Preview: Turbulent times inspire the latest from hardcore Louisville quartet Xerxes

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Collision Blonde, the latest from hardcore Louisville quartet Xerxes, is rooted in a particularly trying time for singer Calvin Philley.

Throughout, the singer struggles with suicidal thoughts, alcohol dependency (“I’m all talk when I say I’ll start to drink less,” he offers on the title track) and a gnawing sense things are never going to improve. “I can’t make it stop!” he howls repeatedly as the album draws to an uneasy close.

“Things were pretty bleak at that point in my life, and there were times I didn’t think it was going to get any better — ever,” said Philley, 22, who joins his bandmates for a show at Double Happiness on Friday, Oct. 24. “The first time I got the mastered version of the record and listened to it I cried my eyes out. It is extremely difficult for me to listen to because I was not in a good place at all. If my dad heard the record he’d be worried about me, I bet.”

In recent weeks, though, Philley has started to find some footing, however fragile. He acknowledged his drinking was out of control, pointing to an early October incident where he spent the night in jail on an outstanding bench warrant after being picked up by the police walking barefoot down the street and unable to account for his earlier whereabouts.

“I don’t know what was going on; I might have had a psychotic episode,” he said. “I’ve realized lately the amount I was drinking was to make myself feel like I don’t exist. I was drinking so I could almost sleepwalk through [life], and I needed to wake up and take responsibility.”

While Philley might have felt out-of-control during Collision’s creation, the music itself moves with astounding confidence, the band expanding on its violent, foot-on-the-throat assault by incorporating comparatively shadowy elements of post-punk, new wave and even spoken word.

“We came up in this punk and DIY universe where having a reliable [sound system] wasn’t always an option, so the best way to be heard was to be as loud as possible,” Philley said. “But I’ve never wanted to be the band where the singer is just screaming all the time.”

Even so, Philley’s vocal performance tends to take on an almost exorcism-like quality, as though the syllables are being purged from his body rather than simply spoken or sung.

“There is definitely a catharsis that comes with this kind of anxiety-driven, heavy, fast, loud music,” the frontman said. “I can walk into a show feeling one way and I will undoubtedly come off that stage feeling a sense of relief. You’re exhausted, sure, and your heart is beating, but you walk out of there intact and you’re all the better for it.”

[Photo: Music_Preview_Xerxes_CreditMaryBurks_1023

Double Happiness

9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24

482 S. Front St., Brewery District

ALSO PLAYING: Sport, Srvvlst, Dry Bones