By: Clemence Bernard
At times I fear that our creativity as Cornellians is too often bounded by limits we struggle to shy away from. Still, the “life-affirming project” and punk band Lust ascertained that my doubts can be all too easily dismissed.
With lyrics an expression of frustrations often geared towards a critique of over-consumerism and advertising, this project might be just what Cornell needs: energy and critical thought topped with raw vocals and a stellar beat. In the words of drummer Aaron Goldstein, “we are creating truth”. I sat down with Lust members Aaron Goldstein, Warren Lowell and Santi Slade at the Green Dragon for a chat that covered everything from Aaron’s facial hair trends to a historical overview of the many subcategories of punk and post-punk.
Lust began as a nameless project two years ago when they started playing together informally. Over the time that Goldstein left and came back, the project became Lust. Despite Slade’s argument that “it seemed like a good raw four-letter word” and their common perception that it ties well into “desire, culture, self-advancement and the physicality in it”, it came up that Lust might just have implied the band’s longing for Goldstein when he was gone.
Joining a band is not a new feat for these musicians, although their excitement for this project seems unrivalled. Guitarist Santi Slade also plays with a band in the city, the BFGs, bassist Warren Lowell was in a funk band and part of his high school philharmonic, and most surprisingly Aaron delved into bluegrass. Lust, however, is a “separate autonomous project”: it does not play covers but rather tries to write songs where lyrics have meaning and address “distinct real things”. They will fit nine songs in a twenty-minute set because, as Golstein mentioned, “it’s important to us to write a lot of music, a lot of different songs.”
In their song writing process, the band members all contribute heavily through their diverse backgrounds. Whereas Lowell appears to have the most theoretical credentials having studied music theory in high school and currently with a minor in music at Cornell, their co-writing does not simply stem from the ability to tell an F from an F# but is carried by their search for a specific sound aesthetic. The element of dissonance and their attempt to make their sound abrasive and challenging is what drives the “productive tension” in their writing sessions.
In this pursuit of a genuine punk sound, Lust produces every inch of its own sound and steers clear of a clean sound – the first EP was recorded in two hours and mastered in one. “It was free,” says Goldstein, “well not quite free, we had to pay for the microphones” Slade intervenes. Despite mixed feelings about whether higher quality equipment might detract from their sound, Lowell answers that although they might be looking for better quality equipment, the priority now is to keep writing songs.
Their lyrics play up typical themes by adding a touch of strangeness in songs like “Watching” where someone in a relationship with another girl is watched or “Experiment” about sex in an experiment lab. By forcing the listener to confront uncomfortable dimensions of sexuality, Slade tells us they are “bringing up what the listener thinks of as being really strange without obviously addressing it, leading to a more potent reaction.” Lust uses irony and the reality associated with it to defy trends of mass music where “overwhelmingly things are not interesting and not critical” according to Goldstein. Yet, it is still defined by an open-mindedness encompassed by Lowell’s love of Beyonce.
In discovering this wonderful project, what most resonated with me was the value in doing things yourself, one that does not seem to be emphasized enough at Cornell. As Goldstein puts it, “to be aware of your ability to design your own life and do your own thing – that’s the dream and it’s so much fun”. There are other perks to doing your own thing, as the musicians could not help but mention the fast women and the drugs that complemented fame. Still we might forgive the audacity in the name of art.
With two more EPs set to be released before the end of the semester and a performance April 11th at Watermargin co-op, the fifth band in Ithaca on band camp is an unstoppable reinvigoration of hope for all the music lovers at a school where creativity is perhaps too often contained or forgotten.