Buried deep in the southern tip of Mississippi lies the city of Hattiesburg. With a current population of around 50,000, it’s a city often overlooked by the rest of America. MSPAINT wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Trends in music don’t really reach us the same way they do in other places with bigger bands coming through,” explains DeeDee, the band’s mononymous singer. He says this allows MSPAINT to create the music they want in an organic way.
“There’s no template,” he admits. “There’s a history of music and format, but it’s also very detached from what’s going on around it.”
Rooted yet detached. A paradoxical, accurate description for a band embraced by the modern hardcore scene yet lacking a key ingredient. Instead of guitars, MSPAINT flows with synths (Nick Panella), pulsating drums (Quinn Mackey) and bass (Randy Riley) so raw it bleeds as much rage and emotion as DeeDee’s vocals. The unclassifiable punk band play San Jose’s Playback Studios on Wednesday with Spy, Star 99 and the Mall.
DeeDee’s lyrics of self-empowerment during apocalyptic societal collapse feel locked in with his delivery—teetering on the edge of spit-ridden punk screams and thoughtfully crafted spoken word.
“I refer to it as ‘A-Total Poetry’,” he says. “It’s not forming words together to necessarily make sense, but to invoke a thought or make you feel a certain way.”
Formed at the very end of 2019, the four members of MSPAINT were already good friends through their local music scene, having played on the same bills but never in the same band. Joined together, they thought, why not try something different?
“The only thing we knew is we were going to use a synth instead of a guitar,” DeeDee recalls. “That was the only intentionally creative move we made.”
The music poured out. MSPAINT soon played a couple shows and recorded their four-song, self-titled debut EP. Little did they–or anyone–know what was about to happen.
“We literally put it out and the next week everything shut down,” he says with a sigh.
While the global pandemic and ensuing lockdown deterred many others, MSPAINT continued to write and tweak songs. As with their friends and counterparts in our local 40831 scene (bands like Scowl and Spy), MSPAINT experienced an explosion of listeners during 2020. Young fans confined to their homes were hungry for something—anything—new and different to express their justified rage at the current state of the world.
“It helped us understand there was a future for the band whenever shows were coming back.”
In 2021, they played a weekend festival in Denver to celebrate the third anniversary of their label, Convulse Record. There, they met new friends and future tourmates Spy and Militarie Gun, the latter of which invokes a similar style: hard, yet emotional and surprisingly danceable.
Through Militarie Gun, MSPAINT met one of the more significant names in underground heavy music, Taylor Young (ex-Nails drummer, Dead Fucking Body). Earlier this year, Young co-produced the band’s upcoming full-length. First single, “Acid,” dropped last month.
The song opens with a slow and unsettling few keys before an electronic beat pounds through. When DeeDee screams the opening lyrics, “We’re beyond peace at this point/it’s just another ploy/ a marketing scheme tranquil and enjoyed/by a network of demons yelling at the sky,” it’s easy to picture him thinking about Hattiesburg’s military outpost, Camp Shelby, a vivid symbol of the system MSPAINT rages against.
So, what genre is MSPAINT exactly?
In a Venn diagram, they share some similarities with traditional hardcore. However, it’s easy to see how someone raised on MDC, Terror or Hatebreed might find them too dancy. At the same time, they would likely be too dark, angry and drone-ridden for anyone too heavily steeped in mainstream pop.
In the end, they don’t care about genre. Like their hometown, MSPAINT’s music is set apart.
“If you like it, you like it,” DeeDee says. “Personally, I don’t have enough of a past with hardcore to recognize aspects of our music as that. To me, it’s another take on American art.”
Wed, 7pm, $15
Playback Studios, San Jose