Bassist Jesse Keeler and vocalist/drummer Sebastien Grainger reportedly met at a Sonic Youth concert and later became roommates. Keeler played in several pop punk bands in Toronto, Canada, including Black Cat #13 and Femme Fatale. In 2001, he recorded three bass and drum instrumental demo tapes. He played these for Grainger, who then wanted to sing over the tracks. Not finding a suitable drummer, Grainger tried singing and drumming at the same time, and Death from Above was born. The duo changed the band name to Death from Above 1979 after a legal dispute with DFA Records; the "1979" originated from Grainger's birth year, which he has tattooed on his forearm. The duo released a debut album in 2004, but split in 2005. Grainger then founded Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains and Bad Tits, and Keeler formed MSTRKRFT. Death from Above 1979 reunited in 2011, toured, and released a second album in 2014 and a live album, Live at Third Man Records, on April 22, 2016.
Opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tonight at Terminal 5, Death from Above 1979 played in almost complete darkness, such that the audience could make out two moving silhouettes rather than clearly seeing two performers on that stage. The two musicians faced each other rather than the audience, seemingly immersed in their instruments and their interplay. Keeler riffed his bass like it was a heavy metal guitar and Grainger pounded on his drums with raging fury, simultaneously generating some piercing vocals that floated above the din. The approximately hour-long set included six songs from the debut album and eight songs from the follow-up 10 years later, all of it becoming one wall of sound. This was hard, aggressive, unpolished, minimalistic music. The music felt wild and chaotic, and was sometimes even grating. They made big noise for just two musicians. For some in the audience, this was innovative music, for others it was an occasion to push those earplugs deeper.
Visit Death from Above 1979 at www.deathfromabove1979.com.