Somerville, Massachusetts five-piece Bummed emerged last year with a five-song tape. The songs careened and shimmered, minding guitar saturation alongside structural finesse and breathy hooks in the style of forebears such as The Lilys. On “Smoking Jewels”—the a-side of a 7-inch due via Accidental Guest Recordings and premiering here—the group sounds vivid and even imposing, as the disparate tempos and textures render the song in topographical dimensions. Dissonance undercuts squiggly leads and spritely drums marshall everything along with cymbal clamor and staccato fills. And in the downtempo breaks, the vocals assume cathedral might, expansive and ascendant. Listening, the potential drug reference in the title “Smoking Jewels” escaped me. It registered as something more alchemical, evoking images of lustrous objects reflecting light onto amorphous haze.
Via email, guitarist Renato Montenegro filled us in on the group’s process and inspiration.
“Smoking Jewels” is rather long and the structure is a bit knotty for the style. Can you tell me about composing it and the significance of the title?
I’m a long-time prog- and kraut-fanboy so longer pop songs with interlocking parts was the design from the get go. When writing the Bummed stuff, I’ll usually go into the practice space with just a sketch of a song in mind and then spend a weekend fleshing it out on a loop station and seeing what other ideas develop. After I’ve played parts a few dozens times in a row and they still aren’t repulsive to me, then I try to string them together. It’s more of a quantity-before-quality approach whereby I’ll get as many ideas down as I can and then cull and compose from there–I’d say only 25% of ideas end up in the final song. At the admonishment of our drummer Ricky, however, I’ve been consciously going for a poppier, janglier, gazier vibe with all of the Bummed stuff. Chapterhouse and Th’ Faith Healers in particular have been a point of reference for me from day one.
“Smoking Jewels” as a title was a result from our album art discussions. One idea that someone threw out was a glass piece with the bowl packed with diamonds. It was more of a joke but I thought it was spot-on and conveyed the sonic character of the song (hazy, blunted, shimmering, deliberate, exact, etc.) so I just used it as a working title. The rest of the band was into it so it stuck.
The EP art here is fantastic. How does it with the theme of the release or the goals of the group? Does it reflect something about the band name?
I wanted in the album art to have some sort of automotive element as a nod to the motorik stuff (Neu!, Harmonia, early Kraftwerk, et al.) that I draw on heavily for inspiration. One thing that is always keep in the back of mind when working on music is whether or not it would be good to drive to but the Bummed songs are also coming from a dark, solipsistic place so I figured a car crash was the perfect, tragic image to convey all of that. Our friend Esteban Neumann fulfilled that vision. Asleep at the wheel and doomed, you know?
The band name was actually taken from the second Happy Mondays album. I actually don’t like the Happy Mondays but somone suggested the name “Bummed” and we all thought it was perfect.