By day, the foursome behind DC-based power pop band Bad Moves span career paths – from labor union organizer to NPR music editor. But by night, bassist Emma Cleveland, drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen, and guitarists David Combs and Katie Park are focused on their budding music career.
Still beatific from their successful SXSW showcase this spring, the band has been keeping busy with their upcoming LP Tell No One. The record comes out on September 21 via Don Giovanni Records in conjunction with a release party at the Black Cat.
“A lot of the songs on the album deal with themes of having secrets that you keep inside, and the repercussions of either keeping secrets or coming out with them,” Cleveland says.
The band alludes to a few family secrets of their own on Tell No One while still maintaining a degree of mystery. Secrets of sexuality and criminality are woven into the limericks set to the band’s peppy, kinetic beats. Yet the truth is, the album is not about divulging secrets.
Instead, Tyler-Ameen says it’s about “exploring the things that are traditionally considered taboo [that you later realize] are markers of identity, yet you feel when you’re younger you’re not allowed to fully own.”
Tell No One is expected to resonate with all, as did their self-titled EP.
“I don’t know if we necessarily started the band thinking in particular about a demographic,” Combs says. “I don’t know if that’s a word we even used with each other.”
Instead, Bad Moves relies on chance when creating music that sits well with their broad audience – the chance that their personal experiences, or the feelings evoked from those experiences, will be commonly shared.
The bandmates have relied on each other to craft their sound over the past three years, drawing on 90s pop punk and rock sounds that resonate with most older millennials. Combs says he and Park were the main collaborators on Tell No One, and then brought in the rest of the band to “shape it more in our own collective image.” Bad Moves has no lead singer, so the four musicians each share equal vocal responsibility in the band.
“Our intention is to take the focus away from one particular identity as being the central face of the band,” Combs says.
Picking a band name – on a car ride to a recording session at American University – was one of the only items on their ever-growing to-do list that didn’t require too much thought.
“One name I remember pushing for – and now feel relief that we didn’t go with – was Bad Wiz,” Cleveland says. “That would have been bad.”
Combs chimes in, “We also had Wet Hands. It’s hard to know what kind of name will suit your needs early on.”
The process of forming their sound, on the other hand, was a different story. Cleveland says the band made a lengthy playlist of power pop – around 180 songs – that inspired their eclectic sound. The first track on the playlist, which coincidently had the most impact, is “Looking For Magic” by the Dwight Twilley Band.
“You can tell from the lyrics that there’s a sort of desperation,” Combs says of the 1977 classic. “There’s this thing that eludes to magic. There’s a sadness to that sentiment, but the energy of that song is really lifting, inspiring and powerful. It’s a song that’s not ignoring that the world is a hard place to be in, but it’s also something I can put on that will push me through – and that’s what we want our music to do.”
Learn more about the band at www.badmoves.bandcamp.com.
Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com