words by Erin Wolf
Brooklyn’s Pterodactyl is nearly as cacophonous as it’s namesake, wielding a terrifying beauty as their main weapon of audio assault (watch the video for “School Glue”, here). The band’s most recent release, Spills Out, co-released on Brah Records and Jagjaguwar Records, has been described as “pretty nuts” by the A.V. Club, “breezy” by SPIN, and called “shred-a-tonic trebly noise” by Tiny Mix Tapes. All reviewers agree to a shared point, though, that this time around, the band’s latest material is at its best when it puts the focus on the pop. WMSE spoke with Pterodactyl’s drummer Matt Marlin about putting together the more helter-skelter side of pop before the band plays a show at Milwaukee’s Frank’s Power Plant tonight.
Your music is pretty haphazard and seam-busting – piecing it together, how on earth do you choose parts that work and parts that don’t? It seems like each instrument is riding that fine line of going everywhere and having a specific sound-goal. When is something considered to be not acceptable?
A lot of this happened in the mixing. Since we were recording our own overdubs we developed this crazy mass of material, so we got to choose where the pieces were working and where they weren’t. In “Searchers”, for example, there were like six guitar tracks recorded, but we only ended up using a couple at a time. It was tough to sift through but Frank helped us do that in the mix.
Keyboards. > or < than guitars in your music?
Keyboards are pretty new for us, so you could say we’re still in our honeymoon phase! Our new keyboard player Duncan also kicks ass, which helps put it over the top… it really ties everything together live to have a keyed instrument at the center. But the band existed as a ‘guitar-only’ affair for quite a while, so that’s probably still the more essential element for us.
What pedals are you using right now?
We’re not all that pedal-heavy these days. Joe has like three different things just for general volume control (volume pedal, Boss EQ, EH Linear Power Booster), but that’s just for dynamic in the songs. Beyond that, there’s a little delay and reverb here and there, via things like the Line 6 and Holy Grail.
How was playing CMJ this past year?
Fun! We didn’t get to see all that much because we were working on the music video for “School Glue” for hours on end while preparing to go out on this tour, but what we saw (and played) was awesome!
Spills Out was just released…what’s your favorite review of it so far?
We’ve loved the wide variety of responses, actually! We just rolled through Missoula, MT and a local writer there totally hated the record. He called it “an annoying album [that is] both unrelenting and aimless.” (!!) So the preview of the show was scathing and terrible, but the show itself was really well-reviewed by a different writer who said it was one of the best live shows he’s seen. It’s amazing to hear and read the variety of responses to the music… we just try not to put too much stock into any one review, whether good or bad.
Who are some of your comrades in sound as far as current bands go?
Well, we listen to a lot of different stuff and get compared to a lot of different bands… Abe Vigoda, Ponytail, even the occasional Vampire Weekend or Animal Collective! We are flattered by any such references whenever they come up. But we don’t necessarily self-identify with any particular “scene” or “sound” going on right now.
Which member of the band is most like your namesake?
I think Joe has gotta be the screechiest of us all, both on the guitar and on vocals, so he probably gets the prize. I think he must be inspired by all the people screaming like Pterodactyls when you search for it on YouTube. Have you noticed that people seem to be really fascinated with what they imagine Pterodactyls sounded like?