"Those who are attuned to the Naam are beautiful."
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scripture)
Let California have desert rock. Let the ’70s have space rock. Right now, we’ve got mountain rock. I know it doesn’t make much sense because the guys in Naam sleep in Brooklyn, but if you listen carefully to the band’s debut LP and imagine where something like this was created, you’d probably think of a cabin in the middle of the woods.
In May, Naam loaded two vans with nine guitars, five basses, 15 drums and cymbals, seven keyboards, 12 amps, 25 effect pedals and 15 miscellaneous instruments—including a sitar, lap steel, theremin, flute and mandolin—for a journey to a friend’s cabin turned recording studio upstate. In 12 days, the band recorded an album that my feeble mind can only define as grand. The opening track, "Kingdom," which clocks in at over 16 minutes, begins with a long intro of crickets and wind and that spooky synth you hear on the opening drive up the mountains in The Shining.
When "Kingdom" starts to build, pay attention. The best advice I can give you was given to me by Kyuss in the booklet for 1994’s masterpiece Welcome to Sky Valley: "Instructions: Listen without distraction." Naam plays meditation tunes for the tormented. Forget Om, you can chant Naammmmmm all throughout the album, even when "Skyling Slip" kicks the album into second and you’re head banging and sitting cross-legged on a pile of dirty clothes in your room. It’s easier than chanting Dead Meadooooow.
And unlike the rest of the throwback rock that New York City is pumping out these days, Naam has all the piss and vinegar of its forefathers and none of the twee intonation of its peers.
"Psychedelic rock kind of merged with indie rock and you’ve got all these really wimpy, wussy knock offs of ’60s pysch music. Some of it’s good, some of it’s alright, but nobody ever put any balls into it," says bassist John Bundy.
Guitarist Ryan Lugar adds, "Usually the pysch bands aren’t heavy enough or the heavy bands aren’t pysch enough.”
The change from "Tidal Barrens" into "Icy Row," the album’s best track, is a good example of this. "Tidal Barrens" is a modern version of Iggy’s weird chanting on the Stooges’ "We Will Fall," while "Icy Row" uses the technological advances since Blue Cheer without losing any of the guts. Instead of relying on a simple phase left to right channel, Naam transforms Bundy’s vocals to mold with the bass. It sounds like he’s screaming and playing bass from a cave while the rest of the band is rocking outside. Eli Pizzuto is punching his toms with his fists on top of a cliff and Lugar is smashing his guitar against a tree.
At a live show, you’ll get pretty much the same thing. Pizzuto breaks a drum every time the band plays. "Shit just falls apart. After a while sometimes I just start punching my floor tom, just because it’s there," he says.
"Live, we’re a whole different animal," says Bundy.
"It’s definitely way heavier and way faster and louder," says Lugar.
There are no good instructions for seeing Naam live, but I can suggest not sitting cross-legged on the floor—you might get mistaken for a drum and get clocked in the face.
Dec. 12, The Charleston, 174 Bedford Ave. (betw. N. 7th & N. 8th Sts.), Brooklyn, no phone; 9, $10