Loud & Proud

there’s nothing out there quite like Gash

Eric Christenson

CROUCHING GASH, HIDDEN DRAGON. Big sounds from Gash, a powerful experimental punk trio, are available on their refreshingly inventive debut cassette called haha.
CROUCHING GASH, HIDDEN DRAGON. Big sounds from Gash, a powerful experimental punk trio, are available on their refreshingly inventive debut cassette called haha.

“Chicken Soup for the Cig Smoker’s Soul.” That’s how Justin Allen describes a two-story house on the Eastside Hill of Eau Claire called The Rash. It’s a pretty good summation of the now-defunct DIY venue that Logan Nyberg, Eric Simmons, and Allen – a local punk trio called Gash – operated for the better part of the last 18 months.

“I went to a bunch of DIY stuff like that,” Nyberg said. “I’d go to basement shows all the time. I was like ‘Why can’t we do anything like this in Eau Claire?’”

The dozen-or-so basement shows hosted at The Rash brought a cavalcade of wildly different bands from all over the country to Eau Claire, from punk to hip hop to grindcore to rock to electronic and quite literally everything in between. But each show all shared the common denominator of the fittingly grungey setting: air thick with second-hand nicotine, floors garnished with crushed beer cans, and sweaty musicians doing their thing through an unflinchingly loud sound system. The stuff of punk venue legends.

Nyberg is an EC native, a North High grad, and after leaving to toil around the Milwaukee DIY scene with a band called Butter, he connected with Allen out on the West Coast while working at a French wine bar and bistro. Having struck out a few times trying to get a band going out there, they eventually made their way back to Eau Claire, where they found a like-minded drummer in Simmons, who had just moved here from Madison to cook at The Lakely. Gash started playing music all the time, and just as soon, they started bringing a fresh vibe to the city’s transient house show scene with The Rash.

Gash found a practice space in town where they could be as loud as they want while honing their songs down to their core elements. To call it punk is a bit disingenuous to some of the band’s more experimental and psychedelic nuances, and to call it rock is to deny it of its distinctiveness. Gash holds ground somewhere in the middle – or rather outside – of that spectrum.

And it didn’t come easy. What started as loose jams and heavy improvisations picked up speed and tightened up quickly with the band’s crazy, breakneck practice schedule.

“We practice like five nights a week usually. Five or six nights. We’re always going. Almost every night,” Allen said. “The longer we play together, the tighter we get, and we just feel it out. It’s starting to get its own certain style and we know where things are going now.”

That energy brightly shows on Gash’s debut EP haha. The cassette is a tried and true 20-minute adventure in new ways to make lots of noise with a guitar, bass, drums, and a voice – while pushing boundaries, setting fire to played-out genres, and crossing up any expectation of what’s going to happen next. Across all five tracks, rarely do you hear 30 seconds in a row without a tempo change-up, or a crazy bridge, or a complete musical 180 – and that’s what’s wonderful about it. Really, the most consistent attribute of the tape is the energy.

haha was engineered by Seth Tracy from Double Grave – a Minneapolis band that’s really taken Gash under their collective wing after playing one of the first shows ever to take place at The Rash. Jeremy Warden, Double Grave’s lead vocalist and guitarist started a freakin’ cassette label called Heavy Meadow Records just to put out this Gash release. Likewise, Tracy gives the band a generous sound on the recordings with room to breathe and stayed unfailingly true to Gash’s live vibe.

“They’ve been a huge support system for us. Honestly, without them, we probably wouldn’t have made a record,” Allen said frankly.

During a three-day snowstorm this spring, Tracy made his way to Eau Claire and holed up with Gash and recorded haha in its entirety at The Rash itself. One could almost even say The Rash sort of acts as a de facto fourth member of the band on these particular recordings. Simmons played drums in the living room, Nyberg played guitar in the kitchen, and Allen played bass in his bedroom. With mirrors set up ever-so-precisely to establish sight lines – the band knocked out four out of the five tracks on the first take, adding vocals and other things later. Tracy even had different mics set up around the house – in the attic, closets, and whatnot – to capture ambient noise during takes.

For most band’s debuts, they don’t often come with such a distinct vision as you’ll find on haha. In the practice space, at shows, and on the cassette, Gash maintains a powerful sound; so powerful in fact that the first time Simmons could actually hear some of Nyberg’s lyrics was when they were recording vocals.

“Logan was upstairs tracking ‘em, ripping the vocals, and I was like ‘Woah, that’s what he’s saying?’” Simmons said. “I was really pumped about the lyrics when I heard them.”

Next, Gash will take these songs and a smattering of new ones out west for shows in cities like Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, and Albuquerque. While they don’t feel like making another release quite yet, you can probably find them in their practice space almost every night of week, dreaming up new ways to get creative and get loud.

“Some music should just be played loud,” Nyberg said. “That’s how it’s gotta be sometimes.”

You can stream the lead single off haha, “Always Pissed” at gashrash.bandcamp.com. The whole EP drops on Aug. 10. Gash is playing a cassette release show in Eau Claire at the Cherry House on Aug. 11 with Double Grave, Harper’s Jar, and Lurid. Follow them on Facebook.