Perfect Sound Forever

Sightings

An investigation into New York noise by David Manning
(January 2002)

It was not long after September 11th. A Brooklyn evening. Thick plumes of black smoke still crawled the sky towards us. Remembering Beckett's Molloy: "I can't go on. I must go on." If not even a diversion, at the very least an attempt to go on as much as one can.

You only know to be where you were from word of mouth or flyer or the odd online mailing. People would wander up and down the street, wondering if they might be near the appointed place. Not a club per se but, as it turns out, a third (second?) floor loft with a door to the roof and a make-shift lounge there. The band list is scrawled on a paper near the door and yet you find yourself still asking who you're listening to. Local favorites Oneida and Japan-psych mavens Acid Mothers Temple are supposed to be there but the times when everyone is supposed to play is fluid at best.

It turns out the band list is also fluid. The first group is supposed to be Black Dice. Since there's no stage per se, three figures gather in a corner with some speakers. They start flailing as people begin gathering near there out of curiosity. As wave upon wave of punishing noise meets them, a number of people fall back and retreat to the roof. A few brave souls wander back in with makeshift earplugs. But it was no use. It was still too much. One person removes their aural protection to find that there's a spot of blood at the end. Another spectator is holding back nausea and eventually is unsuccessful. Guitarist Alan Licht is stonily watching the proceeding, seeming to neither approve nor disapprove.

Right away, I was very moved. I had never seen a band create such an adverse atmosphere at a show since I witnessed Half Japanese almost get boo'd off the stage (opening for Nirvana) as they howled with relish "U.S. Teens Are Spoiled Bums."

Weeks later, I find out that Black Dice wasn't actually there as their singer was out of town. What I had witnessed was another local phenom that NME and other outside papers will probably not drool over in the manner of the Strokes or Moldy Peaches. And who were they?


Sightings:
Mark Morgan- guitar vocals
Richard Hoffman- bass, occasional vocals
Jon Lockie- drums
 

MM: The band originally began with John and I jamming for about a year beginning in March '97. We just played with each other or with a succession of bass players who were either committed to other projects or were not musically compatible. I can distinctly remember being ready to pack it in after about a year of fucking around until we finally met Richard through a flyer around November '98. As soon as we started playing together as a trio, it immediately seemed like something interesting was possible. We practiced two to three times a week for a few months and then we got our first show at a loft space in Dumbo (Brooklyn). Although we were into what we were doing at the time, I'd have to say I recoil at the thought of what we played at that show and others in the summer/fall of '99. Our first attempts at song writing were very half assed and if I might say so, very hoaky (jesus, we might still be considered hoaky for all I know). Dumb hooks, bad riffs, you name it. After those initial embarrassing forays, I decided to start "singing" since it felt like we were missing a lead voice (i.e. instrumental rock bands are fucking boring).

Although I can only speak for myself, the main interests of the band seem to be with trashy/artsy/fartsy punk. Bands or people that immediately come to mind as influences are Red Transistor, Yoko Ono (Plastic Ono Band period), the No New York cabal, Fushitsusha, High Rise, The Ex, Led Zeppelin, The Damned, some Krautrock and '80's German Wave(?), Cabaret Voltaire, etc.. You know, all the hip stuff that current or former NYC record store employees seem to be into these days. Though as your usual prideful musicians always say, 'we'd rather not try to imitate all the shit we are into' ('Fuck you man, we don't sound like that shit!'). We go in having such and such bands which made a mark on us, but then just go into practice and uhh, play. Thinking about your record collection while jamming on some riffs is probably not the best idea in the world.

As we started, we were just busting out more simplistic wham-bam-thank-you-ma'm riffs for two minutes- just a total energy thing. Then after awhile, we decided to start moving into a more jamming-based direction while trying to keep some semblance of structure. I guess the show you saw recently is the result of us partially rejecting punk for the last few months. The maxim for us has always been that no matter what we are playing, it has to be played with utter intensity. We don't always succeed in that ideal but it is what we are aiming for.

As far as releases go, the only thing out is a single on Freedom from that came out this past spring. It basically represents our more straight ahead rocking days but I think there are some worthwhile moments on it. Already recorded is an LP for Load which should be coming out in the next month or two. We also have an EP that a small label from nyc might put out in the winter. All our material has been recorded on four track so far. We went into a studio a few times but were not satisfied with the sound quality. A little too clean for our personal tastes.


THE CURSE OF SIGHTINGS: Three reasons for a band not to appear on a split release with them

 1. The first band who's name I absolutely can not recall (I think they had some people from Dazzling Killmen and purportedly sounded a little like This Heat) that we were supposed to do a split 12" with broke up after a few months of saying they'd be into the idea.

2. Ben from Load (Records) next suggested that we do the split with Le Shok. That's cool, we'll do that. Le Shok is supposed to be big so I guess more potential fans for us. Then they broke up or overdosed or reformed under another name or committed some such action that caustic young rockers do.

3. Unable to realize that there was no manifest destiny in store for us in doing a split record, Ben tried to get into contact with Glass Candy. Those folks couldn't be located (they on the other hand did not break up) so finally Ben just said fuck it, we'll make it a full length. Therefore, no hopes of any cross over synergy that might have been elicited with the split.


A Further Interrogation

DM: What about rumors of the group's shameless careerism? Is it true that your friends and family see your band as a goldmine that they would like to exploit?

MM: My parents have been cleared up on this matter after a few years of trying to explain to them that the band is strictly a fun little hobby (and an expensive one at that). Considering that I don't exactly have much of a career, they were hoping maybe there would be some potential financial rewards to be culled from the music world. And this from people whom I've played some Sightings songs for. Though, I quote my mom: "it was more musical than I had imagined."

While on the subject of cash, a friend of ours once told Richard that she thought we were only in it for the money and asked what we were going to do if the band didn't work out. Uhhhhh...

And there is someone who is close to the band that asked when we we're going to quit our day jobs. She shall remain nameless.
 

DM: You once said that you have a lot of beefs and want to offend people as much as possible. What's your beefs exactly? How successful has your offense been?

MM: In all honesty, I was being completely sarcastic when I said I was looking to "offend" people. We just jump around a little bit and make stupid faces up on stage and our records are sort of lo-fi, not really offensive activity. Yes, I myself have a little bit of a reactionary in me but as far as going out and offending people, nah.

As far as my complaints about the current state of rock music, no comment. I'm a man of moderation these days so I'll leave it at that. Richard's helpful in complaints about current music: "this shit sucks."


DISCOGRAPHY

self-titled 7" ---Freedom From, 2001 (www.freedom-from.com)
"Live" cassette ---Spite, 2001 (n/a)
self-titled LP ---Load, 2002 (www.loadrecords.com)


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