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Music

Riffing on Emo

Russ Wood of Eichlers applies a new genre to fun, silly, unpretentious songwriting

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HOPE COOC
  • Hope Cooc

To understand the music of Eichlers—the solo project of local Russ Wood—you'd better be familiar with the entirely unique world of emo trap. Born from Soundcloud rap and the good-humored meme-ery around the iconic sounds of early-2000s emo, emo trap is a synthesis of electronic production and vulnerable sensibilities. It took a world of depressed and sensitive millennials and zoomers by storm a few years back, and hasn't gotten old yet. Wood got caught up too, finding in the process a new musical avenue that has resulted in him expanding not only his own creative horizons to the release of a new album, but those of music-making friends around him.

"I just thought it was so sick," he exclaims about his discovery of the Soundcloud sub-scene back in 2018. "Just the fact that you can take a Blink-182 song and put like a beat over it and then make your own melody... I just thought that was super inspiring."

With emo inclinations already developed with his work in local outfit Breakfast in Silence, he soon realized he had all the tools to begin experimenting on his own within the newly-discovered genre. The deluge of creative flow that followed would result in so many spare beats of Wood's that he came up with another no-brainer: "'What about all my creative friends?'" Wood remembers asking himself. "They're probably gonna have just as much fun."

Opening up his homemade beats to his friends was what birthed Scene Kids earlier this year, a 12-song compilation featuring a myriad of weird beats and prolific locals in Wood's friend group—think a looping banjo track with a famous local screamer hoarsely singing over the top, and punchy songs about things like periods—while demonstrating the kind of fun Wood was having on his own with the beats. And these same creative friends in the music world are partly responsible for Wood's new upcoming release, i may b cute, but im dumb af, out Oct. 16 at eichlers.bandcamp.com. Old friends from the Bay Area, where Wood lived until 2016, encouraged Wood to scrap a bunch of recordings already up on Bandcamp and streamers, in favor of re-hashing them with the new production skills Wood had recently begun to learn—skills which Wood credits learning from another local, Jade Whitlock of Spirit Prison.

By way of agreement, Wood pulled everything from online and started fresh, with friends like Joel Kirschenbaum and Sam Kless (Mom Jeans, Grad Life)—who steward the super-successful merch brand Honey TV—hoping to help shop the album around to labels, before the pandemic stalled those plans. But with the help of Honey TV's merch kingdom, plus other friends like Gregory Johnson of the LA-based emo rap project Nail Polish (who Wood has since worked with on a song) and the cassette label Solidarity Club, Wood has a new plan in place for getting the album out there involving a lot of good merch. "With all the stuff going on with the postal service, I've been handwriting a lot of letters. People like getting mail," Wood says. Those who order special cassettes can also expect a letter from Wood. "I'm a small artist, and if people who don't know me personally find my record and like it, I wanna create that friendship, essentially, that's more than just from friend to artist."

The personal touch makes sense for an album that is mostly quite an emotional affair. "It's just processing emotions and dealing with my flaws," says Wood. "I pride myself on being a good communicator, but not with the people who are closest to me, which is fucked up and counterintuitive."

This frustration emerges often on the album's songs, in sometimes a self-admittedly overblown approach for dramatic effect. That approach really lands on songs like "the bruise," which features crafty metaphors like "lava lamps lose buoyancy / don't say that you're not sick of me / because I'm oh, oh, over me."

The downcast flows are strong all over, but nowhere are they as compelling as the haphazard spiral of single "txt me tmrw," which alongside "wow. rude." features the addition of ska to the emo trap milieu. Ska acoustics skitter around at the pace of a racing heart, trap beats clap down with efficiency and an American Football-like guitar part shimmers out of nowhere, like a sped-up waterfu in one instance, all as Wood pants, "look at me I'm flailing, bouncing, bailing, dipping, sailing, watch me drown." The irreverence of ska, it turns out, is a perfect mate for Wood's self-deprecating emo. It's not surprising, then, that his next planned project is an all-ska project.

The turn from crafting lyrical imagery to the flows and cadences of emo rap has been a positive one that's rubbed off on the new "poppier, more cheeky" material he's working on with his friends in Breakfast in Silence. "I don't think I've made anything super pretentious, but what little pretension there was, I feel is completely gone now. I just wanna have fun."

i may b cute, but im dumb af doesn't seem to be an apt title for the artist or the album, but it is funny and silly and unpretentious—so it's just right.

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