Ex-Cult’s Five Favorite Sonic Influences

Photo: Renate Winter

 Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

Memphis punk outfit Ex-Cult is twisting the genre into new shapes on their self-titled debut. “There’s not a lot of boundaries and it’s uninhibited,” singer Chris Shaw says of their first volume of tracks, produced by their friend and former Goner Records labelmate Ty Segall. Their anxiety-filled record has an honesty that can be hard to come by, with Shaw penning songs about isolation and feeling aimless; a chronicle of “what it’s like to be mid-twenties and not sure what you’re doing with your life.” The group’s influences are also wide-ranging within their preferred realm, tracing punk’s roots to the present. Hive talked to Shaw about the five records that had the strongest influence over their sound and direction.

1. Television Personalities, Mummy Your Not Watching Me

It’s pretty much a pop album but there’s a level of creepiness to it that makes it really interesting. It’s depressing to listen to, but they did an awesome job of touching on all kinds of themes that are uncharted in songwriting. The title track is told from the perspective of a kid who’s not getting enough attention and it’s disturbing, but it’s packaged as a punk pop song. They think outside of the box, lyrically, in a way that you don’t normally see in punk songs.

2. Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera, 801 Live

Obviously Brian Eno is amazing, but Phil Manzanera’s guitar work stands out the most and was a big influence on our guitar player Alex. He picked up the record at a garage swap meet in Memphis. Everyone is deeply involved with the local punk scene here, from putting on shows to playing in other bands and Alex used to run a venue when he first moved here.

3. Useless EatersDaily Commute

Seth Sutton [frontman of Useless Eaters] used to live in Memphis and is a really good friend of ours. His band has had so many members — Jay Reatard was in it for a little bit — and a lot of Memphis musicians and Nashville musicians have been in it. Daily Commute was the first LP that he put out and if you’re going to make a modern punk record, you pretty much have to respect that record. It’s so good from start-to-finish and he plays every instrument. It’s all over the place, from UK post-punk to weird early ‘80s Texas hardcore. It sets the bar pretty high.

4. Terry Brooks and Strange, Translucent World

Psychedelic would begin to describe the record but not in any kind of magic-peppermint-rainbow-love child of the sun kind of way. It’s really dark and messed up. There’s a song called “Ruler of the Universe” where the guitar work, production, and singing would seem to defy the possibility of this ever coming out on a major label, but those are the things that make it so interesting. They take these things that are familiar from that period like really heavy guitar and crazy production and still mix it into something that’s really unique, that would have been hard to do during the psychedelic era. We listened to that song a lot while we were writing and recording our album.

5. Neu!, ‘75

This record really influenced the rhythm section of ours, because it’s really simple and allows for the complexity of the guitar to really come through. ‘75 also pushed post-punk and krautrock in a new direction, and helped set a new culture of musicianship. It’s a unique-sounding album but it’s specifically punk. It’s not a straightforward approach and that’s what we were trying to do: push the boundaries of what punk could be from every aspect of the lyrics to the guitar work and rhythm section; see how weird we could make it but still have people identify it as a punk record.

Ex-Cult is out now on Goner Records. Stream their song “M.P.D.” below:

RELATED POSTS