our growing process a lot longer than other bands,” Pratt said. “But it really feels wonderful because after this album, we’re starting to, like, pack out 300-person rooms, which is not crazy, but it’s a big deal for us. It really feels great to be really able to cultivate like our own community of fans.
“This is the best tour we’ve ever headlined,” he said. “We’re getting the best response we’ve ever gotten in America, that’s for sure.”
Show Me The Body performs with Enemy on Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m at The Tavern, 211 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura, 805-643-3264, thetavernvta.com. For tickets and more information, visit Show Me The Body on Facebook or at corpus.nyc/smtb.