NYC-original band, Controller, just released their second and most profound EP, No Future. Five high energy rock songs with just the right amount of pop were sifted out from 40 demos the band recorded in a matter of 3 months. I emailed Jon Bellinger, Controller’s frontman, some questions regarding the writing and releasing process of No Future, how the band came together and what’s in store! Read on for the details!
MFL: Congrats on the release of your latest EP! I hear a lot of energy in EVERY single track. I’m sure it’s safe to assume an equal if not greater amount of energy went into writing and recording each track. What were some of the ups and downs of writing, recording and releasing the No Future EP?
Controller: Thanks so much! For sure, we worked so fucking hard on this record. And not just over the last year. What a lot of people don’t know is that this band has been around, in some form, for 10 years now. And in that time, we’ve been through so much and experimented with so many different sounds that it feels like it’s all been building to this EP. It’s like a switch flipped on late last year, and all of a sudden, we were ready to put out a summation of what we’ve been living and experiencing over the past decade in New York City and the pieces fell into place really quickly. We wrote about 40 demos in 3 months, went in with a plan and smashed out the EP in the studio over 3 marathon days. So yeah, this record technically took a decade to make, but I’m glad we took our time and stayed focused.
MFL: There’s also a lot of diversity on this EP. “No Future” and “Bright Lights” are on different wave lengths! In fact, each song really holds its own. As a band, what are the common threads between each track that made them an EP?
Controller: It’s funny, we weren’t deliberately trying to make an eclectic record, but that’s just what ends up coming out. Our influences are so diverse and we get inspired by so many different things, we tend to let the songs just grow into themselves without overthinking it or judging them until they’re done, and as a result we end up in some really unexpected places. It’s all very postmodern and zen-like! I think people like that about us, though, and honestly it’s kind of how we all listen to music now, anyway, right? On perpetual shuffle? But there definitely is a common thread, and it’s the place the songs came from. This record is about being young in NYC, and it sounds like for us what it’s actually been like to come of age here, so the record embodies the city’s many contradictions all at once: it’s a beautiful, aggressive, ugly, creepy, louche, pervy and dreamy place, and you can’t separate one from the other.
MFL: What are some of the biggest changes Controller has gone through since the release of your self-titled debut EP in 2013?
Controller: Wow, so much has changed, and all of it is amazing. We’ve got a killer team behind us now and all of a sudden playing to very full rooms, so it feels like we’re seeing how the songs impact people for the first time because for the first time, it’s like, we can see how a sold out room responds to us, and it’s not just all of our friends, and we’re getting so much feedback from fans. So it’s super empowering….we’ve always known what we want this band to become, and we’ve just been loitering out the back waiting for the doors to open, and now they are open a crack and we’re just charging in. It’s so rad to see a response forming to what we’ve been working on for the last 10 years basically just for ourselves. We made exactly the record we wanted to make, and the incredible response has given us the confidence to trust ourselves and our fans and keep running down this path to god knows what!
MFL: I notice a difference in sound between the release in 2013 and No Future. No Future seems a little less rock and more dance-oriented. Was this intentional and what inspired this?
Controller: Yeah, for sure it was deliberate–we grew up listening to punk and hardcore and grunge so we will never fully abandon guitars, but we also love pop music and songs people can dance to live, so the challenge that agonized over for this EP was how to mash up sparkling pop with really ugly sounds and still create something that could get played on the radio.
So we spent weeks and weeks and weeks experimenting with ways to combine programmed drums with fucked up, ugly guitar and synth tones, and did things in the studio like string together six distortion pedals for guitar solos (No Future) and live-mic programmed drums playing through a broken amp (Flame). And it’s all because we wanted to make a record that sounded like New York–incredibly fancy and posh and scuzzy and filthy all at the same time. It’s like how when you’re in Times Square, there are Elmos everywhere taking photos with families, but when you get up close the costume is all filthy and matted, and the guy inside is drunk.
But this is also creates a challenge. The tastemakers don’t really get us coz we don’t fit neatly into one category. We’re not a pop band, but we’re also not Wavves or DIIV. A lot of people don’t know what to make of us.
MFL: Let’s rewind a bit! How did you four fellas come together to make music?
Controller: Josh and I have been playing music together since 2004–we met at a party here in NYC, through our girlfriends at the time. We got together like, the very next day, and in an hour had come up with 4 – 5 really weird songs. We’ve been writing together ever since, sometimes with other people, sometimes over email, and (this is kinda lame) met everyone else in the band at our day jobs at ad agencies. Kyle used to sit next to me at work and we creeped on each others Spotify, and we basically bullied Brian into being in the band when we found out he played bass. Keith used to be Josh’s boss, at his first job. Now Josh bosses Keith around.
MFL: Pretend none of you are in Controller and you heard Controller’s music. What influences would you hear and what musicians past and/or present would you make comparisons with?
Controller:I think I’d hear some unholy combination of Van Halen, INXS, T. Rex, Boston and Black Sabbath. I think what stands out in our songs (and live) is the pure exuberance….when we play, we go all in. We’re big fans of 80s hair metal and pop music from all eras, because there’s something so attractive and cathartic about being so earnestly over the top and really committing to a song or a performance. You don’t get much irony or subtlety with Controller.
MFL: Finally, what’s Controller’s future after No Future? Touring, a full length? Please share!
Controller: We are just hungry and SO ready for the whatever is next. We want get our music out there in as many places as we can and keep building our weird little army of misfits. But we also want to do it right, so we’re being very deliberate about our next steps. We’ve taken some meetings with some labels and publishers, but we know bands who rushed into deals too soon so we’re happy to wait for the perfect partner to help us realize our vision. Until then, though, we’re just really focused on writing (we’ve already got another 20 or so demos), putting out another EP early next year, and we’re in the process of lining up dates in Boston, Philly, DC and some other places on the East Coast, so stay tuned for those!