IT MIGHT seem a little peculiar to hear trombone and mathy guitar leads snaking out of the doors of a feverish punk rock show, but, thanks to Savannah’s Culture Vulture, it’s almost become expected 'round these parts.
The instrumental prog/math/jazz trio has been busy, to say the least, playing countless shows around town (pairing with everything from hip-hop artists to hardcore bands), touring the Southeast, and gearing up to release their strongest work yet: Girls’ Night.
Recorded by Clay Skinner, Girls’ Night is the first collection of songs that Culture Vulture hasn’t produced themselves. Having an outside source in the producer’s chair allowed the trio to delve deep and push the boundaries of their eclectic sound.
“I guess we were trying to get it a little bit cleaner and closer to how it sounds in our heads,” suggests trombonist Nick Gilbert. “When we play live, there are parts that we’re hearing, but we’re three people, and there are additional parts we can’t play. On the album, there’s a lot of piano, a lot that’s just percussion. There are more electronic effects and stuff like that. Some of that, I think, is definitely taking advantage of Clay tracking us. It made it a lot easier to get that out.”
Girls’ Night enters with “Intro,” defined by bright, a gentle woodsy vibe and plenty of sensory textural percussion, bright, plucky guitar, and the bold coos of Gilbert’s horn, robust as a chorus when played through a multi-effects processor. The party arrives as “Intro” bubbles over into “Crystal,” with bold, all-encompassing trombone, tougher guitar, and full-bodied drums.
You won’t see a still audience at a Culture Vulture show, and you certainly won’t be able to hold back as the dancey “Crystal” takes hold.
When talking about their sound, Culture Vulture communicates in multisensory language, and it suits: approaching Girls’ Night with synesthesia in mind allows the record to be all the more engrossing.
From color to tone to evocative titles (title track “Girls’ Night on Acid” feels something like cannonballing into a pool of champagne with multicolor strobes flashing through the deep end), Culture Vulture is meant to be seen, felt, tasted, and heard; put some headphones on, and you’ll be whisked away to a new, technicolor dimension.
Gilbert and guitarist James Webber got their start in a ska band, and, while you might not see skanking at Culture Vulture shows (okay, maybe a little), the joyful vibe and soul of that foundation shoots a contagious energy through Culture Vulture’s sets.
Webber and drummer Mathew Pelton moved to Savannah a few years back and began working on what would become Culture Vulture. When Gilbert moved from New York to the Hostess City, the trio rehearsed and wrote for a year, refining and honing.
“It took some work, figuring out what we could do stylistically with no bass and no vocals,” says Webber.
The band’s chameleonic tendencies have allowed them to sync with an array of bands and find inspiration in odd-couple billings. Their fluidity and flourishes are a hit with the pysch-rock crowd; the unexpected intensity of their sets works great with punk.
Their softer side complements folk and singer-songwriters, and their technical expertise makes them an edgy companion to jazz or more traditional instrumental music-makers.
“On tour, we played with a nine-piece jazz band, a grungy punk band, a power-violence band, and singer-songwriters,” Webber recalls.
“It’s fun for us, as fans and music listeners, to play different shows with different genres all the time and hear different stuff,” adds Gilbert. “It definitely has an effect on what we do.”
Performing here in Savannah had a high influence on the Girls’ Night writing sessions.
“We’d written a lot of the first record before we started playing out, really,” says Gilbert. “We were playing all these punk bills, and the vibe we get from a house show, or playing with Crazy Bag Lady or Triathalon—that stuff, it kind of seeps in eventually into the music. I think this record sounds a lot more like Savannah than the last record did.”
The band celebrates their Bomb Shelter Records album release (“Totally DIY’d, in the community sense,” the band shares) at Starland’s House of Strut, alongside KYLE, Tokalos, and Crazy Bag Lady.
Supported by math rock, soulful, harmonious folk, and hometown punks in a locally-owned emporium of unique vintagewear? Seems there couldn’t be a more fitting way to give Girls’ Night the warm welcome it deserves.