Ahead of their upcoming Midwest and East Coast tour this fall, the Baton Rouge art punks Spllit have unveiled the new double single, "Ledder Cote" / "Adobe House," which expands upon the band's tangled art punk and heavy experimentation that was so present on last year's debut LP Spllit Sides. After wrapping up some recent shows with New Orleans punks D. Sablu, we spoke with Spllit to dive more into the new single, their unrestrained DIY spirit, and where they are in the stages of their next album.
Last year, Baton Rouge oddball art-punk duo Spllit released their debut LP, Spllit Sides, an ambitious effort that was a "split" of the band's 2019 release Spllit Together and an entire A-side of new material called Darlene. Released through Feel It Records (Spread Joy, Delivery, The Cowboys) and mastered by Sweeping Promises' Caufield Schnug, the debut LP has a acrobatic, off-kilter mien with its arsenal of caffeinated spring-loaded rhythms, odd-shaped riffage, outsider penned lyrics, and heavily layered sonic dada — think if like The Residents or Macula Dog did the soundtrack to an Atari game. This was just a glimpse of the recording of what was being captured inside that rented home in Presidio, Texas because today, Spllit has released what they're calling a "bonus" to the debut LP. Also premiering through the go-to punk YouTube channel, Tremendo Garaje, today we have the pleasure in bringing you the duo's new double single, "Ledder Cote" / "Adobe House" — two new tracks spangled with layered effects, freak-out grooves and expand upon the whirlwind of unpredictability and tape-splicing nature of the debut LP while also hinting at the start of something new.
After wrapping up some recent shows with New Orleans punks D. Sablu, we spoke with Spllit, who've recently expanded into a five-piece, to dive more into the new single, their unrestrained DIY spirit, and where they are in the stages of their next album.
Paperface Zine: Can you each introduce yourself and the role you have in SPLLIT.
MU: Matthew Urquhart or cryptically known as Urq. I run samples and play guitar and sing.
RB: Ronni Bourgeois or cryptically known as Marance. I play auxiliary percussion, guitar and do vocals.
RW: Ryan Welsh, drums.
SS: Stevie Spring, guitar usually and auxiliary percussion sometimes.
RL: Raegan Labat, the bass guitar!
How did this project start and what was the vision when forming?
MU: Ronni and I first attempted to make music together in 2017 and it resulted in very comedic dance type songs. No one else will ever hear them, but I suppose that was the very beginning. It wasn't until years later that we were able to collaborate a bit more seriously. A big help for us was a songwriting challenge to write an album in a single day. We were inspired by Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, but I think many other people have done it in the past. It's a pretty natural way to force yourself to create something authentic. It was a fun and encouraging experience. We each created about five songs separately, which combined to form the first Spllit release, an informal "Spllit split" between me (Urq) and Ronni (Marance). XX_Handle / Soar Throat was the name. None of those songs made it onto Spllit Sides or really sound much like we do now, but it provided the creative spark for us to work together on music. Every song since then has been made collaboratively. Thus, Spllit... together! And now we have the five piece live band to pull off what we made, and it feels even more in the "together" direction!
We were lucky to have booked you for our first hosted show back in May and experience this new five-piece live lineup! What's something special that each of you bring to the table?
MU: Ronni is my co-creator and indispensable to the music of Spllit. They temper my unhinged musical impulses and frequently I feel like the songs are just floating out in lala land until they come in with some unforeseen part that grounds everything. And live, they play pretty much every instrument at some point in the show including keyboard (QWERTY keyboard).
RB: Ryan is the creative rhythmic center of the live set. He enthusiastically approaches every part, AND he's a really cool member to watch live. Something special to note is that when we started forming the live band, he sat there and tried to parse out and recontextualize the drums of the album into real life by ear. So, what's played live is truly of Ryan's creation, which I think is really special!
RW: Stevie brings that thick full sound of three guitars and he SHREDS. A total BADASS.
SS: Raegan is very talented, and when she's involved with anything creative, she really gives it her all and does an amazing job. Her easy going and funny personality keeps rehearsals feeling more like a good time with friends.
