Self-deprecation has essentially become a survival mechanism for millennials, a comforting comedic form to ease the dread of impending joblessness, governmental collapse and climatic apocalypse within our lifetimes. Throughout much of the broader internet culture (particularly on Twitter), it’s sort of become cool to be “uncool” — to emphasize, rather than shelter, our flaws in the hopes that others will affirm them, fostering some semblance of camaraderie amongst our collective hopelessness. Lately, the music scene has begun to echo those sentiments. Punk stalwart Jeff Rosenstock ruminated on perpetual uncertainty with his 2016 opus Worry., and Rozwell Kid has been transforming shameful eating choices and chronic awkwardness into extravagant grunge-pop songs for the past half-decade. Drug Church, however, is a five-piece punk band from the Albany, N.Y., region that completely skirts self-deprecation to bathe in utter pathos.
To wit: describing its 2013 debut as “the perfect record to listen to as you skate home from your night shift cleaning up puke in the bathroom of a Steak & Shake”; assigning names like “Drunk Tank,” “Reading YouTube Comments” and “Selling Drugs From Your Mom’s Condo” to its sonically dingy songs; and exploring such topics as picking through your neighbor’s garbage, piss-smelling subway stations, and observing a father sneak out back during his 12-year-old’s birthday party to smoke a joint. Drug Church exists on a plane of blithe shamelessness that’s rivaled only by the pure loserdom of the Trailer Park Boys characters.
“I’m, like, really not a very efficient or capable adult,” frontman Patrick Kindlon tells City Paper, his radio-ready speaking voice and remarkably sharp wit offering a striking contrast to the boisterous croak he employs in his shithead anthems. “Maybe in talking to me and listening to me, you’re like, ‘This guy is kinda smart.’ That’s just a clever ruse.”
“I’ve talked my way into positions that I don’t deserve, and then I inevitably fuck it up, ’cause (a) I’m not good at it, and (b) not capable enough to do it. I’ve definitely cost my employers thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars on occasion,” he says, referring to the narrative on the band’s new single “Weed Pin,” a song about getting fired for ruining scientific samples at a new lab job. Kindlon wryly clarifies that the song isn’t entirely autobiographical, but that it’s “what the Trump administration calls an emotional fact, if not a fact in truth.”
Despite his professional inabilities — a theme that pops up frequently throughout the band’s two full-lengths and handful of EPs — and aggressively below-average anecdotes, Kindlon is an unconventionally gifted musician, and Drug Church is a uniquely brilliant band. His vocals waver between a throaty yelp and a relatively monotone speak-sing. This adds emphasis to the straightforwardness of lines like, “A brief lesson in cool, start lifting weights in your yard / keep the goal line in view, find a stripper, fall in love,” and makes listeners question where Kindlon’s dark, dry characterizations end, and the depressing personal accounts begin.
Musically, the band finds its sound offering big, ugly, meaty riffs that fall somewhere between Pixies and Nothing, but with the hardcore sneer of Quicksand and Seaweed.
“Think Jesus and Mary Chain playing Goo Goo Dolls songs,” Kindlon says, of the upcoming record, which is still in the demo stage. “Basically, just pick any alt-rock staple and then mix it with something more obnoxious.”
The band really does sound like an unexpected success of a theoretically ill-fitting combination, which has, for better or worse, hindered its ability to join any particular scene. Its current tour slot opening for pop-punk posse The Story So Far and hardcore creatives Turnstile is a great example of the band’s misplacement — something Kindlon appreciates.
“What I dislike about it is the same thing I like about it. I like the fact that it’s a varied audience, different types of people. That’s all cool, because playing in front of the same people can become dull as hell,” he says.
Kindlon says that Drug Church’s audience is an even split between those two crowds, which landed the band a deal with Pure Noise Records for its next album. Appropriately, Drug Church doesn’t sound like anyone else on that label, but he assures fans that the new songs are “as close as I get to tight.”
“If you were like, ‘Wow, Drug Church is really cool,’ and then you had a dream about a perfect ideal of Drug Church and woke up, then that would be this record.” He begins telling a story about a kid from high school who fell off the map. When he reappeared, he had become a painter, and he invited Kindlon over to view his artwork.
“All of his paintings were of himself with a super-idealized body,” Kindlon says, describing the house as the type of place where “you expect someone to hit you over the head with a mallet and tie you down.” Eventually, he brings the reference back to his band.
“This Drug Church is the idealized-body painting version of Drug Church.”
Lyrically, though, nothing has changed.
“Straight loser,” he says. “It may veer slightly from loser into just frustrated incompetence.”