If you’ve ever had the pleasure of catching a Show Me The Body show, you’d certainly be familiar with the mercurial energy that occupies the room when vocalist Julian Cashwan Pratt ambles onto the stage, hands tied to a banjo, ready to relinquish control to the night ahead. Infamous for their gung-ho attitude to performance and often chaotic live shows, Show Me The Body are New York’s poster boys for a new breed of leftfield hardcore music.
Formed by Julian Cashwan Pratt and Harlan Steed in the early 2010s, the band have become a stalwart of their city, continually assessing and reassessing their relationship with it (as seen on 2016’s ‘Body War’), deeply considering their Jewish heritage after a trip to Poland (showcased on 2019’s ‘Dog Whistle’) and now lamenting a global lockdown and how it impacted their relationships with their fans on their latest project ‘Trouble The Water’.
‘Trouble The Water’ — the band’s third full-length album — marked a paradigm shift for the NY hardcore auteurs. No longer married to the brash Sonic Youth-infused 80s garage sound, but instead tapping into the polar end of the spectrum, introducing immersive buzzsaw synths and a newfound electro hip-hop DNA. In a van somewhere in Switzerland, Pratt, Steed and drummer Jackie Jackieboy join Clash to wax nostalgically about their latest record, share a window inside their creative HQ ‘CORPUS’ and express their love/hate relationship with the city they call home.
It’s been barely a week since you’ve released ‘Trouble The Water’. I wanted to know how the reception is in Europe. How are people finding it so far?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: Oh, they’re getting very excited.
Harlan Steed: There’s been a really great reaction, almost across the board every time we play a new song from this record. But now that the record is out, you can tell kids are listening to it, coming to the show, and getting excited when they hear the new ones. It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling.
One of your last UK shows was at Outbreak Festival in Manchester. Was that a memorable show for the band?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: Yeah, it was a good time although we had that one kid hit his head and ended up having to go to the hospital, but that was the only downside. His mother was very upset at first but the kid was fine. Then he came to the show in London a couple of days later, and his mom was like ‘no stage diving’. He’s fine.
I wanted to look backwards before we look forwards and ask, do you remember when the first parts of this record began falling into place? Was it during ‘Dog Whistle’ or was it after? Where were you?
Harlan Steed: I think right after we finished ‘Dog Whistle’, Julian and I were interested in keeping up the creative writing process. We almost began working on it right away. I would say WW4 and War Not Beef were two songs that were written almost at the same time as ‘Dog Whistle’, if not soon after and have been in development since then. So, there’s a couple that were definitely on the back burner, even as far back as ‘Dog Whistle’ being written, and now, you know, and then everything else was subsequent to that, you know?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: I think we just always try to keep the blade sharp. Always working on stuff, even if we don’t end up using it. But we always do as much as possible, it’ll will make you better in the end.
As a band, does it feel strange if you take too much time away from making music?
Harlan Steed: Yes, and no. The pandemic was the first time me and Julian, didn’t work together for like six months, in almost 10 years.
Julian Cashwan Pratt: That was enough rest and respite.
Harlan Steed: And then in a lot of ways when we don’t make music, the energy just doesn’t get spent well or properly. It’s like a muscle that you have to develop and keep in good shape. But I think that we’ve also developed practices of our that contributed heavily to the overall project. I’m constantly writing and creating music, whether it’s for Show Me The Body, or just for the sake of it, and I know Julian does the same as well. Oftentimes when we’re not working directly together, we’ll come up with things that will definitely become a big part of the record.
And you built the studio — CORPUS —for the new record from the ground up I understand?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: Not necessarily for the new record. But we built it before Survive (EP) so that we could make music and not feel stressed by studio hours. It was more our lockout — we could always be in whenever we wanted to. That was the goal.
If we’re talking about CORPUS (the name of the studio but also their creative collective), it’s more of a creative headquarters than just a studio. I wanted to know how much the bands and creatives coming through CORPUS impacted the sound of the record?
Jackie Jackieboy: Honestly, once the recording really started happening, it was just the band and the producer Arthur Rizk. Also Aiden who was a member of Corpus who helped was really instrumental in building the studio. It was really just the five of us locked in there, from the beginning to the end of the recording process. But I will say that the garage door is always open and there is a lot of in and out. People will come in and if they’re working on something, we’ll say ‘let’s hear what you’re working on’, and that no doubt influences what everybody’s thinking about and what everybody’s making.
D you find that the physical environment you’re in affects the kind of music you create, whether it’d be the country, or whether it’d be a physical space?
Jackie Jackieboy: Yeah. With ‘Trouble The Water’ being my first experience making a record in a studio that was more or less in Harlan’s home, that definitely affected the creative process. It’s about having no constraints or no familiarity with a different space. So, I think that definitely impacted what’ was being created.
Harlan Steed: I think it’s a big part of our records — the state of mind that we’re in. Time and space are kind of interwoven in terms of the process of making these things, you know?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: Art lives in Philly, and he would literally get there at like 11am and then stay until two or three AM. It was ridiculous… it was kind of crazy.
You mentioned on a tour around the release ‘Dog Whistle’ that it was vital to get out of New York. Does that still feel like the case?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: I think we are one foot on the platform and one on the train with New York. We’re always coming back and forth and feeling like ‘this is the best city in the fucking world’. Feeling like I could never leave and then at the same time feeling like this is the most bullshit, evil, stupid trick that we live in.
How have you seen your audience change since your inception in 2009?
Julian Cashwan Pratt: When we go to California or Texas, so many of our fans are Native kids and Mexican kids. It’s so wonderful and something that we could have never imagined would be a huge part of our show attendance. Also, we recently went to Poland where a lot of people in our families were killed or murdered, and just to meet all these kids who came from Warsaw who were all so beautiful and so lovely and we’re just trying to feel things, you know what I mean? That was a very recent tour experience that definitely expanded my understanding of who our music is speaking to.
It feels like promoters don’t really know where to place you. You’ve hit the road with Denzel Curry and slowthai, but you’ve also been touring with Code Orange and stuff. Do you think you’re a promoter’s nightmare or a promoter’s dream?
Harlan Steed: I think if the promoter is familiar with our music and what we do, I think we can be one of the best nights of their week. But I think if they don’t know who we are, and what we are coming to do, it could be the worst night of their week. That’s my opinion.
‘Trouble The Water’ is out now.
Words: Ali Grice