Posted: January 5, 2023 in MUSIC

Achy joints. Dirty bosses. An effing UTI. These are the ailments that pile up in Special Interest’s working-class anthem “Foul,” which details a bubbling frustration with bad jobs. The New Orleans band makes danceable punk music that borrows from the angular, jittery rhythms of ’80s bands like ESG and Delta 5, with frenzied songs that carry a highly political bent. “Short-staffed! Overworked! Sleep-deprived! It’s an art,” band members Maria Elena and Alli Logout shriek in a call-and-response as a groovy, thumping bassline grounds the song’s noisy chaos.

“Foul” briefly calls to mind another New Orleans artist who helped turn exhaustion with overwork into accessible musical perfection: rapper Big Freedia, whose “release your job!” command set the tone for Beyoncé’s house hit “Break My Soul.” But where “Break My Soul” was all motivational pop, an empowered cry to listeners to hand off their daily stresses at coat check before meeting the star on the dancefloor, “Foul” is the sound of being physically unable to do so. The quartet—Alli Logout, Ruth Mascelli, Nathan Cassiani, and Maria Elena (who just goes by Maria)

Special Interest share a prickly sense of humour, and each member is quick to claim and grant credit for any given idea. The band’s bassist, Cassiani, suggested the sensory deprivation tank outing; he describes himself as “shy” and “reserved,” but reads more like the group’s quietly influential technician. Mascelli, on synths and drum machines, has a nervy, restless energy—he says that even the float session didn’t still his racing mind—but invariably speaks in complete thoughts. Maria, the guitarist, has the steady, unselfconscious presence of that one friend from the punk house, and when she’s finished eating, she unbuttons her pants. Logout, the frontperson, is the celebrity: a big talker and electric live performer, a vector for the kind of natural charisma that doesn’t intend to please anybody. 

It buzzes with the energy of a fly trapped in a jar, as shouted complaints ping against the glass with no resolution in sight. “Foul” takes that enclosure and finds power within its limits, the music not a vehicle to escape life’s soul-draining conditions so much as a place to confront them.

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