Despite their clandestine and controversial beginnings (two band members were teachers and two were students at the same high school), The Subjects have managed to carve a name for themselves that sounds more like “Rushmore” than “School of Rock.” Back in 2002, guitarist Joe Smith and bassist/vocalist Dave Sheinkopf were splitting their time between writing songs and syllabi, while drummer/vocalist Matt Iwanusa and guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti were about to bust out of the same Manhattan school. Since both parties were in desperate need of a full band, they held some rehearsals and once it became clear that the quartet’s chemistry was pretty damn combustible, the Subjects were born.
Fast-forward a few years and things get a bit more complicated. The Subjectsâ€™ debut is dropped (2007â€™s With the Ease Grace Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings) and they hit the road, at first on their own and then with the Walkmen a few months later.
â€œWe were always serious about playing music,â€ says Iwanusa, â€œbut when we started meeting and playing with bands that were making music for a living we got to see how they did it.â€
Keeping that career path in mind, the Subjects dove right into the demo stages for New Soft Shoe, firing up minimalist recordings in the style of their first full-length. Once those songs were ready for a proper studio, the band headed over to Key Club Recording Co. a couple hours outside Chicago. By working closely with Key Clubâ€™s masterful engineers, William Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins (see also: rock-solid releases from Cass McCombs, The Kills and Fiery Furnaces), the Subjects were able to whip up their wildest ideas, expanding their arsenal with everything from old-fashioned organs to honky-tonk pianos to Mattâ€™s mom on saxophone.
â€œA lot of the instrumentation on this record came from stuff I learned in schoolâ€”stuff I never thought Iâ€™d use,â€ says Sheinkopf, citing his training in classical harmony.
The first thing youâ€™ll notice about the final product is the vocalsâ€”the way the melody in â€œWinter Vacationâ€ unfolds like a spare Animal Collective A-Side; the brilliant shuffleboard beats/honeyed harmonies of â€œRight2Know.â€ Beyond that, the ep spreads the Subjectsâ€™ various strengths across the divergent tastes of four distinct songwriters in just 10 minutes. Well, divergent in terms of pulling cues from several eras and subgenres. All and all, the current state of the Subjects is as cohesive as a dictator-less band gets.
â€œMost of the arrangements on the first record are within the constraints of a four-piece band,â€ explains Iwanusa. â€œNow everyoneâ€™s more comfortable trying to sing and play different instruments. We all stepped it up this time.â€
US Tour Dates
Sat 9/26 – MPMF Festival – Cincinnati, OH $
Sat 10/3 – Middle East Upstairs – Boston, MA *
Mon 10/5 – Club Cafe – Pittsburgh, PA #
Tue 10/6 – The Bishop – Bloomington, IN #
Wed 10/7 – Lager House – Detroit, MI #
Thu 10/8 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL #
Fri 10/9 – TBA – Lincoln, NE #
Sat 10/10 – Hi Dive – Denver, CO #
Mon 10/12 – Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT #
Tue 10/13 – Reef – Boise, ID #
Wed 10/14 – High Dive – Seattle, WA #
Thu 10/15 – Rotture – Portland, OR #
Fri 10/16 – Sam Bond’s Garage – Eugene, OR #
Sat 10/17 – Luigis – Sacramento, CA #
Mon 10/19 – Soda Bar – San Diego, CA #
Tue 10/20 – TBA – Los Angeles, CA #
Wed 10/21 – TBA – Tucson, AZ #
Fri 10/23 – Emo’s Jr. – Austin, TX #
Sun 10/25 – Cicero’s – St. Louis, MO #
Tue 10/27 – The Cambridge Room @ HOB – Cleveland, OH #
Wed 10/28 – DC Nine – Washington, DC #
Thu 10/29 – Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA #
Sat 10/31 – Santo’s Party House – Halloween Party – New York, NY
$ = w/ Chairlift, Micachu and the Shapes, Heartless Bastards
* = w/ The Soft Pack
# = w/ Bad Veins