Chemistry and chaos help lift the Ground’s art-rock

The Ground’s Angotti, Dierkes, and Saenz when not discussing artwork. - Christine Sargologos
Christine Sargologos
The Ground’s Angotti, Dierkes, and Saenz when not discussing artwork.

If the Ground were known by any other name, one might consider Points of Contention. Or maybe Points of Polite Disagreement. Consider the two pieces of promo art on their Facebook page, one of which became their album cover art. The first is designed by guitarist/vocalist Brad Angotti (also in Perpetual Heat and the now defunct Búho) and it recalls countless ’90s alt-rock albums: a dead wasp on the pavement under ironic department store lettering. The second piece, by guitarist B.J. Dierkes (reared by the Florida hardcore scene, of the defunct I, His Chronicler) is a lost Sabbath record, an eerie cathedral in washed-out grayscale with a font suited for Mexican surnames on pickup trucks. “These guys have been giving me shit about that for about a month,” Dierkes deadpans in the recording studio/home of Edwin Stevens (Blowing Trees, Fisherman).

“Be glad you didn’t see mine!” chimes in drummer Deb Saenz (who earned her stripes in San Francisco’s metal scene), before everyone laughs. Angotti jokes that the group will probably break down and “hire a professional” to settle the album art dispute.

The Ground spoke to the Current between takes of their forthcoming, as-yet-untitled EP (which will be named, packaged, and on sale this Saturday). It’s an experiment in hypnotic, heavy art-rock. Angotti is a capricious guitarist who loves finding accidental inspiration in his effects pedals and creating piles of tones and noise. His counterpoint is Dierkes, who matches Angotti’s technical precision but keeps his textures comparatively clean. A little distortion here, a little boost there go a long way in preparing the landscape for Angotti’s guitar. Meanwhile, Saenz tills said landscape like a mythological robot beast: methodically and mechanically, emphasizing pure functionality over showmanship.

Together the trio makes some earth-shifting art-rock. Album opener “Made Time Stand Still” is a somber death march, with Angotti and Dierkes layering piercing guitars and Saenz slapping out a dreadful cadence. Meanwhile, Angotti is still finalizing vocals for “Slow Death,” working on an outro that features him singing melodiously underneath a guitar-and-drum apocalypse. On the first draft, he sang through a bass amp with the distortion turned up before deciding to sweeten his voice. “I don’t want [the vocals] to be on top like a pop record,” Angotti says. “[But] I really want things to be disconcerting. A crushingly loud guitar and this nice tuneful melody.”

Angotti and company are maintaining the mercurial approach of Búho, including plenty of minor creative squabbles. Drummer Saenz generously describes Dierkes as being “in a moment” when his solo goes long during a take. Over the noise Angotti screams at both of them to shift to the song’s next section, but Saenz argues they should let Dierkes follow his inspiration. “She was like, ‘No, you’re wrong, he needs to keep playing,” Dierkes says, before the band — Angotti included — cracks up. •


The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, with the Ground and Joust & Parry

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