Shoegaze 101: Brush up on The Swirlies, before they hit Downtown

This current, brief run marks the band’s first West Coast dates in 14 years.
Annie Zaleski

Who: Formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Swirlies were one of the most beloved indie-shoegaze acts during the 1990s. The group’s gnarled, lo-fi sound was anchored initially by guitarist/vocalists Seana Carmody and Damon Tutunjian, who coaxed out splintered, off-kilter tones from their respective instruments. Kindred spirits to the fuzz-pop band Velocity Girl, The Swirlies have weathered countless lineup changes over the years, with Carmody leaving the group in 1994. Incredibly, however, the band has never actually broken up.

Key releases: The Swirlies’ scrappy early work—including and especially distortion-scribbled 1992 EP What to Do About Them, which boasts unsettled sound samples and plenty of riotous hiss—embodies The Swirlies’ askew approach. The group’s 1993 full-length, Blonder Tongue Audio Baton, is widely considered a shoegaze classic, courtesy of My Bloody Valentine-indebted tense noise bursts and a combination of ethereal (Carmody) and conspiratorial (Tutunjian) vocals. Also, don’t sleep on 1996’s They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons, a record whose furious guitars and loopy electronic detours are confidently weird.

What’s new? In 2016, the band released a new song, “Fantastic Trumpets Forever,” on a limited-edition flexi-disc, while the label Taang! reissued Blonder Tongue Audio Baton on vinyl. Beyond that, the group tours only sporadically: In 2013, The Swirlies paired up for dates with Kurt Vile and the Violators, while this current, brief run marks the band’s first West Coast dates in 14 years. As she has done several times over the years, Carmody rejoined the group for some dates in 2015, but she isn’t along for this trek. Original members Tutunjian and Andy Bernick (bass), along with long-time drummer Adam Pierce, will be there, however.

The Swirlies with Cruel Summer, Winter, Homebodys. August 5, 8 p.m., $15. Beauty Bar, 702-598-3757.

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