Photograph: Linda Parrott
Styrofoam Winos technically started at Belmont College, the place its three members met in 2011. However the challenge’s true birthplace was J.J.’s Market & Cafe, which was a magnet for eccentrics within the coronary heart of Midtown Nashville for greater than 40 years earlier than the cruel forces of growth caught up with it in 2018.
The Winos’ Lou Turner, Trevor Nikrant and Joe Kenkel all labored at J.J.’s on and off, and performed their first present as a band there in 2015. A ceramic mug from the much-missed cafe options prominently within the collage on the duvet of Styrofoam Winos, their debut full-length, out Friday on Louisville’s Sophomore Lounge Information. All three members are solo artists too, and on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a song-poem from Turner’s 2020 LP Songs for John Venn, she references a tattoo of the J.J.’s signal on her thigh. They’ve all obtained the tat, the Scene learns in speaking with the band over Zoom.
“We obtained them collectively, us and a pair others, when J.J.’s obtained torn down,” Nikrant says. “Chaotic in the easiest way” is how he’ll bear in mind the place. “Numerous characters, bizarre shit occurring, all the things breaking, on a regular basis. It was like a portal to a earlier Nashville — the oldest constructing on the block.”
The Winos are a go-to opener for touring acts on exhibits thrown by native promoter Chris Davis’ adventurous FMRL enterprise. They’re descendants of a protracted lineage of eccentric Music Metropolis teams working autonomously from the music biz who eschew inflexible concepts about style and what a band even is. Lambchop and The Cherry Blossoms come to thoughts as antecedents, together with honorary Nashvillians Yo La Tengo. Like YLT, the Winos are a inventive union of a pair and their finest pal. Nikrant and Turner are engaged.
Every member of the trio has launched information beneath their very own identify lately. The act of sifting by means of this trove of fabric to discern the place the solo work ends and the Winos start will get a bit sophisticated. Along with Turner’s John Venn, there’s Kenkel’s 2019 launch Dream Creator, and Nikrant’s Living in the Kingdom LP, issued in early ’18. Turner’s tunes are probably the most distinct and quick — wordy, sprightly and sneakily catchy. Nikrant serves up a delightful mixture of old-school soul and ’90s indie-troubadour stylings. Kenkel’s hazy streams-of-consciousness owe a debt to Bob Dylan vocally and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks vibe-wise.
Sonically, the members’ solo output has extra commonalities than variations. Turner shares one cause why: “We began releasing solo stuff on the similar time we fashioned the Winos, with the concept we’d be one another’s backing bands.” She factors out that whereas Nikrant did examine bass in faculty, not one of the Winos knew methods to play drums till they joined forces. Now, all three are proficient behind the equipment.
Photograph: Linda Parrott
Within the Venn diagram of the Winos’ influences, Dylan, Neil Younger, Leonard Cohen and Smog’s Invoice Callahan occupy the center. As for the outer circles, Kenkel just lately began making sample-based music beneath the alter ego Glam Campbell, which he calls “an outlet for random digital excursions.” Classic post-punk like The Raincoats, free jazz, poetry and spoken phrase are Turner’s different loves; Vegetarian Alcoholic Press out of Milwaukee just lately printed Shape Note Singing, her newest assortment of poems. Nikrant, a Brazilian music aficionado, has been impressed throughout quarantine to purchase “a Brazilian guitar made with rosewood, which they aren’t allowed to make anymore.” “It’s type of environmentally doubtful, nevertheless it sounds actually good,” he says with fun.
The trio’s first batch of tunes written collaboratively as a band, Styrofoam Winos abounds with wry lyrical observations and hooks as uncommon as they’re simple. The punchy and playful “Caught in a Museum,” sublimely wistful “As soon as” and hovering, ecstatic “Roygbiv” are totally fashioned songs, thoughtfully organized and texturally wealthy. Different moments really feel extra off-the-cuff, just like the plunky, dissonant instrumental “Open Mic” and scathing gentrification treatise “Skyline High Removing,” through which Turner sings: “I need to let you know all about my area / It was constructed on the backs of the underpaid / Isn’t it minimal? / Isn’t it nice?”
It’s by no means completely clear who wrote what or who’s taking part in which instrument, which appears by design for the band topped Best Rock Democracy within the Scene’s 2019 Better of Nashville difficulty. Broad-ranging but bizarrely cohesive, Styrofoam Winos is musical osmosis at its purest.
The winds of change in Nashville would possibly’ve felled their previous dwelling base of J.J.’s, however the Winos are optimistic that what they’re constructing right here is supposed to final. “I might say Nashville is dwelling eternally,” Kenkel says, the others nodding in settlement. “We’re all the time speaking about how it could be nice to personal a venue right here in the future … to, at an previous age, nonetheless be part of this metropolis and fostering some type of sense of group. I dream of taking part in at Betty’s in my 70s.”