In this weekly column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in the Blank.
What We Won't See isn't quite a revival band. Despite its heavy leanings toward early industrial music, the St. Louis duo brings an unfiltered punk flavor to the genre. The fuzzed out guitar spits dissonant riffs, and the strict rhythm of a high volume drum machine keeps each song locked to solid grooves. For St. Louis, this band is one of a kind, blending nostalgic rock with avant-garde noise.
Bassist Scott Alexander heads the duo with a commanding voice. His monotone drones peak through cybernetic songs rife with sonic swells and synth play. By merging the robotic nature of sequencers with human vocals and live guitar, Alexanger creates an atmosphere that's danceable but intricate.
At any given show, one can catch guitarist Chris Smentwoski stomping around a spewing fog machine, sweat dripping from his forehead to his shoes. He might be better known for his work in Brain Transplant, a seminal group in the Midwest noise music scene. With What We Won't See, Smentowski trades in his typical free-form style of improvised music for controlled melodies.
Although abrasive backing tracks of beats and synth are key elements here, the band's earliest songs barely resemble its current sound. Alexander and Smentowski first started What We Won't See as a trio in late 2011 with drummer Aaron Smith. After a brief stint, Smith left and the remaining duo reworked material and wrote out new songs with a new emphasis on aesthetics.
"The band evolved, changes were made, synths filled out our rhythm section, smoke machines came on densely and ambient lighting set the mood," Smentowski says. Nowadays he likes to think of their sound technician, Ray Johnson, as a third member. Johnson's role ensures that What We Won't See sounds consistent and powerful from venue to venue.
"He really takes the stress out of making sure all the electronics are up and running so that we can focus on putting on a good show," Alexander adds.
What We Won't See's debut album Blood Covered Winter just dropped earlier this Summer, and is available through the band's website and on CD-R, complete with hand-crafted packaging. While listening online isn't the same as seeing the duo's silhouette peek through dimly lit clouds of fog, the band's sound translates well to record and is a good starting point for new listeners.
Read on as Scott Alexander and Chris Smentowski Fill In The Blanks.
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