RL: Matthew brings a lot to the table considering he is half the brain of Spllit! Charismatic frontman energy! He has a very distinct style and sound to all of the music he makes though and he is a great producer! When he is "in the lab," that's probably where the unique magic and precision of Spllit happens — splicing, dicing, and adding beeps and boops.
What other projects do you all maintain outside of Spllit?
MU: I have a solo project called Urq, which is my totally unfiltered musical brain. It's very maximalist. Every idiosyncrasy present, every impulse indulged. Also, Stevie, Ryan and I are in a riffy band called Loudness War. It started in the midst of an immense passion for rock music which we all bonded over in our teen years. I think we also grew into a love for experimentation in that project.
SS: We have been playing together for about ten years! Loudness War has been on the back burner lately, but we've got a whole album we're waiting to drop when the time is right.
I also have a solo project called STEEF that I've been actively working on now for about a year; I've been slowly putting together a group to perform it live. I also play guitar in a few different New Orleans bands including Primpce and _thesmoothcat & the 9th Life.
RW: I have Steele Tracks, a solo project which isn't active at the moment, but it included Raegan and Ronni in the live band.
RB: I was in a band called Stacked Plates which was actually a live performance of the "Marance" half of the first Spllit release. Osa (who I didn't know at the time) reached out to me over email and was excited about the music, asking me if I wanted to play the songs live, and Stacked Plates was born. A two-person and Ableton drum machine project. Then during quarantine, I lost my job and made a number of recordings and that became Fake Last Name.
RL: I have not released music of my own, but I run a label called Tough Gum here in Baton Rouge which put out the Fake Last Name and STEEF tapes. I also play drums in Fake Last Name live and Ryan plays bass. You might notice we all kind of play together for each other's projects!
How do you approach your songwriting? How do your initial ideas for your tracks develop?
MU: I'll talk about Side A of Spllit Sides, which had a very particular writing process. We recorded about an hour's worth of improvised drum beats on a kit at home and then took off to West Texas where we stayed for a week in a rented house working on music. We altered the drum takes heavily and created a series of loops which became the basis for each track. So it was heavily randomness based. But once you add one more instrument, usually bass, the track starts to take a specific shape off of that random beginning.
RB: I'm a big percussion and bass person. I will hop on the drums and hack away at some rhythm that feels right and I'd say that typically really informs songwriting for me. Lyrics are also really important to me and very frequently take up a lot of space in my brain when writing.
MU: We also use digital alteration heavily! It was born out of laziness and convenience, since we're just two people who are not very adept at many instruments. It's easier to chop up a drum recording to sound like a new pattern than to set up mics again, learn how to play it, sit down and re-record it. It also has the welcome side effect of introducing digital artifacts which have become a large part of the sound. A lot of guitar tones were created by accident when I was too lazy to plug in and mic an amp and just threw an awful tube simulator on my directly recorded guitar. Now all these different accidental tones are part of the sonic palette and we're always looking for new ways to "cheat" our way into interesting sounds!
It's been a little over a year since you released your debut LP Spllit Sides. Looking back now, what are your thoughts on it? Also what tracks do you love performing live and why? "Amite River" seems like a crowd-pleaser!
SS: Ever since I heard the finished version of Spllit Sides, I've been a huge fan. The word that comes to mind is free. The liberating and adventurous spirit of this record has inspired me greatly, and it remains a go-to album for me. My favorite song to play is "Ledder Cote," off the new single. The groove always makes me dance when I play, even if I am not feeling particularly enthusiastic that day.
RB: "Planet Spllit" for me. I enjoy getting real weird on it vocally.
RL: I love playing "Darlene" live. It's just really rocking. "Hope I Make You Proud" is my personal favorite though. Best on bass.
MU: I like the segue that we do between the first five songs in the set, which ends with "Amite River." It covers a ton of ground in a way that almost sounds like one really scatterbrained song. It was a little tricky to learn and very satisfying to pull off!
RW: My favorite song to play is everyone else's least favorite: the title track. It's got the only section where I'm free to go totally WILD, for about five seconds.. ha! Others would be "In Half" because of the ending or "Sorehead" because it's weird to play.
