"Did you bring earplugs?" Matthew Dunehoo asks me as I head into Loose Park's practice space. The band's guitarist and lead singer seems genuinely dismayed when I say no. "Your ears will be destroyed."
Drummer Mike Myers, whose basement this is, saves my hearing and produces a pair. Bassist Beckie Trost directs me to a couch bookended by two big speakers, and Dunehoo presents a buffet of candy: carefully sorted plastic containers filled with gummy bears, jelly beans, M&M's and more. He shoves a colorful handful into his mouth and tunes his guitar as his bandmates light dozens of candles around the room. By the time they're finished, the scene looks positively romantic.
But there's little romance in Loose Park's music. The band begins to play, running through songs without speaking, and the sound is a stormy onslaught of heated guitar work and itchy drumming. Dunehoo, tall and thin, looks taller still as he twists over the microphone stand. His tenor scrapes against the music's brooding riffs, and the candles seem to flicker more intensely.
A half-hour before rehearsal started, the three players stretched out together in a swinging loveseat on Myers' front porch. Dunehoo and Myers, both in their mid-30s and both veterans of various now-defunct bands, have been friends since they were 15 years old. But it wasn't until Dunehoo moved back to his native Kansas City from New York, last June, that the two made music together. Later, Dunehoo drafted Trost for his cause.
"My old band, Soft Reeds, and Baby Teardrops [Dunehoo's band] had played some shows together," Trost says. "When he came back to town, he got in touch and wanted to know if I wanted to play bass. I was really complimented but very nervous because I had played guitar for years. It was a pretty big switch, but I was interested, and we're very fortunate in that we felt instantly connected. It doesn't always happen that way."
Myers agrees: "That's why things work for us. We've got a lot of personalities in the band. Beckie hasn't known us since we were 15 or 16, but she works. It all comes out easily."
Whatever her early misgivings, Trost's bass playing is assured and undecorated. On the band's forthcoming debut, Monstrous (recorded at Element Recording Studios and due out later this month), Trost lays down the foundation for Dunehoo's nimble rhythms, and he steamrolls through.
On its Facebook page, Loose Park describes its music as descended from Neil Young and Nirvana, and elements of those acts swirl through Monstrous. "A Song for Magic Johnson" sounds testy and anxious, just the way Kurt Cobain would have had it. But Loose Park's music also squirms along another continuum: between the explosive glam of T. Rex and the shambling disillusionment of Dinosaur Jr. Dunehoo sometimes adds spacey distortion to his guitar, and tracks such as "Ess Jam" and "See Yourself" echo the Sonic Youth of the early 1990s. It's an after-midnight record for a clock not necessarily set to this year, with songs ideal for a solitary cruise down an abandoned highway.
Dunehoo moves a sneakered foot to rock the porch swing, and the motion becomes more and more vigorous as he talks. "Things that are on the record," he says, "are things that I've always sung about: loneliness, anxiety, excitement, feeling empowered, feeling euphoric, feeling manic, thankfulness, lust, friendship."
He goes on: "Personally, I have never been comfortable with this format for writing and language. I think part of the reason why I wanted to mix the record on my own was because I was still trying to develop the lyrics. Ever since we went into the studio, and every show we've played, I continued to develop what I'm singing about. It's been changing ever since we started playing, and to lock that in, finally, is important to me."
Trost and Myers, used to their bandmate's intensity, are unperturbed by the swift rocking of their shared seat. They listen as Dunehoo adds, "Writing is intimate in general. When you're writing a song, you have all these parameters thrust upon you. Boiling it down to essentials that work with melody, and work within two to five minutes, that's challenging — an addictive challenge that can have a beautiful result. But it's 99 percent frustration, and you grit your teeth and feel terrible about what you're experiencing. Finally being able to nail down a specific song — that's like a game. And you want everybody to be able to enjoy the result."
The three decamp to the basement, to the 99 percent frustration. Afterward, a palpably relaxed Dunehoo extends a handful of peanut M&M's to me and asks if he was too verbose before. I laugh and say no. Listening to Loose Park play, I'd forgotten all the words about the hard process and just heard the 1 percent.