GERMAN MEASLES WANTS to be known as a hi-fi band.
Like many of its DIY-venue dwelling contemporaries, the Brooklyn-based quartet shuns the lo-fi label, because, like “indie rock” or “nugaze,” it doesn’t accurately describe what the music sounds like. Instead, “lo-fi” is quickly blanketed over a group of bands that maybe played together once at The Silent Barn or released a 7-inch on Captured Tracks.
“We want to be as hi-fi as possible,” David, German Measles’ drummer, smartly quips. “We’ve recorded on 16 tracks to twoinch tape.”
It’s his second sentence that lets me know he’s serious, and not just seriously fucking with me, as I believe he and the rest of the band have been for most of our encounter. (Indeed, they refused to divulge their last names).
Are bands referred to as lo-fi just because they aren’t filled with “professional musicians”? Or does it have to do with their associations with bands in a scene, whether real or imagined? Serge, the band’s bassist, sets the record straight.
“It has to do more with a certain scene than the actual quality of the recording,” he says, of the stigmatized genre. “If there’s any lo-fi quality [in our music], it’s because we can’t afford it.”
Either way, German Measles is just having fun, seeing what happens and making half-jokes.There’s the band’s fictitious, grizzled, middle-aged manager Louie Lemonsa, for whom the guys have created a MySpace profile. I ask the group who came up with his name.
“He did,” David hurls back at me, very matter-of-factly. “Or his mom did.”
There’s the song “Totally Wild,” a messy, awesome few minutes of Measles’ rock ‘n’ roll—the band’s defining sound is something of a messy swagger—curiously titled similarly to a song by The Fall called “Totally Wired.”They insist it has nothing to do with the prolific British band.
“Everybody thinks that, but no,” says Alex. “We have a new song called ‘Totally Mild,’ though,” continues Serge. “That song does reference ‘Totally Wired.’” And then there’s just the group’s general, goofy outlook on what’s happening.When we discuss Apple’s newest gotta-have-it piece of technology, an enormous writing tablet akin to a virtual sheet of paper, Serge remarks, “A book of those iPads would be very expensive.”
While he’s obviously joking, the band as a whole is so smartly funny that I can’t always tell what is true and when they’re messing with me.
The band’s humble beginnings were seemingly always based around happy accidents and ephemera.They started German Measles as a two-week project, when Serge was visiting from out of town.The idea was to play a show at the end of the two weeks.There was one problem, however—they didn’t have any songs and Serge didn’t know how to play bass.
“There were no expectations [for the band]. It was more of an experiment,” says Nick, Alex’s twin brother and the band’s frontman. “A lot of earlier songs were written in that two week period” Serge ended up moving to Brooklyn a few months later, and the rest, as they say, is German Measles history. Kind of.
The band was actually called Japanese Beetles for a while. And The Real Beetles before that. And a slew of other bands that sound like German Measles before that.
In fact, the new plan after the one when Serge learned bass for a one-off show was to shift the band’s identity every few weeks or so—just whenever the group’s members got bored with their current band name.
“We had been called Japanese Beetles, and one time at a show I said ‘We are German Measles,’” Nick explains. “We weren’t happy with it so we switched it.”That’s all it took.
On one the band’s catchiest tracks “Wild Weekend,” guitars and drums come in softly—this could be The Beets!—but then the lyrics come in: “Come on, babe, and party with me/ take some drugs and party with me… so fucked up/ our brains are leaking,” and it’s clear that this is something slightly more deranged. But the band has released a demo tape on the aforementioned Captured Tracks label, a six-song 12-inch called Wild EP and will soon release a 7-inch on Brooklyn’s Wild World label. So maybe they are part of the whole lo-fi revival thing?
“Nah. I’m really bad at surfing,” Serge tells me.
When I ask Alex and Nick if they ever fight over band-related issues like Noel and Liam Gallagher, the twins give me a nonchalant “nah,” almost in unison. So German Measles isn’t as serious a band as Oasis, Britain’s musical equivalent of Cain and Abel?
“We’re more serious than Oasis,” responds David, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Maybe he isn’t joking.
> German Measles
Feb. 20, Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 N. 6th St. (betw. Wythe & Kent Aves.), 718-486-5400; 7:30, $15.