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Sleepless in Somerville
The late-night vibe of the Information
BY JONATHAN PERRY

Max Fresen looks like a guy who doesnít sleep much. In fact, when he trundles into the Thirsty Scholar Pub in Somerville, a mere stoneís throw from where he lives but 40 minutes late nonetheless, his matted hair plastered every which way over slitted eyes with deep sags under them, he looks as if heíd just roused himself from a direly needed nap or else hadnít yet been to bed this week. Fresen, singer and principal songwriter for the Boston sextet the Information, apologizes profusely for his tardiness and sidles into a seat next to synth-playing band mate Ashley Moody. Late of the í90s cyber-camp outfit Servotron, Moody has been holding down the fort talking about the Informationís debut full-length, Mistakes We Knew We Were Making (out this Tuesday, February 8, on Cambridgeís Primary Voltage Records), when Fresen arrives.

"I rarely get to sleep before six oíclock in the morning, and then I wake up at 10 a.m. anyway, so Iím always a little screwed up," Fresen explains. "It sucks to be so nocturnal, and I know itís not healthy. And moving here [from Florida] has not helped because of the weird sunlight hours. Iíll go a month without seeing the sun and then realize that Iím in a depression because I donít have any serotonin built up in my head."

In its own glittery, jittery way, Mistakes is as much a late-night creature as the Informationís singer: itís an album of swirling, post-shoegazer soundscapes, gleaming spires of stabbing guitars, and synths that spume like steam escaping from city manhole covers. Feedback-encrusted echoes of late-í80s/early-í90s pop subversives like the Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive, and Swervedriver reverberate inside "Breaking Me Down" and the bracing fever-dream insomnia of "Bright Lights," the opener that sets the disc alight. "Bright lights, big city, Iíve been awake since oh, 6:30," Fresen sings amid a roiling deluge furnished by the stealthy rumble of Heath Fradkoffís bass, the unwavering beat of Brad Kayalís drums, and the tandem guitar roar from Zack Wells and Deb Grant. "I canít eat, I canít sleep for all the pills in Tokyo. . . . I got a feeling itís over now."

Much of the material ó which was recorded and mixed by Bob Logan last summer at Bostonís Smallchurch Studios ó is directly linked, Fresen says, to the dissolution of a decade-long relationship with his girlfriend. "A lot of these songs are about something thatís over in my personal life, but they were still occupying space in my brain. Now that theyíre done, I feel like I can jettison some of that baggage." Still, he realizes the professional distillation of his personal distress is just beginning. Whatís more, he says, distancing himself isnít an option. "No, I think that when I start to do that, Iíll be performing the songs really badly, which sucks because it means you have to either hang on to whatever was originally informing the song or you have to find some new trauma to associate with it."

In the similar, darkly dystopian spirit of Interpolís 2002 Turn On the Bright Lights (Matador), Black Rebel Motorcycle Clubís homonymous 2001 debut on Virgin, and the Raptureís 2004 Echoes (Strummer/DFA/Universal), Mistakes sounds like its own Gotham in motion, its labyrinthine wires and arteries humming with life and noise. But itís a city of secrets and bruises, all sprawled under a deceptively sparkling sonic skyline. "People are always trying to compare us to contemporary bands," Fresen says with a slight cringe. "I donít think that we really listen to any contemporary bands that influence us. And I donít think that any of these newer bands are trying to sound anything like one another ó theyíre just all aiming for the same spots in their record collections."

Moody laughs at the misconceptions that have dogged the band since they formed two years ago. "Thereís this whole perception of us being so aloof on stage, and in reality, for the first six months, I was scared shitless. It came off as a certain aura for the band, and I donít know that we ever intended that. Iíve never wanted to be in a band that took itself too seriously. I think weíre perceived that way sometimes, but weíre all major dorks and not cool."

"When we do get slagged on by people who donít know us that well," Fresen says, "itís because people tend to think of us as strategizing about how weíre going to present ourselves, and itís not like that at all for us. The New York bands have already succeeded, so itís fine if theyíre thought of as calculated, but itís annoying when we get lumped in with them. Iím like, ĎCan you please wait until Iím getting paid for this and it doesnít matter that you hate us?í "

The Information play a CD-release party this Wednesday, February 9, at the Paradise, 967 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, with the Good North, Asobi Seksu, and Emergency Music; call (617) 562-8800.


Issue Date: February 4 - 10, 2005
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