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entertainment

01.03 The seriously inventive sound of Nine Volt Superhero

Debut EP to be released this spring

You could call Nine Volt Superhero a Wormtown super group of sorts. But while most super groups fail to capture the sum of their members, Nine Volt Superhero is an example of how musicians from very different backgrounds can come together and push each other forward in a new direction.

Guitarist and vocalist Pete DeGraff logged his time playing bass in bands like Halobox, Cast Iron Hike (a band that was king of the New England all ages hardcore circuit), and Villain. While DeGraff and guitarist Liam Sullivan were doing horror rock with Villain, bassist Jon Plet was making pop-punk with Puddle, and drummer Ed Barnett was pounding out Who covers with the tribute band Substitute, warped folk with Bob Jordan, and groove music with the Cartridge Family.

For Ed, the seriously inventive sound of Nine Volt Superhero is a long way from imitating Keith Moon every night. It’s also the first time he’s sung lead, and it puts him among a rather ominous cast of drummer-vocalists. “Fuck Phil Collins, and fuck Don Henley,” he laughs when comparisons are made. “Drumming and singing seems to most folks like a circus act. But there was Karen Carpenter.”

“People like us for our front man,” jokes Liam — having a singing drummer means they don’t have one. It also means that Nine Volt Superhero have a lead vocalist with a soaring voice. While an early demo showed the band leaning towards an instrumental math rock direction (“Math rock for idiots” cracks Ed), the band now uses vocals nearly all of its tunes, and is heading into more uncharted territory.

The two things most apparent on the songs that have been recorded for Nine Volt Superhero’s debut EP — a 25 minute affair set to be released this spring — is how important dynamics are for the band. Taking its artistic, if not necessarily musical cue from both classic rock and 80s heroes like the Cure, each tune stretches across a wide range of sounds and textures.

Although they’re favorites at the Lucky Dog and have successfully trekked out to Buffalo, Providence and Boston, the band has so far spent more time in the studio than playing out live. While many Wormtown bands play out several times a month, Nine Volt Superhero have barely played six gigs in the two years they’ve been together. “That should change once we have a really solid disc we can send out,” says Jon, who movie fans will instantly recognize as the longtime Starship Video employee with the hip taste in hats.

Pete is the Lucky Dog’s resident sound man and one of the most respected knob turners in town, so its no surprise that he’s taking his time with the group’s disc in between projects other bands hire him for. “I keep figuring I need some new piece of equipment, and by the time it comes I’m waiting for something else,” he says.

Another distinguishing feature is that both on record and live, Nine Volt Superhero is a band that lets you hear all the words. It’s a fresh approach in a day when most bands seem to write lyrics only to have them drowned out by super-cranked amps. “I just like music where you can hear the words,” says Ed. The result is music that’s both passionate and interesting.

For Ed, the seriously inventive sound of Nine Volt Superhero is a long way from imitating Keith Moon every night.

Another distinguishing feature is that both on record and live, Nine Volt Superhero is a band that lets you hear all the words. It’s a fresh approach in a day when most bands seem to write lyrics only to have them drowned out by super-cranked amps.