Today you've unveiled your new double single, "Ledder Cote" / "Adobe House." These are both great tracks that dig further into your circular art-punk trappings and sonic tricks. How did these songs come about and what did you envision for it when composing it?
MU: "Adobe House" is a tribute to that rented house in Presidio, TX where we spent a week working on Spllit Sides. We had this simple drum loop that's basically just bashing away on every beat. I was inspired by the Dead Kennedys song, "Ill in the Head," to make an atonal sounding harmonized riff which alternates with the measures of bashing away on a power chord. I think Ronni wrote the notes just off of that verbal suggestion.
RB: Also it's worth saying that "Adobe House" was originally intended to be a theme song. So, there's that to think about!
MU: The second half of the song was made several months later back home in Baton Rouge. I had chopped up another drum loop into something which sounded nothing like the first half of the song at all, so we leaned into that polar shift and changed every sound and instrument. It's mostly a MIDI marimba sound which I wrote with in the piano roll, note by note. It's barely playable in real life, but we'll manage!
RB: "Ledder Cote" is a really wacky track that brings me an odd amount of joy. I do believe that this one started with this drum part I was pressing Matthew to keep because it was so fun to play. When I laid the bass down the absurd realm of this song really started to emerge. It all started when I was driving in a very busy part of town (Perkins Road) and saw this person on the side of the road with a brown leather coat on, sitting at a bus stop. The bus stops in Baton Rouge are all really awful without coverings at most of them, which always makes me upset. I started to think about all of these second hand items like a metal cane. Imagine the setting of a Goodwill store. This somehow became a song about this monster eating leather coats and nibbling on metal canes and how this brings pleasure to its brain.
I hear you're also in the early stages of recording your second album. How has that been so far and what can you tell us about it?
MU: There's definitely different forces at play making a new album. Before, we had no live band and absolutely no expectation of anyone hearing what we were making. Now, there's a five piece arrangement to consider or not consider, and at least a few people who we know will be reached by a new record.. its impossible to go back to what it was before.. so we have to go forward!
RB: Yes, I'm afraid that I'm freaked out. But I think currently we're in a decent place.
MU: I think for me there's also been a bit of the classic ambitious attitude that accompanies a "sophomore album." And that has resulted in a mass of unfinished material for us to sort through and mold into a cohesive whole. We still don't really know what sort of album is hidden in there, but we'll find it soon.
You recently finished some shows with New Orleans punk D. Sablu and his live band. How was that and any favorite spots you've hit up? Also, how's the food been Stevie?! ;)
RW: We love D. Sablu!
SS: They're one of my favorite NOLA bands and they're a great gang to hang with.
MU: Lots of great band bonding happened. We even went to a clothing optional beach together! We chose the clothed option.
RB: Also, be warned the place we went is very rocky and hard to navigate with the wrong shoes on.
RL: Shout out to climbing on rocks. We love Texas!
RW: San Antonio was a great spot. Very sick venue attached to a convenience store. All ages too! The crowd was very HYPE.
MU: We got some really cool photos from that show from the frontman of Rat Bastard.
RB: His name is Christopher Maroney.
RW: And gotta say the best meal experience was Houston Bakery + Cafe. Very good food, CHEAP!
SS: The chilaquiles were FOKN good.
Sounds like you all had a blast! You also recently announced a fall tour with stops in the Midwest and East Coast. What are you most excited for about going on the road again?
RL: The time of year! I'm excited for crisp air, and maybe seeing some leaves changing colors. That doesn't happen in Louisiana. Other than that.. every part. Tour is so much fun. New friends, old friends, good eats, rock.
RW: Maybe hitting up some record stores… just a few. Really looking forward to the Chicago show (a block party outside of the Empty Bottle, we play at 3:45PM!). Oh, and empanadas in St. Louis at Coffeestamp.
SS: All of the odd little things that happen to us along the way. You never know who you will meet or where you will stay or what you will eat. Every day is truly unique, and it's really special to share those experiences with such close friends.
"Ledder Cote" / "Adobe House" are out now through Feel It Records.
Stream the new double single below.