Show Me the Body does their best to bypass labels. The New York/Western Massachusetts trio, currently composed of Julian Cashwan, Harlan Steed, and Noah Cohen-Corbett, make their own blend of DIY banjo-bass-drums punk. Their music is truly best experienced live because of the group’s raw intensity; their recordings capture this energy, but it is best conveyed when crammed in a tiny basement where you are inches away from Cashwan’s banjo strings and Steed’s brutal bass face.
Several weeks ago, I attended an afternoon SMTB show that served not only as celebration of the band’s new tape, Yellow Kidney, but also an opportunity to watch sets from their pals SportingLife, TippWerk, Max Jaffe, and Ivan Ooze, all while enjoying free barbecue. Show Me the Body ended up performing in a basement to avoid more noise complaints, and the cramped space only amplified their already uninhibited noise. Though I highly recommend checking out one of Show Me the Body’s live performances (they just wrapped up a tour with Ratking), in the meantime enjoy a brief interview and the premiere of their video “Steep Rock”.
So how did you guys form?
Julian Cashwan: Me and Harlan met in high school. I guess Show Me the Body really formed when my older cousin, Gabe, became our drummer. But Gabe is taking some time away now. Noah has come in and started playing with us.
Harlan Steed: It must have started when we were fifteen? That was when Julian and I first started playing music together. I think Show Me the Body as a project didn’t really start ’til we were 16 or 17. We started playing shows around New York with Gabe, who was our second drummer at that point, and that was when we were staring to play shows with Ratking.
Were most of the kids playing those shows in your age range or involved with the same scene?
S: Yeah, I think it took awhile to get there, but eventually it started to be people our age. We went from playing in Manhattan and the Lower East Side a lot to Brooklyn where there were more all ages shows.
C: We played a lot of dumb shows. We basically realized we couldn’t play shows that I didn’t book, or that my friends didn’t book because otherwise it was going to be a bad show. But that was a cool realization, just to realize our favorite artists were the people we were hanging out with, and these were the people we were interested in hanging out with.
A few weeks ago you hosted a release show and bar-b-que for your tape Yellow Kidney in Harlan’s driveway and had a bunch of your pals played sets. What do you think is the importance of a community atmosphere?
S: I think it’s pretty crucial, especially to having a successful show, or even a successful set. A lot of live music really relies on how you read an audience and who you bring with you. Being able to have our friends there, in a place where they feel comfortable and where they feel comfortable bringing their friends, that’s the kind of environment we want to be in. We’ve never really felt great at shows where we’re being told we cant bring people in because of their age or for whatever reason.
C: I got arrested playing an 18+ show at Public Assembly for nothing just cause some kid put up a piece of graffiti but that was just because it was an established club. It’s not even about it being 21+, like if it’s cool it’s probably going to be all ages, but to be honest, it’s really just about not being a real club, if it’s not an established spot, it’s probably gonna be dope.
So how do you feel about places like Baby’s Alright? You are performing there with DJ Dog Dick, DJ Lucas, and God’s Wisdom.
C: That’s just some shit you have to do, that’s just how it is.
S: If we had to play a club, and we did, on this last tour we did last month, we started off playing shows with Worms, which is DJ Lucas’ band from Western Mass, and we did four hardcore shows with them—basement shows, good energy. Then we started touring with Ratking and we were playing these clubs pretty much every night and sometimes it was just dope because the bill was dope and the people who were playing were our friends. I think it’s really crucial if we play a club that we’re there with our friends, DJ Lucas, DJ Dog Dick, Ratking, people we’ve played with, it just helps that atmosphere transplant itself there, even if the environment isn’t one it would normally happen in.
You guys seem to be constantly playing shows. How do you feel these live shows influence the band?
C: Our project is really defined by how we play. Like, when we were recording today we had to jump up and down before we play to get our blood flowing and to get in the mind space of begin raw as fuck. Harlan and I have been playing this song for awhile we’re recording it right now, the first time we played it, it felt like the skin was being ripped off from the back of our skulls. A couple weeks later I was studying a lot of poetry and I read that Emily Dickinson has this quote where she says real poetry happens when the skin is ripped off the back of your head, and that’s the feeling I feel when I play with Harlan. So that’s what we try to recreate, and that really happens when we play live, that’s where I’m trying to get every time.
How do you access that energy before each show?
C: That’s a hard question to ask because what you’re really talking about… what is eroticism, what is, not even sexuality, but sensuality, like what does it mean to be alive and feeling everything, and feeling yourself and feeling a room, and that’s I guess how you get there.
What is the concept behind the Steep Rock video?
C: The concept was just playing with the idea of what does it mean to be alone, what it means to be discontent when you’re alone, and what is the name of that feeling, and not just that in general, but what does it mean to be discontent and alone in this environment.
How did the glitches work into that?
C: The glitches really came about… I had gotten home to my parent’s house in the Upper West at like two a.m. and no one was home. I went into their room and turned on the TV and it was fucked up. You know that movie Elysium? The TV couldn’t handle the pixels of all the explosions. I watched it for a bit and then I thought I may as well film it and then I got the idea.
You guys are typically described as “sludge punk.” What does that mean?
C: I came up with the phrase “New York Sludge” a while ago and I think we play NY sludge personally.
S: The question of category or genre has come up with us before. I think our music is music you swim through, and when you swim through it, it’s often very thick and murky water, it’s hard to penetrate, it’s hard to get through, but there’s a texture to it, a feeling. I think we like to think of it more as a picture. We have issues with the word “genre” and “category,” I don’t think any of us are so attached to bands or think of bands by the shelf we put them on or the category we put them in.
C: I grew up on hardcore music at the same time as growing up on New York hip hop, and sludge music and hardcore punk music is very much about white anger, and New York music is very much not about white anger, it’s very international and very often about black and brown anger. I think we try and mix these two worlds.