Imagine learning your most unassuming co-worker was in a cult. They never hid this from you, but you never expected it. While the members of A Very Special Episode aren’t in a cult per se (keep reading), you may not expect them to be in one of Brooklyn’s loudest bands.
2021’s debut LP, FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE, perfectly captured the band in their most foundational state. That said, 2023’s Freak Me Out could be their magnum opus. "The last record was really a culmination of all the songs we wrote since Chayse (Schutter, drummer) joined the band,” vocalist/Bassist Kasey Heisler says. “With this, there was a conscious effort to write a sophomore record.”
The noise rock trio is unusually democratic and collaborative. Everyone in the band writes lyrics, music, and has a say over the final product.That established a clear sound on FYHOD. However, Freak Me Out takes that signature sound and explores its limits. “The goal was, ‘let’s take every idea we have to their logical extremes,’” says guitarist Patrick Porter. This is particularly clear on the song “$5 Cover", an A/B/A/B tribute to the East Williamsburg Econo Lodge (EWEL) in Brooklyn. Despite its uncharacteristically basic structure, artistic choices, like gang vocals, acoustic guitar, and background noise, make the song one of the record's highlights. “'We’re doing guitar overdubs on that song, when there’s no guitar live?'" Porter demonstrates rhetorically. "Let’s throw in an acoustic guitar too."
Additionally, Freak Me Out indulges AVSE's catchier side. “We wanted to allow for more pop-style melodies,” notes Heisler. “We were inspired by Halsey’s record with Trent Reznor, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. She laid her vocal sensibilities overtop heavier music, and it slaps!” This is exemplified in the third track, “Deep in the Weeds”. An arm-in-arm, side-to-side sing-along track, it's bound to get even the most snooty scenesters to chant along to the chorus of "down in the rabbit hole." But it's not just melodies and production they played with, but new tempos and song structures as well. Schutter expands on this from his behind-the-kit perspective. “Bands with songs that have slower tempos, like Cloakroom, inspired me to slow the tempo of ‘Neon Stars’ way down, making it emotionally resonate at a higher level."
These changes are all organic. After all, the band is in a different place than when they wrote FYHOD, which was heavily David Lynch-inspired. While they are still inspired by film and television, Freak Me Out has less cinematic lyrical themes and relates that influence to real life. Songs like "Heaven's Gate" even pull inspiration from several docu-series about - wait - cults? “At some point, I realized that local music scenes and cults had some ‘fun’ parallels,” Porter notes. “They require faith, financial sacrifices, and of course, public humiliation,” he jokes. But what he's saying makes sense. Local music is about community. “Local DIY scenes are mini utopias that are community-based, very wholesome, and built on volunteer work. It’s all done because everyone believes in the greater cause of culturally shared music," Porter finishes.
This community mindset permeates through Freak Me Out. “$5 Cover” name-drops multiple local bands and specific instances that happened at EWEL, and the record also starts with samples of local friends’ music. AVSE is not just collaborative within their unit, but the greater DIY ecosystem. If you walk away from this record with anything, let it be that AVSE kicks ass because people like yourself inspire them.
Freak Me Out releases summer 2023 via Hidden Home Records/EWEL Records.