By: Simone Fohrman
On a recent Saturday eve in March over at the D3 Arts Center, Denver’s own Water on the Thirsty Ground launched their new album “Exploding Head Syndrome” with a raucous show. The D3 is rapidly becoming one of the city’s most vibrant DIY venues, and on this night it was overflowing with committed music nerds, scene kids, and other assorted weirdos.
The brainchild of Blake Mandy and Julia Bull, Water on the Thirsty Ground’s new lineup took to the stage first, bringing bass, guitar, and drums to replace the duo’s typical drum machine/DJ setup. The new roster immediately added physicality, depth, and a fullness to the band’s sound, and everyone pushed to the front as Blake and Julia took the floor.
The first chord engulfed the audience in a current of noise, the drone of the bass electrified the room and shook through bodies. Then suddenly, before there was any possibility of floating away into an ethereal trance, a pounding beat rose into the forefront of the mix. Throughout the set no song was the same, no line predictable, every twist and turn of the sonic landscape felt unexpected.
Blake cut through with urgent lyricism mixed with subdued spoken word verses. His vocals downpitched in a deep, resonant hum to give Julia’s high pitched autotune effect and spasmodic vocals a perfect contrast. The duo exchanged bars back and forth, coming together in the climaxes of each song to bellow at the enraptured crowd. Pop hooks launched into abrasive and textured interludes, overdriven beats rapidly gathered momentum and generated moments of hyper, unfettered chaos– a multitude of sonic worlds were mashed into thirty second spans.
After the show, Blake commented on the manic nature of their project, “We just try to make each other laugh when we’re making music… We try to make the other person go ‘what the fuck’ with whatever we just did.”
The duo said they desire to create something that could feel both familiar and foreign at the same time.
“Everything is alive and awake if you’re fully present in every moment,” said Blake. “Everything becomes a story book adventure and life becomes very full, even when it’s intense and seems miserable.”
Lofty words that were definitely backed up by a powerful sonic and physical performance. The duo confidently conducted energy in the room, especially at the tail end of the set when they compelled a moshing crowd to sit quietly on the floor. Blake and Julia took turns sitting on the level of the audience, and the heightened energy in the room dissipated into a calm, steady pulse.
“All we want,” said Blake of their stage stance. “is to rip our own souls out of our own bodies and give it to the audience as something to get lost in for like half an hour.”
Check out the new album here.