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Bring the noise: (l-r) Sonin, Hill and Podrid of Struction. Photo by John Whipple.

Controlled Cacophony
By Shawn Stone

Struction use aural assaults to push the limits of music—and to confound those who can’t agree whether they’re rock or noise

If Struction had their way, you wouldn’t be reading this article—just looking at shards of it.

“People should open the Metroland to this page, and ‘boom,’ ” says guitarist Dave Podrid.

When asked what part of the article should be blown up, the three members—Podrid, guitarist Meira Sonin and drummer Paul Hill—agree it should be the photo, with cryptic, nonsensical or humorous fragments of text left on the sides.

All agree, laughing, that this would be fantastic.

Before paranoia drives someone to reach for the duct tape or put in a call to John Ashcroft, be assured that Struction aren’t terrorists. They are determined musical provocateurs, staking out a territory between indie rock (or “pussy rock,” in Sonin’s memorable phrase, “made by guys with glasses like mine”) and noise. A territory inviting for those who fancy genres as disparate as hardcore and jam. A place Struction can call their own, where personal passion, extreme volume, and a constant, spirit-nurturing musical adventurism can flourish. A land your parents won’t want to visit—for, as all three members agree, rock & roll is supposed to offend parents. That’s the point.

Of course, this can be a tricky business—and can lead to being misunderstood.

“I think the way that we offend the most would just be with the sound in general, the noise of it,” Sonin says, explaining that “it depends on what your tastes are. If you really like noisy stuff then we’re nothing to you, but if you don’t, if you’re not used to stuff like that, then people are like, ‘Ugh, why are you so loud? I can’t hear the vocals. Why is he screaming?’ and ‘It’s just noise. . . .’ ”

“I don’t think we’re that noisy,” Podrid argues, and explains what happened when the band tried to book a New York City gig with a musician associated with the noise scene. He told Podrid: “I’m not really into the rock stuff you guys are doing.”

Podrid laughs, and says, “Yet there are people who are into rock that think we’re just noise.”

Sonin elaborates: “People have made comments like ‘I can’t tell if they’re actually playing anything. I see their hands going and it’s all crazy. I know there’s something going on there, but maybe they’re just moving their hands up and down the neck.”

“I mean these guys do guitar things that if you really sat down and listened to it,” Hill explains, “it’s really complicated stuff—but live, it’s like ‘rrrawrrhh.’ ”

“What amazes me,” Podrid sums up, “is that people who make comments like that are into punk rock or hardcore, stuff that was derided as noise before.”

The contradictions associated with Struction are evident from just looking at their new, self-titled, six-song CD.

First, the packaging is striking, in fact too striking to call “packaging.” The translucent sleeve is actually cut-up blueprints sewn together. Yes, sewn—they rented a sewing machine and did it themselves. Aside from the pleasing, industrial craftsmanship, using real blueprints guaranteed that no two sleeves are exactly alike. The front and back covers, visible through the sleeve, are photos of pressed flowers against a deep blue background.

Podrid says that the visual tension between the organic and the mechanical is intentional. It reflects what the band are about and are trying to do, and the songs on the disc back this up. They’re three emotionally intense people expressing themselves with inhuman-sounding devices.

The music itself is intense, and yes, noisy, but tightly controlled. “We are ‘struction’—we’re very structured,” Podrid notes dryly. The oft-screaming guitars play off each other, in tight interplay with the ferocious drums, as Sonin’s clear diction contrasts with Podrid’s near-screams. Snatches of melody and arid soundscapes appear and disappear.

It correlates with the sound Struction make live, though one misses the band’s visual impact. You just have to imagine the visual energy of Hill pounding out percussion, and Podrid spinning and lurching around stage while Sonin belts out her vocals standing still.

The absence of a bass player sets Struction apart, too. So it was surprising when they added one at the end of last year—and dropped him a few months later.

“It kinda set us back a little, ’cause we had to go and show somebody how to play everything,” Hill says, adding “He was good, he could do it, but even sonically it rooted the songs too much, made it almost too rockist.”

“We’d been playing [together] so long, I think that we kind of forgot why we didn’t have a bass player,” Podrid explains.

As Hill—a jazz and jam-band enthusiast—notes, not having a bass player frees things up musically for improvisation. Plus, as all three members agree, it affected the special chemistry of the band.

All contribute songs or parts of songs, and bring them to the group for collaboration. And each welcomes the others’ input—even if the original song gets ripped to shreds and reconfigured in an almost unrecognizable new form.

All share a real passion for music—any and all music. They’d rather talk about other bands than themselves. (Their exegesis on the virtues of Complicated Shirt will have to wait for another day.) In the course of a conversation, Hill praises the craftsmanship that goes into writing a great pop song; Sonin muses on the significance of U2 and Joan Jett; and Podrid enthuses over a wide array of bands.

“I don’t really understand it, but I know I get depressed if I don’t get new music constantly,” Podrid muses.

Struction make new music constantly. Though their disc is factory-fresh, they already have a batch of new songs, and will contribute to two locally produced compilations. There are plans for a tour of western New York, Pennsylvania and New England. They plan to keep moving, relentlessly, restlessly forward.

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