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Brotherly sludge

Crashing, crooning and other noises figure into Pontiak’s jams

The three Virginia brothers of Pontiak just released the band’s ninth album, Innocence, last week.

Like any hardworking band, the Carney brothers hit the road the day after to take the album on tour. Their schedule includes a stop in Denton on Friday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios.

Guitarist Van Carney said when it comes to nuances, Pontiak discovers them in performance, when an audience is there to listen.

“We’ve done a lot of weirder stuff on our previous records,” Carney said. “With this one, we wanted to make a direct record. We wanted to tighten it up and get the music recorded without a lot of changes.”

Innocence does have a freshness to it, with sludgy, punk-tinged guitar buzz and as-they-are vocals. The title track opens with much yipping and grinding guitars. The second song doesn’t change too much. The drums still crash, and the guitar still buzzes like a chain saw on idle, but the beat gets a touch steadier.

In the studio, the trio tracks guitar, bass and drums together, and then records vocals separately.

“I wouldn’t sing live because the room is too loud,” Carney said. “The goal behind that is to catch that immediacy. We don’t always record that way, but it was right this time around.”

Innocence was recorded in the Carneys’ studio, near the farm each brother lives on in his own house. The project was organic.

“We kind of just started with melodies and then fleshed it out, and then arranged the rest of the songs around it,” Carney said. “We all came up with the melody together. I tend to sing the melody line and Jennings and Lain sing the harmony, which they are really good at.”

The album is hardly an ear-bleeder from start to finish. There are slower tracks, such as “It’s the Greatest,” which seem more vintage, tune-wise, but plugged in. In fact, “It’s the Greatest” sounds a little like Denton’s Midlake in its Trials of Van Occupanther era. Pontiak’s song has a marching energy and a folksy refrain, but set to rougher guitar hooks. The harmonies have a madrigal, dancing rhythm over the drums.

Van Carney even opts for acoustic guitar in “Noble Heads,” another slower song. “Wildfires” is a slow burner of a song, with mellow vocals and shimmering cymbals.

In spite of the pastoral setting, the Carney boys like to make loud rock music.

“I guess I don’t have any sort of feeling toward [the album]. I tell you what, though, the slower, softer songs are kind of nice,” Carney said.

And an album for the band is a whole body of work, meant to be digested as a whole.

“We’ve never written a record of singles,” Carney said. “I like full, real books. Things happen. You go places. I like records that have all kinds of different chapters in them, and that’s the kind of records we write.”

— Lucinda Breeding