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Soft Deadlines' New Record People Are Evil Is a Post-Punk Paradise

Soft Deadlines celebrate the release of People Are Evil, their latest record, on November 29th at the Crescent Ballroom.
Soft Deadlines celebrate the release of People Are Evil, their latest record, on November 29th at the Crescent Ballroom. Jeff Niemoeller
Musicians often, and usually unfairly, compare themselves to other musicians. Every artist knows the feeling of coming in contact with the work of another person and going, “Whoa, I wish I did that.”

Phoenix band Soft Deadlines, led by guitarist/singer Oliver Lemke, is one of those bands that make other musicians jealous, especially those who dig the post-punk vibe of bands like Gang Of Four, Public Image Ltd., or (digging deep here) the poppy, noisy, genius post-garage angst of New York’s Fly Ashtray. There’s a little something for almost every indie/punk fan in Soft Deadlines’ new record, People Are Evil, which will have its release party on Thursday, November 29, at Crescent Ballroom.

“The Now” kicks off People Are Evil, which the band recorded themselves at The Red Room, the home studio of Soft Deadlines guitarist and producer Chad Cussen. A powerful urgency unfolds as Lemke sings, “Live in the now, try to control yourself / This is not a dance, this is a cry for help.” The intensity does not let up as the album continues thanks to Lemke’s unflinching lyrics and the propulsive instrumental work of Cussen, bassist Steven Duncan, and drummer Parker Douglas. The bombastic opening of “Club Silence,” with Duncan’s hammering bass line, quickly evolves into a charming mix of Strokes-esque guitar sounds and something akin to both At The Drive In and the lesser-known San Francisco band Theory Of Ruin.

“Minutes To Air” is a great example of the band’s ability to create complex, polyrhythmic and danceable post-punk as well. This may be Lemke’s favorite song off the record, a paean to all things related to the beauty (or lack there of) of modern media.

“We’re pretty democratic in terms of song writing and write the songs in jam sessions,” he says. “We [Cussen and Lemke] try to write parts that aren’t the simple ‘rhythm and lead.’ We write stuff more like guitar duets. He fills things in a lot. My playing is more staccato, influenced by Gang Of Four.”

According to Lemke, the band works as a cohesive unit when it comes to the creation of their songs, and, refreshingly, he takes great pride in speaking about his bandmates.

“Parker is our drummer and he’s very involved in songwriting and dynamics, like starts and stops. He adds a very different dimension to our music as well,” he says. “Steven Duncan is our bass player. He’s also a very talented player and probably the most classically trained of all of us. He joined the band when [People Are Evil] was nearly finished. We became a four-piece a few years back, but never really had a steady bass player for various reasons. Chad, Parker, and I wrote the record, though, Steven did play on some of the recordings. He’s also a great performer and very into the high energy that we try to project when we play live.”

Post-punk has seen a brief renaissance in the last decade thanks to North American bands like Protomartyr and Preoccupations (f.k.a. Viet Cong), but will Soft Deadlines be able to join that small-but-growing pantheon? Time will tell, but it’s clear after listening to People Are Evil is that they’re a band to be reckoned with in 2018 and beyond.

Soft Deadlines: People Are Evil Album Release Party. With Celebration Guns, Paper Foxes, Weird Radicals, and The Human Torch. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 29, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; 602-716-2222; crescentphx.com. Tickets are $10 via Ticketfly.
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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon