On ‘Editrix II: Editrix Goes to Hell,’ darkness gets weird
Richard Lenz/Courtesy of the artist
Editrix makes music that sounds like Lightning Bolt deconstructing Black Sabbath-ian fuzz — heavy rock and roll for trouble-making honor roll students in leather jackets. The songs on the Easthampton, Mass., band’s second album, Editrix II: Editrix Goes to Hell, are dirty, gnarled and even a bit demonic. But over video chat, the trio’s interpersonal dynamic is warm, extroverted and, at times, even downright giggly.
“We all conceive of ourselves closer to Garth than Wayne,” singer and guitarist Wendy Eisenberg says, in reference to Dana Carvey’s shy, yet bizarre SNL character featured in the 1992 Penelope Spheeris comedy Wayne’s World. “A lot of things are just us making, like, ‘haha this is funny’ kind of things,” they continue, a goofy expression creeping across their face.
Editrix came to life around 2018. Eisenberg had honed their skills as a jazz guitarist, but was drawn to noise after growing frustrated by a limited area of study. Inspired by the Northeast’s thriving DIY scene, they moved from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. There, Eisenberg started gigging in a genre-spanning smattering of groups, including the scuzzy rock act Birthing Hips. It’s also where they met Josh Daniel, then drumming in Hot Dirt — his monstrous chops reminded Eisenberg of Tool’s Danny Carey. Meanwhile, Eisenberg and Tortured Skull percussionist Steve Cameron had been going to underground shows with each other for years. Although most of his prior on-stage experience was behind the kit, they asked him to join the fold on bass. Early collaborations yielded two releases — 2019’s Talk To Me EP and 2021’s Tell Me I’m Bad — both angular and chugging slices of asymmetrical power punk, united by a simultaneous sense of quirkiness and ferocity.
Eisenberg’s musical process is notably thoughtful and meticulous. In addition to Editrix and Birthing Hips, they’ve crafted sparse, earthy bedroom pop under their own name. They ad-libbed alongside Trevor Dunn and Ches Smith on the John Zorn-produced album The Machinic Unconscious. They even made a La Monte Young-esque avant-folk record for the Los Angeles imprint VDSQ. And while these previous endeavors have been all over the stylistic map, they’re tied together by a borderline-academic intentionality.
Eisenberg’s knack for precision works in tandem with Editrix’s brutal, abstract sound. To offset the intensity that underlines their solo songwriting, Editrix embraces a spirit of compromise. The trio writes collectively and has in-depth discussions to figure out an arrangement that best suits each track. “I worry that I’m a control freak in my other universes,” says Eisenberg. “I think I bring that into our rehearsals, where I’m, like, ‘Am I being too controlling?’ when I have an idea.” This band’s communal ethos helps Eisenberg distance themself from a feeling of personal ownership.
“Working together is a very egoless process,” Daniel explains, when asked how he and Cameron coexist around someone as enigmatic as Eisenberg. “We want the music to flow when you listen to it, even if it’s jarring. When we’re getting together, we very much reach a consensus. Nothing ever gets very tense in the creative realm.” He likens finished Editrix tracks to an accretion of their mental ooze.
On the cover of Editrix II: Editrix Goes to Hell, there’s an unsettling image of a terrier named Junebug peering over a tall wooden fence. Found on the subreddit r/oddlyterrifying, the cursed image is surrounded by pink text, written in a typeface that evokes a vintage slasher flick. The title suggests a preoccupation with mortal suffering, but the band was actually drawn to Hell as a religious concept. But a different kind of darkness courses through Editrix II: “I think I was, wittingly or unwittingly, trying to bridge the sense of abandonment that I felt in my personal life with the sense of abandonment that I felt later on, on a more structural level,” Eisenberg says. This new batch of songs pulls from themes of loneliness, systemic neglect, and a yearning for empathy, which arose as a byproduct of writing music amidst a pandemic.
The music within is fittingly gripping and chaotic. Most of the tracks were written around Cameron’s robust bass riffs — he cites ’90s Finnish death metal groups like Demigod and Demilich as major touchstones — which Eisenberg and Daniel then improvised atop. They polished the technical details in whirlwind recording sessions at the Easthampton space Sonelab. “I can bring the riff, but I can’t make it into music,” Cameron expands humbly.
“Rock music, especially in the ‘Spotify Universe,’ can become really formulaic, or the soundtrack to commerce,” says Eisenberg. “I want to meet more people who care about interesting music.” Editrix recently got back from a tour with its spiritual forebears Deerhoof; Editrix II dwells in the same inventive, truly singular vein as the best work by that legendary San Francisco experimental pop group. Only three releases deep, Editrix has already proven that the more its restructures and warps the conventions of a time-tested genre into something innovative and unrecognizable, the more their output downright whips.