Posts Tagged ‘Salem’


As if the ever evolving style and sprawling narratives of Creeper didn’t already keep him busy enough, Will Gould reacted to last year’s initial lockdown by delving into the archives to complete the debut ep from his side project Salem.

Now the second chapter in the Salem story emerges from the underworld with the news that they’ll release their new ep ‘Salem II’ on May 7th and now share the first taste of the ep in the shape of the new single ‘Draculads’.

‘Draculads’ opens with the kind of larger-than-life b-movie horror love letter that can only come from Gould’s poison pen: “maybe the blood of jesus christ is laced upon your lips / i get a little closer to god and too drunk each time we kiss.” it sets the tone for a blitzkrieg rush of melodic punk and raucous rock ‘n’ roll that only stops for breath for the song’s cabaret croon breakdown. elsewhere, the EP builds upon the style that Salem established with their debut. from the tongue-in-cheek reference to the Smiths on the opening track ‘William“, it was really something’ to the closing ‘Heaven Help Me’, Salem play it fast, frenetic and fun. as with the best old school punk eps, ‘Salem II’ is an escapist rush of attention that commands your attention for 15 minutes before it’s time to drop the needle back to the start.

Expected release: 7th may 2021 On Roadrunner Records

“We deeply care, and are deeply invested, but only in our own rules,” Holland said.

A decade ago, for a certain kind of in-the-know music fan to have an opinion on Salem, and it wasn’t likely to be a neutral one. The Midwestern trio of Jack Donoghue, John Holland and Heather Marlatt had been anointed the godparents of a heady strain of nihilistic electronic music that seemed to alienate as many listeners as it bewitched.

The group mixed the sounds of sludgy Southern rap with dizzy shoegaze, deconsecrated church music and recordings of terrible accidents, all with a reckless abandon that made some critics wonder whether they were being punked. And then, after just a handful of releases — the 2010 album “King Night” was its only full-length — Salem was gone, slipping out the back door of a party it had crashed.

“I think when we got attention from anyone back in the day, it was novel,” Donoghue, 32, said on a video call from an empty-looking room in the Chicago neighbourhood where he grew up, a woodsman’s beard shrouding his once-boyish features. “Then the novelty wore off.” Holland, 35, nodded solemnly hunched in the dimly lit bedroom of his Traverse City, Mich., home. A blurry tattoo was scrawled across one of his cheekbones that, upon closer study, spelled “CRYME.”

It was just over a week before the release of “Fires in Heaven,” Salem’s second album, a record so long in the works, even Holland and Donoghue sometimes doubted that it would materialize. (The group is now a duo.) And it was less than 24 hours until Holland was due to report to the Grand Traverse County Correctional Facility to serve a 30-day sentence for charges he’d rather not discuss. “It’s unfortunate,” he said softly. “But whatever.” The duo has grown used to this type of mythically bad timing throughout the creation of the new album, though it’s quick to own up to its role in the chaos. “Literally, it’s all a war with ourselves over here,” Donoghue said as Holland dragged from an occasional cigarette.

Pieced together from five years of writing and recording sessions in Michigan, Los Angeles and Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, the songs on “Fires in Heaven” do not drastically depart from the sound Salem pioneered in the late 2000s. It was an era marked by lingering unease from the 2008 financial crisis, when newly available production software and seemingly limitless sample material led to a boom in bedroom recording. Still, Salem’s music stood out. It was billed as scary but more often felt unspeakably sad, even if you couldn’t make out the lyrics. “I think a huge part of their magic and their enduring appeal is just how real it is,” said Travis Salem are unapologetically Salem.

Musically and otherwise, the band pushed things to the edge — which could mean mangled covers of trance hits, infamously sketchy live performances, interviews in which members admitted to addiction and prostitution, or a tendency for Donoghue to rap in a voice slowed down and warped like a DJ Screw mix, a choice that earned the band criticism for appropriating hip-hop tropes.

