Back in 2014, a request to play with a mutual friend brought drummer Kody Blackmon and guitarist/vocalist Ian Hemerlein together. Although the full band from this jam session never worked out, Hemerlein and Blackmon hit it off, and the band now known as Kwazymoto was soon born at the start of 2015.
Speaking on their sound, the pair says it “just kind of happened” as they played together. With Hemerlein’s love for harsher genres like punk and Blackmon’s more aggressive drumming style, the band’s heavy sound was a very natural development.
“Everything I’ve done was always more mellow, so it just seemed like something kind of new and different,” Hemerlein says. “That was just the way we kind of played together.”
After a highly cooperative period of writing new material, the pair soon found themselves with enough songs for a debut release. Working with Zeke Sayer at Gypsy Farm Studio, Kwazymoto recorded “The Gypsy Farm EP” and released it through Bandcamp in July.
The group describes its time in the studio as fast-paced yet relaxed. With only two people in its line-up, Kwazymoto was able move quickly through the recording process and track its first EP in one day.
“We work pretty fast, which is nice,” Hemerlein says. “It’s very casual. It’s not stressful or anything.”
On Nov. 29, the group released new material again, putting a collection of five songs called “Darkroom” up on its Bandcamp. This material was also recorded at Gypsy Farm with Sayer.
Although the songs are a collaborative effort from both members of Kwazymoto, the group sees them as somewhat separate from its normal output. Influenced more by blues and folk than punk rock, the release is a foray into new territory for the band.
“I’d see it more like an Ian Hemerlein featuring Kody Blackmon. I don’t see it as like a Kwazymoto thing,” Blackmon says.
That’s not to say this release should be thought of as completely separate from the rest of Kwazymoto’s work, though. Despite their different flavor, some of these new songs should still fit well into the band’s set lists, and two of them have already seen successful test runs at a recent show.
Kwazymoto seems to have always been more of a creative outlet for Blackmon and Hemerlein than an effort to construct some kind of coherent musical identity anyways. Focusing on their own enjoyment first and foremost, the band’s members write, record and perform the music they want to play.
“I’m not worried about what the audience thinks. We really just want to do our own thing,” Blackmon says.
Looking to the future, Kwazymoto already has plans to record even more new material. The group has two new songs in the works and hopes to hit the studio in January to lay tracks for the next Kwazymoto release.
The band says its next project is shaping up to be a darker, moodier return to some of the sonic ideas from its first EP. Wanting to bring more atmosphere to the group’s music, Hemerlein says his playing on the new material is noisier and makes more extensive use of things like delay and fast strumming.
“We want to keep evolving and not really stick to any sound,” Hemerlein says. “If we sound like the same way we do in like a year if we’re still doing this, I would not really be happy with that.”
While Kwazymoto’s quickly changing creative vision may be off-putting to fans of any one release by the band, those tired of watching artists stagnate will likely find something to appreciate here. For better or worse, the band seems rooted in momentary creative expression and has no plans to reign in its ambitions.
“Whatever happens happens, you know? As far as just like what we can think of, what we’re listening to at the time and what’s going on in our lives as people, I guess, too,” Hemerlein says.
Those interested in what Kwazymoto will do next should keep a look out for more shows around Athens and, of course, keep an eye on the group’s Bandcamp page next year for new material.