Killjoy Confetti - The Fun Is...
Playing music, in Muncie, in the early 2000’s meant constant exposure to the same small circle of bands. Take the ten bands actively pursuing gigs, throw their names in a blender, and pull any four out for a bill.Fortunately, these bands could play. Before I made it to the city, Wooden Man Records had become a micro-label dedicated to releasing good-ole’ Midwestern rock-and-roll. Oh, with an anarchistic bent, exemplified by the noisy-proto-punk of The Lou Reeds.
In this context, I was introduced to Killjoy Confetti (then Arcade, prior to a cease-and-desist letter). To get it out of the way; they were an all-girl band. Live, though, I never thought of them as anything other than precise and furious, a well-practiced band rolling through new songs with controlled abandon. Not only that, but they all sang harmony, AND switched instruments during their set. Like most bands, they recorded, toured, and eventually went separate ways. Luckily, they left us with The Fun Is...
As a musical document, The Fun Is... wears its influences visibly; there are the clean-and-fast melodies reminiscent of the Feelies; the half-shouted, half-sung, high-register vocals recognizeable from riot-grrl bands like Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney; but also the distorted strumming and odd time-signatures of 90s Touch ‘n Go proto-punk (think Jesus Lizard).But Killjoy Confetti (a name made up of...their names) was able to digest these and produce a unque set of songs---as artistic a musical statement as Central Indiana was gonna get in the pre-YouTube days.
(The band in pseudo-serious mode. L to R: Jill, Joy, Carrie, Lisa.)
“Stanford Prison Experiment No. 2” begins the record with a slow-burning, almost atonal melody. Carrie Conley presides over the vocals while the music interlocks in just-odd-enough time signatures, repeating “I just wanna / I just wanna / I just wanna see you once more,” calling and responding with atmospherically chiming guitars. Like much of The Fun Is...the drum-forward, often clean, intertwining guitar melodies, and dry vocal sound (all recorded by Shellac-member Bob Weston, who adheres to the Stevel Albini live recording style) all sound up-front and raw, giving the record an authentic air.
“Things I Wanna Do” reveals a Killjoy Confetti more in-line with their live performances, a distorted rocker about imagining a less-than-innocent stalking scenario, Conley’s delivery being equal parts unhinged and adoring, while the guitars spin off catchy, overdriven riffs. “Neer Neer” is another highlight, driving a tight guitar-melody into the ground, with just enough room for some perfect vocal breaks where the music drops out momentarily, providing a brief sense of weightlessness before being bounced back into the buoyant, post-punk guitar lines.
(Not too big to play in your living room. Or was this United State of Mind?)
Not all fast-and-furious, “Excuse the Blood” mixes stuttering guitar blasts with a mellow, waltzing ballad, only to close with a faux-build over the ever-so-catchy line, “Let your shit shine through.” A whispered beat-box rhythm leads into the slow, winding melody of “My Lips Are Bleeding, But I Am Fine.”After some excellent drum flourishes lead to atypically distorted vocals, the band accelerates into wild, noisy noodling that decays to a typically-stunning vocal-harmony-and-drum break before returning to the furious finish.
Bands so full of ideas often clash on record in a stylistic pile-up. Never is that the case on The Fun Is..., where Killjoy Confetti explore different avenues of a sound that, for a period of time, they made their own. Closer “Film Negatives” is a great example; blasting off with furious drums and guitar-feedback-skronk only to relax into another memorable melody, complete with vocal harmonies from sister drum-and-guitar duo Jill Gerwe & Joy Johnson, and wandering bass from Lisa Fett. When most bands would be content to fade out, Killjoy Confettialways manages the left-turn, circling back for a final bit of noise before slamming to a stop.
I’ll be honest; this is a band I miss seeing live. But you can’t remember something back into existence, which is why The Fun Is...remains an important musical document from the fringes of the Internet-era, when one could still assimilate influences while remaining off-radar. Still, at least a document remains, one that can be revisited without squeezing into a dingy club or low-ceilinged Student Center. You can’t go back, but you can always return, which has equal importance or weight. Like “German Precision” says, “Time is running and passing / And it makes me think about my life / And the sands of time keep rolling by...” The Fun Is...makes me think about the intersection of life and art, a great testament to an Indiana album.