"I wanna punch the next guy who says that I 'actually' play the guitar well," sneers Lissy Trullie. "When people are still surprised by something like that, I'm like, 'Fuck you.' "
Trullie wasn't always so brash. Though she'd played in various bands since moving to New York City from Washington, D.C., the longtime Germs and Ramones fan was content to stay in the shadows. "I was happy writing songs for my friends," she says. "But people really encouraged me to sing my own stuff, so I gave it a try. I'm amazed people are psyched on what I'm doing -- I still hate the sound of my voice."
You wouldn't know that from listening to the just-released Self-Taught Learner EP (American Myth). With help from Josh Elrod on drums and exSaves the Day bassist Eben D'Amico on lead guitar, Trullie serves up tough new-wave riffs and throatily sung girl-group melodies that are as effortlessly cool as her favorite black leather jacket. It's all topped off by a jangling cover of Hot Chip's "Ready for the Floor" -- the possible reception of which has her nervous. "I'd really hate it if those guys thought my version was a piece of shit," she says. We'd tell her it's good, but we're worried what she might do.
Given their predilection for dark, clanging reverb and vampiric crooning, it's no surprise Crystal Stilts cofounders Brad Hargett and JB Townsend felt out of place in their native south Florida. "If you're not into techno or rap-metal," says Hargett, "Palm Beach County is a very lame spot to live."
New York has been a better fit. Now abetted by bassist Andy Adler (drummer Frankie Rose joined last spring), singer Hargett and guitarist Townsend transformed their early drone jams into the tense songcraft of their 2008 full-length, Alight of Night (Slumberland), an album of sepulchral melodies and midnight moods that won favorable, if irksome, comparisons with Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain. "If you don't make chirpy music, people always bring up the same bands," says Hargett, who cites Bo Diddley as a touchstone. Adler is miffed for other reasons: "Why hasn't anyone caught our Chick Corea references?"
The quartet's live act is a less mirthful soft spot -- their devotion to playing the songs straight has been mistaken for apathy. But Hargett found solace in a recent slam: "Someone said that I was a soulless energy vacuum onstage." He smiles. "I think that sounds pretty awesome!"
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS
Despite naming their band after a legendary Colombian training academy for thieves, School of Seven Bells' vocalists, twins Claudia and Ally Deheza, aren't exactly experts in the art of larceny. "Once when we were kids, we stole, like, 20 pairs of earrings from a department store," remembers a remorseful Ally. "Our mom found out and made us return everything! We felt horrible!"
The Dehezas' musical escapades have been more fruitful. Formerly of ambient rockers On!Air!Library!, they met exSecret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis while both bands were touring with Interpol in 2004. "We were all looking to try something completely different," says the soft-spoken Curtis. "And when we met each other, we realized we had this amazing musical chemistry."
Alpinisms (Ghostly International), the Brooklyn trio's eerie, graceful debut, reveals the depths of that connection, as Curtis' guitar traces sparkling lines around the sisters' warm, weightless vocals and elliptical lyrics. It's music both fit for, and driven by, dreaming. "A lot of people think dreams are out of control and weird," says Ally, "but they're really an accurate mirror of our lives. Once you're aware of what's happening, they can be incredibly inspiring."