Pit Er Pat's music achieves a strange kind of alchemy. Their new album, Shakey (Thrill Jockey)–which follows last winter's mostly instrumental "Emergency" EP (Overcoat)–pieces layers of bass, drums and keyboards into a skittering tableau that flits between post-rock, free jazz and indie rock influences without pledging allegiance to one. The effect is calming and frenetic at once, and at times somber, thanks to the plaintive vocals of keyboardist Fay Davis-Jeffers. How this bizarre rhythmic puzzle gels together is a mystery, but supernatural forces follow the band around, says bassist/vocalist Rob Doran.
"We're seeing so many weird hauntings and having different awesome experiences," Doran explains when I track the band down on tour with Need New Body in Texas. Pit er Pat had already run into a tow truck driver talking about the fifth dimension and a strangely powerful museum docent when they had to stay overnight in a haunted motel room 130 miles outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. "We rolled into this town Truth Or Consequences at three in the morning; none of the places had vacancies except for this one motel. Jamie from Need New Body took a shower in [his room] and then all of a sudden he was like 'Guys come here!' When you looked in the bathroom mirror it was totally fogged up, and the only thing you could see was your eyes glowing with rings around them. All three of us were looking in the mirror together and you could only see your own eye–you couldn't see the other people at all. It was far out."
The band surmises that they are more receptive to such surreal experiences than most adults, and this openness, this childlike sense of unlimited possibility, is reflected in their work. And not just music–all three band members also make visual art (from Doran's printed materials and textiles to Davis-Jeffers' drawings and drummer/vocalist Butchy Fuego's sound installations); they say the boundary between the two activities is, more often than not, a blurry one.
More than anything, Pit er Pat is interested in immediacy, in being able to capture the feeling of an exact moment in time. Most of Shakey was written within a month of recording it, and the actual recording of the album only took six days. "Recording the song when it's really fresh gives it kind of an urgency," says Fuego. "It kind of comes out easier because you're not overthinking it."