2018 – Funny Games LP (PNKSLM053) – Listen/buy
2017 – Bad Taste EP 7” (PNKSLM029) – Listen/buy
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“They either sound like Pixies trying to play Discharge songs, or Discharge trying to play Pixies songs.”
That was one friend’s take on the sound of Stockholm trio Gestures, and it’s one that the band themselves are in agreement with. They started out as the solo project of singer-guitarist Sick Vic, who recorded the explosively noisy debut EP Shattered Mind in his living room back in 2016. He subsequently recruited Don Jovi on bass and Simon to back him up live, and from there, Gestures - to use their own word - “mutated” into a fully-fledged band. Last year’s Bad Taste EP, cut with Martin Savage at Human Audio in Stockholm, set their stall out, with three original breakneck slices of lo-fi punk accompanied by a very Gestures take on the Yardbirds classic ‘For Your Love’.
Now, they’re ready to unleash their debut full-length, Funny Games. Recorded at Studio Kemisk Fetma in Uppsala with Jakob Jakobsson Blom of Real Tears, it wastes no time in hammering home the band’s blueprint; ironically-titled opener ‘Dialogue’ has Vic roaring “shut the fuck up!” repeatedly over eighty-two seconds of driving guitars and thumping percussion. This is Gestures’ own punk rock manifesto, eleven fast-and-furious tracks that take Vic’s anxieties and weaponise them as he addresses the collapse of friendships (‘Holding On’), violent inner thoughts (the title track) and feelings of alienation (the ominous ‘Close to Nowhere’). If Jay Reatard had been a horror-obsessed Scandinavian, he would’ve made a record like Funny Games.
Several of the album’s tracks, including ‘Funny Games’ itself, are named after films from Vic’s favourite genre; there’s also ‘It Follows’ and ‘It Comes at Night’. The title track, inspired by Michael Haneke’s 1997 home invasion movie, is replete with violent imagery, with Vic screaming “I wanna slit your throat” and “don’t shoot me in the head, cos I’m dead”. “I want to keep people guessing,” he laughs. “A lot of the songs on this album involve anxiety and aggression, and there’s violence involved, but it’s up to the listener to make their own minds up, and have their own experience of what I’m singing about. I think everybody can relate to those feelings of anger - but how they interpret them is up to them.”
“I think there’s a pretty wide range of ways in which Vic is talking about anxiety on this record,” Don agrees. “There’s punk-rock snottiness on songs like ‘Don’t Know, Don’t Care’, and ‘Funny Games’ is about straightforward violence, but there’s some contemplation, too. When I first heard ‘Holding On’, I didn’t realise it was about Vic drifting apart from his best friend. I thought it was a love song - I thought it was about heartbreak.”
The cover art for Funny Games features a flaming dagger being held aloft, but it might be a more subtle feature of the album’s packaging that holds the key to its ideas. “You all live by yourselves,” reads a quotation on the record’s insert. “No matter how crowded you may think that you are in a room full of people, you are still by yourself, and you have to live with that self forever and ever and ever and ever.” Although not credited to him, Vic reveals it’s a Charles Manson line. “I think it speaks a lot to the themes of the record, which uses a lot of horror iconography as a way of expressing pain,” he explains. “It’s a comment on the album, and it’s a tool to help understand the music and the songs.”
It says a lot about the intensity of the Gestures live show that the band feel as if Funny Games, for all its incendiary punk flavour, is actually a fairly measured take on their sound. Both Don and Vic are long-standing members of the hardcore community in Stockholm, whilst new drummer Danger Dan brings heavy metal chops from his own musical background. They namecheck a diverse list of influences that runs the gamut from Hank Wood and the Hammerheads and Black Flag to The Sisters of Mercy and Germs (there’s a cover of the LA legends’ ‘We Must Bleed’ on the album). Funny Games imbues those touchpoints with a melodic sensibility whilst still preserving some of the manic stage spirit that has already earned them a dedicated live following across Scandinavia.
“We wanted to capture the essence of Gestures, which is somewhere in between the ambition we have in the studio and the energy we have at our gigs,” says Don. “We wanted it to be the kind of album where, if you’ve never seen us live, it gives you a taste of what to expect without actually being as fast or chaotic as the songs become on stage. The plan is to blow people away with both side of the band.”