New Douglas, Illinois, doesn’t sound like a place where a lot of noise is made. It sounds like the setting out of a John Hughes film. The town’s population in 2010 was 319. It’s about a 45-minute drive northwest from St. Louis. It’s also the home of Rose Raft, the home, the studio, and the creative space built by Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Jerome Lesicko of the Funs.
The abandoned house which was built in 1872 was Philip’s grandfathers and it took nearly four years of fixing up to make it the hospitable and creative space it is today. After all the work was done building, it was time to get to work musically.
The duo of Crane and Lesicko (who share guitar, drum, and vocal duties) also run Manic Static Records which has been used as a vehicle to release music as the Funs, their solo work, as well as releases by Twin Peaks, Ne-Hi, Lala Lala, and many more. Their new record Is A Cult will be put out by Chicago’s Maximum Pelt.
“Save Yourself” opens the album with a deep breath followed by minimal intro that gradually picks up and continues to build upon itself, the title of the song repeated by Crane like a stoic mantra. The fuzzed out guitars continue in “On The Water” with murky and blurry vocals over another minimal and repetitive drumbeat, the huge sound of each tom and snare hit with deliberate force.
“Come With Me,” a title keeping with the cult theme, starts with just guitar in a ¾ time signature, sounding like some sort of deranged and ominous nursery rhyme. The drums kick in just before the fade out and I feel like I’m left wanting more. “So Real” calms things down a bit with an instrumental interlude before the album picks up again with “Mourning Glory.”
The album closer “Suncoat” begins with shimmering distorted guitars and Lesicko takes over vocals for the first time. The song takes its time, adding layers of guitars and noise and feedback striving for catharsis, until the unexpected transition to an acoustic guitar to end the album.
Throughout the album I’m reminded of Swear Beam, another project of Crane and Lesicko with a release on Maximum Pelt , who hit a similar shoegaze and brooding sound. At less than 25 minutes, Is A Cult is short and anything but sweet: it is noisy, fuzzed out, haunting gloom and doom that sounds best at the darkest times of night. Read an interview with Crane and you see the thought processes that fuel the Funs’ work: atheism, consumerism, tragedy, depression, commercialism, skepticism. But it is precisely because the Funs confront these darker elements in life that provide vitality to their music.
Having moved downstate but still play Chicago with some frequency, having already played the Empty Bottle twice and the Hideout this year. They return to the Hideout on Friday October 13th (!) with other local standouts Melkbelly (celebrating an album release) and the Hecks.