When the three members of Zip-Tie Handcuffs are asked to define what stoner punk is, they provide three different answers. Guitarist Matt Ford says it “makes you zone out and think at the same time,” while drummer Max Levy talks about changing tempos and three-part harmonies drenched in reverb. Then bassist Ian Grinold offers his take.
“To me, it’s getting those fucking awesome repetitive sludgy riffs that you hear at the most fuzziest of tones that just make you want to get really fucking baked and fall into the riff forever, and then slam it, head-on collision, with the speed, intensity, and ferocity of the punk rock sound. When those come together, the coolest shit happens. Some galactic thing like when two planets or two suns collide. It’s like, fuck.”
Granted, that sounds a bit stoner-ish in itself, but that’s just the way Grinold talks; during a Tuesday night practice session at the Museum of Sound in Cambridge, he’s brimming with genuine enthusiasm for the opportunity to explore music in a band with two of his best friends. When discussing the inclusion of “Moon Tune,” a slower, calmer cut that Ford wasn’t sure would fit the band’s aesthetic, on the band’s recently released fourth LP, Sundream, Grinold notes how quickly he and Levy claimed it as their own. “That’s part of the reason why this band rules,” he blurts out, grinning.
Before they started trudging through those sludgy riffs, the trio, formed after the members met as audio engineering students at the New England Institute of Art, was a more traditional punk outfit. Ford wrote the song “Scum of the Earth,” and had so much fun doing it he decided to make a band around it. Zip-Tie Handcuffs’ 2009 debut weedpunkNtea, recorded and mixed over a furious two-day session at New Alliance Studios, fit the familiar format of quick, blistering attacks of raw thrashing.
But each subsequent release provided more room for experimentation and evolution: Sophomore album Heavy Love Child found heavier stoner sounds creeping in (think: Torch, The Melvins), while Sundream takes things further. The influence of band favorite Ty Segall’s lo-fi garage rock flows through “Psychotic Dance,” while “The Desert” and the aforementioned “Moon Tune” draw inspiration from navel-gazing in nature.
“I feel like we’re all kind of genuinely amazed by the universe all the time,” says Ford. “‘Moon Tune’ is about a time when I was camping when I was 13 staring at the moon, just being amazed by it.”
The track best exemplifies what Grinold’s talking about: Just as the song has lulled into a lush pastoral vibe, it runs headfirst into a punk buzzsaw of sharp guitars and drums. As he says, it’s like, fuck.
“That’s also part of the stoner punk thing,” adds Levy, “It’s about getting baked and thinking about the universe and space and writing tunes that sort of try to capture that mind-blown feeling some way in the music.”
ZIP-TIE HANDCUFFS W/ DEAD CATS DEAT RATS + A MINOR REVOLUTION + THE DIGS. TT THE BEAR’S, 10 BROOKLINE ST., CAMBRIDGE. THU 11.20. 8:30PM/18+/$8. ZIPTIEHANDCUFFS.BANDCAMP.COM