2019 finds veteran indie label Graveface Records (home to Casket Girls, Xiu Xiu, Appleseed Cast and more) charting some new/old territory. They're starting a subsidiary of Graveface called NEVERNOTGOTH. NNG will be home to many reissues of obscure darkwave/goth LPs but also will showcase some new talent making waves in the genre today. The first release on this new sub-imprint (GOTH001) is by Atlanta's Shouldies.
Attention all goth kids, pop princesses, darkwave divas: the new sound still isn’t rock and roll. At least not to Shouldies, a synth punk trio consisting of Yancey Ballard, John Pierce, and Daniel Eberlein, on a mission to fuse dance with a relatable dose of realness -- but make it goth. The group rose from the ashes of the Atlanta music scene in 2017 to serve darkwave to the buttcracks and crevices of the city’s sprawling highways and bigots, dance on the ghost of your face as you sit in the 5 o’clock traffic, whisper in your ear when you frequent, yet again, that bar with the shitty men. With lyrics that sound like the most profound page of your emo phase (but make it political), Shouldies layer earnest pacing over a soft fury of synth.
You’ll have a chance to let that sink in, as the alluring synthscape works in tandem with direct message -- Eberlein and Pierce can be seen onstage focused intently on creating the backdrop for Ballard’s delivery. Introspective ideas manifest into broader themes. Ballard recently commented on Atlanta’s deceptively close proximity to homophobia and transphobia in Kerrang!: “A lot of the time, it’s a fight to be heard because it’s not ‘as dangerous’ as it is outside [Atlanta’s perimeters]. People don’t care about microaggressions. People don’t care about discomfort. People care less than they should about full-on aggression because at least it’s ‘safer’ here. ‘At least it happens less’. ‘It could be worse’.”
Life-long friends Ballard and Pierce collaborated on a number of projects before forming Shouldies with Eberlein, who they barely knew prior to, in summer of 2017. All three agreed that if they were going to make music, they wanted it to be accessible, relatable, and fluid. As Eberlein told Creative Loafing "We just wanna make songs that you can dance to, and with lyrics that are really meaningful... something that gets stuck in your head,” he says. "It feels way more powerful than making some art statement that's supposed to be vague... People want to relate to music and dance and be happy." Shouldies first took the stage at Irrelevant Music Fest 2017 with Eberlein on drum machine and synths, Pierce on guitar and synths, and Ballard at the front. The rest is a history of sordid love affairs with pop and punk.
Eberlein’s background is mostly in techno and noise, and he tells Wussy Mag his dream concert would be “Arca perform[ing] in a giant old building, like a church or something.” Pierce would rather meet you in the pit: his dream show is “Fugazi and Dead Kennedys at 529.” Shouldies is both a surreal and austere union, not to be taken lightly, though the music feels as natural as jokes thrown around a group of friends. Then comes the Darth Vader synth: monotone lyrics materialize on the dance floor as exorcism, and the audience feels the echoes. Wherever Shouldies draw their edge, live shows draw cross-genre crowds and promise an experience with very little internet tracing.
They must be cooking up something. If you ask them, they’ll shrug their shoulders and tell you that you missed tea time. Now serving: shiny, hard, synth pop.