Protomartyr announce new album and tour, share “Processed by the Boys”
Protomartyr have announced their fifth album, Ultimate Success Today, which will be out May 29 via Domino. Their first full-length since 2017's Relatives in Descent (the Consolation EP came out in 2018), the new record was made in Upstate NY's Dreamland Recording Studios and was co-produced by the band and David Tolomei (Dirty Projectors, Beach House). There are a number of guests on the album, including Half Waif's Nandi Rose (vocals), Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Izaak Mills (bass clarinet, sax, flute), and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). They also got Ana da Silva of post-punk icons The Raincoats to write their bio for this album, which you can read below.
"The re-release of our first album had me thinking about the passage of time and its ultimate conclusion,” says singer Joe Casey of the new album. “Listening to No Passion All Technique again, I could hear myself hoping for an introduction and a long future, but also being cognizant that it could be ‘one and done’ for us. So, when it came time to write Ultimate Success Today, I was reminded of that first urgency and how it was an inverse of my current grapple with how terribly ill I’ve been feeling lately. Was that sick feeling coloring how I felt about the state of the world or was it the other way around?” Joe continues, “This panic was freeing in a way. It allowed me to see our fifth album as a possible valediction of some confusingly loud five-act play. In the same light I see it as an interesting mile marker of our first decade of being a band - a crest of the hill along a long highway. Although just to cover my bases, I made sure to get my last words in while I still had the breath to say them.”
The first single is "Processed By The Boys," which finds them sounding especially heavy and fierce, while making room for eerie reed instruments. The video, directed by David Allen & Nathan Faustyn, is based on a YouTube clip titled "Puppet trolling viewer during the concert live on Brazilian TV" that the band became obsessed with. The chaos that ensues in it is a perfect fit for the panic in the song. Watch that below.
Protomartyr have Midwest dates this week which feature The Breeders' Kelly Deal as part of the band. And while SXSW was canceled, they're still going to Austin where they'll play three shows on March 17 - 19. Their canceled SXSW dates included one of the BrooklynVegan day parties.
They've also just announced a spring/summer North American tour that will hit most major U.S. and Canadian cities. The NYC stop happens June 4 at Elsewhere. Tickets for that show go on sale Friday, March 13 at 10 AM.
Meanwhile, Protomartyr played Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Detroit on Friday and you can watch a clips from that, and one of Bernie thanking them, below.
ULTIMATE SUCCESS TODAY tracklist:
1. Day Without End
2. Processed By The Boys
3. I Am You Now
4. The Aphorist
5. June 21
6. Michigan Hammers
8. Modern Business Hymns
9. Bridge & Crown
10. Worm In Heaven
PROTOMARTYR TOUR DATES
Thu. March 12 - Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village - SOLD OUT
Fri. March 13 - Kalamazoo, MI @ Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
Sat. March 14 - Columbus, OH @ Melted Festival - The Bluestone
3/17 - Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas
3/18 - Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas (w/ Wire)
3/19 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk
Mon. April 27 - London, UK @ Peckham Audio - SOLD OUT
Tue. April 28 - London, UK @ The Lexington - SOLD OUT
Wed. April 29 - Paris, FR @ La Boule Noire - SOLD OUT
Thu. April 30 -Utrecht, NL @ Ekko - SOLD OUT
Sat. May 2 -Berlin, DE @ Ubran Spree
Sun. May 3 - Berlin, DE @ Urban Spree
Mon. May 4 - Groningen, NL @ Vera
Tue. May 5 - Brussels, BE @ Nuits Botanique
Mon. June 1 - Toronto, ON @ Lee’s
Tue. June 2 - Montreal, QC @ Le Ritz
Wed. June 3 - Boston, MA @ Sinclair
Thu. June 4 - Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere
Sat. June 6 - Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Sun. June 7 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Tue. June 9 - Raleigh, NC @ Kings
Wed. June 10 - Atlanta, GA @ Earl
Thu. June 11 - New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
Fri. June 12 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
Mon. June 15 - Tucson, AZ @ Hotel Congress
Tue. June 16 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
Wed. June 17 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Thu. June 18 - Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
Fri. June 19 - Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
Sat. June 20 - Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club
Mon. June 22 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
Tue. June 23 - Seattle, WA @ Crocodile
Fri. June 26 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Sat. June 27 - Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
Sun. June 28 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
There is darkness in the poetry of ‘Ultimate Success Today’, Protomartyr’s fifth album. The theme of things ending, above all human existence, is present and reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’.
‘Day Without End’, the first song, sets the tone for the whole album. “This is the dawning of the day without end / when fear steps into light”. The music here sounds delicate, airy and at the same time carried by an insistent, light, metallic drum part by Alex Leonard and a punctuating bass line by Scott Davidson.
There are exquisite, subtle gifts from other instruments that always heighten the guitar, instead of fighting with it. They help to create a harmonious wall of sound all of its own. This was intentional. Greg Ahee wanted to use different textures other than pedals, and the drone quality of some of those instruments colours the guitar and the whole sound with a warm, rich in reverb, yet all-consuming landscape for Joe Casey’s voice.
The album was recorded in a late 19th century church Dreamland Recording Studios in upstate New York, which still has its original high arched ceilings, creating a natural and eerie reverb. Protomartyr co-produced these songs with David Tolomei, who thought they would capture the essence of the place. And he was right. The quality of sound enhances the idea of disappearance, of dissolving away through the high ceiling. Sometimes it brings us back to life and “Everybody’s hunted with a smile / being processed by the boys”. And it sounds like “a riot in the streets”.
The musicians that joined the band for these recordings are Jemeel Moondoc (Alto Sax), Izaak Mills (bass clarinet, sax, flute), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) and Nandi Plunkett (vocals). They were encouraged to bring in ideas of their own, making this a collaborative and open work. These wind and string instruments add richness to every song. Greg Ahee was inspired by Bennie Maupin’s ‘Jewel in the Lotus’ and by how everything moves harmoniously, in togetherness. Being open and together could make us stronger for “When the ending comes is it gonna run at us like a wild-eyed animal”. In ‘I Am You Now’ there is a section where the drums keep it grounded, the bass melodic, a beautiful drone of guitar, cello and sax, that sounds suspended, until everything comes crashing again, followed by a sustained guitar chord for every line.
‘Ultimate Success Today’ moves like a river, with waves of sound that are quiet, loud, empty, full, but flowing together and shaping itself around the words. The songs flow from ‘Day Without End’ to the final song ‘Worm in Heaven’, “I was here / I was / or / never was”, one to the next with no silence, just the dying of a sound or recordings from the woods/world outside the studio.
Our world has reached a point that makes us afraid: fires, floods, earthquakes, hunger, war, intolerance…There are cries of despair. Is there hope? Greed is the sickness that puts life in danger - “a floating shadow of a hand across my heart”.
“I wish you well, I do / may you find peace in this world”.
Ana da Silva