The Attachments play sane punk as art reaction

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The Attachments’ lead singer Sam Uriss says that most of his lyrics are “hugely influenced by advertising and mass media.” The trio plays Champion Brewing Company on Sunday. Photo by Tristan Williams The Attachments’ lead singer Sam Uriss says that most of his lyrics are “hugely influenced by advertising and mass media.” The trio plays Champion Brewing Company on Sunday. Photo by Tristan Williams

After band practice on a recent Monday evening, the three members of The Attachments lean back on couches in drummer Jack Richardson’s Belmont living room. As the day falls into dusk outside the window, they drink beers and bottled teas while a record spins punk music at a low volume in the background.

“I came out of punk retirement to start this band with these guys,” says Sam Uriss, singer and guitarist for The Attachments. “I hadn’t played any [punk] for a long time and I felt a hankering. It’s the kind of thing where, once you’re in it you don’t really get away from it. It’s kind of like the mob.”

And while The Attachments isn’t a pure punk band—it’s more 1960s garage rock and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll than anything else—punk is embedded in its backstory and ethos.

Punk music is how Richardson, Uriss and bass player Tyler Abernethy met. They all grew up in the central Virginia area and played in bands together through high school. Uriss and Abernethy were in metal-edged punk and rock ‘n’ roll band Gutter Strutter, and Uriss and Richardson in the punk, garage and hardcore-tinged Slugs.

As they talk about early shows played at DIY venues and the recordings sold from makeshift merch tables, The Attachments say it’s hard to believe it’s been almost a decade since those days, probably because they’ve never stopped playing music. “I can’t not do it,” says Richardson.

“Sanity. To maintain sanity,” Abernethy says of why he plays.

“It’s just what I do,” adds Uriss. “I ain’t never been good at painting.”

Currently, all three members of The Attachments play guitar in other bands—Richardson in hard rock/punk four-piece Wild Rose, Abernethy in Richmond/Charlottesville punk act Fried Egg, and Uriss in country-blues outfit Clay Bones—making this band different. But they think that’s part of what makes this particular combination of musicians in this particular moment so “groovy,” to borrow Abernethy’s description.

While Abernethy discovers himself as a bassist on a black 1970s devil-horned Gibson SG bass gifted to him by Uriss’ dad, Richardson is figuring out who he is as a drummer (he’s new to the instrument) and Uriss gets to write lyrics that dig a bit deeper than the songs of his youth.

“When I think about it, punk music is so much about writing about things that make you angry and piss you off, which gets a little trite to me,” says Uriss. “But you can put more nuance to it when you start to pick specific forces and subjects that you can really talk about why they drive you crazy.”

At WTJU’s Prints, Platters and Pints event at Champion Brewing Company on Sunday, the band will play its entire catalog of originals, including “Switchboard Head,” a song from its 2017 self-titled release that Uriss says is about “the idea of being a conduit for all this programming” coming at him from newspaper, television, radio and internet channels.

Something about that song inspired Abernethy, who splits music-writing duties with Uriss (the band’s singular lyricist) to write the riff and chord progression for “Spoonfed,” a four-minute track about advertising that’s something substantial to chew on, musically and lyrically. “You got what I like you know that I’ll bite and choke it right down / You know that my eyes double in size when you come around / You know that greed burns in my chest when you suggest what could be my own / So please oh please won’t you throw me a bone,” Uriss growls over reverb-drenched guitar and a restrained rhythm section full of attitude before picking up the tempo (and the urgency): “If you’re sellin’ I’m buyin’ / If I believe it ain’t lyin’ / Just show me the dotted line / Just tell me where I gotta sign.”

“Spoonfed” is “about having stuff shoved down your throat,” about taking a look around and realizing that advertising is everywhere, “a totally out-of-control and insane part of society” that we can’t avoid and that we open ourselves up to even when we’re unaware, says Uriss. “It’s so pervasive that I can’t not write songs about it.”

He initially intended to call the band The Consumers, to call attention to “the idea of constantly being sold and buying stuff, consumption,” but an Atlanta-based punk band already had the name. “The Attachments, to me, has a similar vibe,” Uriss says, one of late-night TV infomercials. He notes the direct connection between the brain and the screen.

“And then we have some love songs, too,” Uriss says to laughter from his bandmates. One of them is called “See You There”—and in yet another punk rock tradition, that of filling out your short sets with something that’ll energize the audience, the band covers The Nerves’ “Paper Dolls” and the garage rock classic “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker,” written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Nantz and released as a Brogues single.

The Attachments are committed to keeping the energy up and listeners engaged—it’s music that’s easy to latch on to, with its catchy riffs and whiffs of well-placed attitude. “This music…has [a lot of] kinetic energy” says Uriss.

“Yeah, kinetic,” agrees Abernethy. “That’s the key word.”

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