The lyric sheet for art-punk band The Bubs’ debut album Cause a Fuss looks at first like most lyric sheets. There’s a lot of talk about pre-choruses and “repeat 4x.” But then you look a little closer at the notations. “Intro with pirate vocals” is one. “Weird oohs section” is another. There are “bah bah bah bah”s and “ooh-wa-hooooo”s and “ahhh”s, with varying numbers of “h”s to indicate how long everyone should ahhh.
Even when there are real words, they sometimes get notated like this:
The Bubs have been making a lot noise in their native Vermont for a couple years now. The ten band members dress in matching white jump suits. Most of them primarily jump and holler and run around the stage. The vibe is The Polyphonic Spree after a dozen Red Bulls. This makes it sound like the non-instrument-players are extraneous. Hardly. If anything, the jump-and-hollerers most purely embody The Bubs’ chaotic-good energy. This live video aptly illustrates their brand of barely-controlled mayhem:
As you might expect, this makes for one hell of a fun live show. It might not make for much of a record. But against the odds, bandleader Ethan Tapper manages to harness that frenetic energy in recorded form. The songs are every bit as loud and fast and holler-along-with-able as they are live, but his songwriting help them stand up even without the spectacle of ten people in white jump suits cavorting about.
Writing songs for ten people seems daunting, but Tapper says he doesn’t. He writes songs for one person – himself – demoing all the instruments alone before bringing his songs to the other nine. Their input can change things dramatically. “The songs we end up playing as a band are deeply infused with feeling and love and tenderness and fire from all of us, and that’s something that I can’t create — it just has to happen.” he writes in an email. For instance, “Ima Do Me” started life as a lo-fi piece of electronica. As you can see in that video above, it ended up somewhere very different.
The one song he co-wrote, “Pest,” started life in his and bandmate Jon Kraus’s weekly writing sessions in what Tapper says is a haunted basement where he used to live. “I’m not a big believer in ghosts but there was literally a lady (we called her ‘the lady’) with greasy bedraggled hair and a nightgown that would come out of the back corner and stand and look at you if you stayed in there for too long.”
I don’t think you can hear that in the song – “haunted” is overused term in music criticism, and it certainly does not apply to The Bubs’ sound. But maybe it’s one more reason to need this primal-scream catharsis.