Sunday, April 12, 2009

Head Automatica

Daryl Palumbo - Vocals, live instrumentation
Dan “The Automator” Nakamura – Beats, Producer 

First off: relax, it isn’t rap metal. 

For those of you who only know Daryl Palumbo as the angst-fueled vocalist for Strong Island hardcore stalwarts Glassjaw, we hate to tell you this, but you don’t know him at all. If you did, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a list of his all-time favorite bands would include everyone from Squeeze to Nick Low, Dave Edmunds to Primal Scream to Elvis Costello. That said, Head Automatica, Palumbo’s long-awaited collaboration with legendary producer/ beatmaker Dan “The Automator” Nakamura (Handsome Boy Modeling School, Gorillaz) is exactly how you’d expect it to sound and nothing like you’d imagine it would—which, come to think of it, is a fitting analogy for Palumbo himself. 

“To make music more along the lines of what I rock in my free time is a really awesome thing,” Palumbo says about his latest project. “This feels more comfortable than anything ever, because the music was straight out of me.” Palumbo had been writing the songs on Head Automatica for years, but it wasn’t until Glassjaw finished 2002’s Vans Warped Tour (after a grueling 18-month trek behind the Grammy-nominated Worship And Tribute) that he had the opportunity to make Head Automatica a reality. 

Palumbo and Nakamura met through mutual friends, and Head Automatica was recorded sporadically between September and May of 2004 with assistance from Glassjaw drummer Larry Gorman. “I don’t know anybody who thinks Automator’s whack,” Palumbo says about working with the famed producer. “Having Automator be in this band with me was a dream come true—I think he’s fucking unstoppable.” But while Nakamura’s trademark big breaks and ingenious sounds are all over tracks like “Brooklyn Is Burning” and “Head Automatica Sound System,” Palumbo’s rock-based background and the album’s live instrumentation make Head Automatica anything but Handsome Boy Modeling School Pt. II. 

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t call it a studio side project. At their core, Head Automatica are a live band who’ve been touring non-stop alongside seemingly disparate acts like Thursday, Lost Prophets and Junior Senior in preparation for the album’s release. “We’re straight-up a family,” Palumbo says of the live incarnation of Head Automatica—Gorman (drums), Jim Greer (keyboards), Josh Holden (bass), and Craig Bonich and Brandon Arnovick (guitars)—which allows Palumbo to be the flamboyant frontman he’s always hinted at in his previous band. “People get so intimidated in front of an audience; it’s like why do you play music?” Palumbo questions aloud. “We’re an electronic cock-rock band, so you’re going to get a good show and it’s going to sound stellar.” 

It’s not ego, it’s confidence; and the music on Head Automatica backs up his claims—just listen for yourself. From the pure pop genius of “Beating Heart Baby,” to the opening “Yowwwww!!!” on “Dance Party Plus,” to the Gang-Of-Four-meets-EMF closer “I Shot William H. Macy,” trying to pigeonhole these 11 songs isn’t just futile—it’s pointless. With Palumbo’s self-assured voice as the unifying factor, Head Automatica seamlessly combines rock ’n’ roll’s visceral energy with slamming beats and tales of sex-fueled escapades. Oh, and don’t forget the hooks (on second thought, we dare you to try to forget them). 

Out of the studio and into the van indefinitely, Head Automatica will be playing selected dates on the Honda Civic tour alongside Dashboard Confessional and Thrice before hooking up with the Cure, Interpol, the Rapture and others on the Curiousa tour. In other words, plan on seeing the band live soon—and plan on bringing your dancing shoes. 

“I’m not spending all my time being mad and getting revenge onstage,” the 25-year-old Palumbo explains, contrasting Head Automatica with the hardcore band he’s been in for a mind-boggling 13 years. “I just want to fucking party. This band is the best pub band in the fucking world, and I’ll go toe-to-toe with any band that wants to fuck around. I’m just really lucky to have these people play with me.”

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