Best of What's Next: Carnivores

Music Features Carnivores
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Hometown: Atlanta
Band Members: Tauseef Anam (drums), Philip Frobos (bass, vocals), Nathaniel Higgins (guitar, vocals), Caitlin Lang (keys, vocals)
Album: All Night Dead U.S.A.
For Fans Of: Abe Vigoda, Black Lips, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

With a jangly guitar lick and a far-off, echoing vocal line, Carnivores stealthily prowled into their hometown’s heart this summer via local college radio station WRAS. The song getting repeated plays, “A Crime,” sounded almost familiar but also brand new, a lo-fi, noisy punk take on a sunny surf jingle that veers for a too-brief moment into a tropical groove before coming to an abrupt end. It offered a view into some manic, nostalgic world, one where everything reads in second-person and problems can be danced away at either sock hops or in mosh pits.

It seemed like Carnivores snuck up from nowhere, claws bared, and strolled right into considerable local notoriety. But for the quartet, the journey has been long and any recognition they’ve received has been hard-earned. And if their scattered, precocious debut LP, All Night Dead U.S.A. (released locally in July on Atlanta startup Double Phantom Records) proved worth listening to over and over again, it’s because the band tried over and over again to make it so. All of them former members of another local group called Chainestereo, the four Carnivores reinvented themselves into their gloriously noisy current group in 2008, after a lineup change and a philosophy adjustment. “You know how you pay your dues and play all of those awful shows, and do the stuff that nobody wants to do, and build whatever it is that you have, locally?” says bassist Philip Frobos. “We did all that with [Chainestereo], and then once things made the transition, they were a little more exciting. It was like everybody was there waiting. It was good to go.”

One aspect not lost in the transition was Carnivores’ willingness to play live almost constantly, and with relentless energy. Keyboardist Caitlin Lang screams happily and whips her hair around when the band tackles numbers like “Organ Trail,” a song that’s half charming melody and half screeching guitar strings. The band’s punk stage presence mixes with psychedelic soundscapes as the members trade vocal duties and crank amps up to the breaking point (take “Neon Bone Groove,” for example). The intermittent pop compositions recklessly teeter on the edge of disaster, but the band never loses control.

All this live experience has only increased their overall comfort as a band. “It’s felt better over the years,” says guitarist Nathaniel Higgins. “We’re better at it.”

“Now we can kind of let loose,” Frobos adds. “I feel like we weren’t as good musicians [in Chainestereo], but we’ve been doing it for so long now that the live shows are really fun.”

Confidence will be indispensable as Carnivores take their next steps, including releasing All Night Dead U.S.A. nationwide on Jan. 26. “Really, as far as Double Phantom distribution goes, we’ve kind of been the distribution,” Frobos explains.

“We go on tour and we consign our records to places,” adds Higgins. “That’s how it gets outside of here, for now.” But the new year should change all that. The four are working on wider distribution, as well as writing and recording their sophomore album; they also plan a national tour for 2010. The bandmates are ready for anything. Like the best of their predatory namesakes, they’ve positioned themselves to catch what’s coming their way.

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