Sensory Overload: Awful Nothings swing like a wrecking ball

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In addition to delivering a pulverizing set, drum-bass duo Awful Nothings helped avert an international incident when it played Double Happiness on a recent Saturday.

A late cancellation by Swedish electronic act The Deer Tracks left Nothings as the lone band on the bill, and prompted one attendee to jokingly yell “fuck Sweden!” as the pair’s brutally efficient, 30-minute performance tapered to a close. “Nah,” countered drummer Chris Caputo, “Sweden’s great.”

Crisis averted.

Caputo and screamer/bassist Devin Braun have a lengthy history. Though they’ve only been playing as Awful Nothings for a little more than two years, their friendship dates back to preschool, and the chemistry between the musicians was evident from the opening note. At times the pair engaged in a musical dialogue; Caputo would lunge forward on his drums, delivering a thunderous volley, and Braun would momentarily retreat before responding in kind. Other times the two locked together, rumbling forward in a tumbling avalanche of riffs and limbs and feedback and drums.

Braun pointed to Canadian duo Death from Above 1979 as an early inspiration for the band’s sound, and the influence could be heard in those rare moments the duo slowed the pace, drums and bass throbbing and undulating like the dance floor in a dingy discotheque. More often though the group embraced a DIY punk aesthetic evident everywhere from its onstage setup (Awful Nothings was spelled out on Caputo’s bass drum in black electrical tape) to its primal sound, Braun adopting a wide stance and laying down thick, rumbling chords as the drummer hammered railroad spikes through his kit.

Vocals, in turn, were often an afterthought, lost in the mix like a child separated from his or her parents in a crowded mall. During an abrasive cover of The Beatles’ “Taxman,” for one, the title was the lone distinguishable word, Braun, neck veins straining, shouting it over and over as though his efforts might somehow prevent the authorities from coming to collect. Similar angst bubbled up through “Cut the Lines,” a snarling tune that found the longtime pals exchanging blows like avowed enemies. It was a thrilling display, and a welcome substitute for any Swedes in attendance who arrived expecting to hear the sounds of home.

Andy Downing photo