Donoghue’s raps are the first vocals on “Fires in Heaven,” growling, “Ask me what I’m doing with my life, ain’t [expletive] to tell ya” over a lurching sample from a Russian ballet. “We deeply care, and are deeply invested, but only in our own rules,” Holland said.

Donoghue picked up where he trailed off: “And if there’s no one that wants to listen to it, we’ll still make music together. I mean, we made music for 10 years without sharing it.” The band sound tracked Paris runway shows and cranked out remixes for Charli XCX and Britney Spears. In 2013, Donoghue contributed to the production on Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” an album with an industrial grit that could be called Salem-inspired. (“I still haven’t been paid for that,” Donoghue said with a laugh. “So, yeah.”)

By 2016, Donoghue had moved to Montegut, La. — a fishing town with a population of just over 2,000 — with plans to work on an oil rig, though jobs almost immediately dried up as gas prices plummeted. When Holland hit him up, explaining that he’d just lost someone in Michigan and things weren’t going great, Donoghue suggested his bandmate head south.

The pair moved into an old fishing camp, where they wrote most of the songs on “Fires in Heaven” and got into some trouble. Holland and Donoghue packed up a U-Haul and drove to Los Angeles, but attempts to finish the album weren’t successful. Holland returned to Michigan, and Donoghue got a job installing windows. But with the help of Henry Laufer, better known as the electronic musician Shlohmo, the record was coaxed into completion. Laufer said the music had been scattered across locations and lost files, “but the songs were undoubtedly amazing, even just as demos.” The duo spent weeks at a time in Laufer’s home studio, working obsessively, as Laufer became part cheerleader, part “spiritual guru.” “In a time of such garbage, this was all I wanted and needed to hear,” he said.

Though it took 10 years, the punishing wall-of-sound collages and echoing melodies of “Fires in Heaven” sound right on time. This time, it’s easier to hear the beauty in the darkness, from the swirling synths of the first single “Starfall” to the funeral march of “Red River,” with a half-sung chorus that pleads, “Angels with burning wings, watch over me.”


Channelling down into the more straight-up punk that so heavily influenced early Creeper, the newest project from the band’s frontman Will Gould is no less enthralling. Once again revelling in darker imagery and iconography, the aptly-titled Salem – a duo completed by Will’s friend and collaborator Matt Reynolds (and not this Salem) – offers a more unadulterated reimagining of punk rock today. Propelled along by its powerful drums and iconic choruses, ‘Destroy Me’ is infectious and cathartic in equal measure, much like any good punk rock song should be. 

The official video for Salem – “Destroy Me”. the Salem EP

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Having spent the past five years releasing increasingly great albums, perfecting their vision of tattered indie rock with sharp stabs of post-punk, psych, twangy hardcore, and their own unique go at jangly art pop, Over Everything, is a sweeping collision of opposing forces, a menacing blend of explosive dynamics and infectious melodies. Opening with the blur of “On Dogs,” the picture slowly comes into focus, disorienting your senses before exploding into a sugary sweet melody on top of increasingly shaky ground. Superteen prove once again to expect the unexpected. There’s a disarming sense of calm when their songs are slow to unravel, but they do so with a majestic fury. Stinging guitars and stuttering polyrhythms crash around the doubled vocals of Sam Robinson and Meryl Schultz, their voices working together in ragged harmony and spastic abandon. From there, the carnage ensues, a sound that Superteen do better than most – like a tornado running through a small town and everyone just shouting rather than taking cover.


This is without question the best Superteen record so far. Each of their previous releases have been at least partial departures from the sound of the last one. “Over Everything” feels like an amalgamation of all of the best moments on prior releases, and yet is wholly unique and full of surprises. I seriously cannot recommend this album (and band) enough.

Superteen is:
Patrick Dunning – Bass
Chris Faria – Percussion
Jackson Martel – Guitar
Sam Robinson – Vocals
Meryl Schultz – Vocals

Additional vocals in Leaks and Sweet Tooth Part Two provided by Henry Maclean and Tyler Zizzo
Additional vocals in On Dogs and Tasteless Universe provided by Katie Dube
Additional guitar in Peace Line provided by Cory Best