Judging from the tape, it was a lively Friday night at Ipps drummer Mike O’Shaughnessy’s apartment when the band gathered for an interview. There was quality beer and legendary pizza abound.
In the beginning, I notice the faint strain of John Fogerty and Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” through a setting on the hi-fi known as “quadraphonic background,” so as not to interrupt. Little did I imagine the song would serve as a theme, a symbol for the misdirection guitarist and songwriter Bo Davis wants to convey in the music of Ipps.
“It’s such an upbeat song,” says Davis later in the evening. “But he’s basically singing about how we’re all f*cked and we’re all going to die.”
Dead is Necropolis. That Waverly-born, Columbus-developed band, which also included Davis’s wife Emily, were light-years ahead of their time. This would likely account for them being eternally misunderstood. With their incendiary live shows and thinking-man punk, they birthed the city’s late ’00s buzz – the trash-pop of Times New Viking, the “shit-gaze” of Psychedelic Horseshit, and the wiry, neurotic mantras of El Jesus de Magico. With the foundation of Columbus Discount Records, they also single-handedly filled a void for collector scum with a prolific streak of local albums and singles. May they rest in peace. But out of those ashes, and as far back as 2009, Davis was writing songs that didn’t quite fit.
Ipps’ just-released debut Everything Is Real – a title quipped by the Davis’s four-year-old son Daniel and the latest entry in the growing Superdreamer Records stable (see page 32) – is in many respects a logical extension of Necropolis. Bo and Emily are still punks at heart, still Crass fans, and still drawn to noise that is discordant and left-of-center. Check out the boy’s club hardcore of Bo’s other band, Messrs, for proof. Yet, on this album, though those old habits seem to die hard, in the gravelly bubblegum of “U Need 2 Bleed” or the dusted basement prom theme of “Yr. Thick,” there are clues that the Davis’ are shinier, happier people than was ever on display in their former band.
“On the surface it is happier,” says Bo. “When I started this project, I wanted to write stuff that was the absolute opposite of Necropolis. Where Necropolis was pretty abstract, there’s much more of a narrative with Ipps. It’s way more personal.”
“Keep it simple and stupid and much less athletic,” adds Emily, who shares vocals and, sans bassist, gives Ipps their low-end with her dirge-like keyboard tones. “It’s more intuitive than anything I think. We barely practice.”
Maybe it’s parenthood that shed some of the angst and replaced it with dulcet harmonies, sentiments towards introspection, and inspired melodies…maybe it’s not. Still, in the mortar-pop directness of “Never Sleep,” which pits the pretty vs. the messy, Beat Happening versus the Ronettes, grunge versus doo-wop, it’s hard not to at least see Ipps as a noble experiment similar to planning your schedule around the life of a toddler.
One of those juggling acts for Ipps comes in fielding two drummers. The telekinesis between O’Shaughnessy and Matt Bisaro creates both lock-step swings and an echoed instability throughout Everything Is Real. It’s a trait quite unique to Columbus, especially for a tried-and-true rock band, but when both guys played first chair at two separate shows, it was inevitable that neither would give it up – so the strategy stuck.
That though, is where any forethought ends with Ipps. While Bo admits that Everything Is Real was initially supposed to have a definite thread, with chapters and an elaborate thesis, he felt the process to be too pretentious and instead wrote a number of songs in the studio, off-the-cuff, while the album was being recorded. Such is the spontaneity and bright bursts of inspiration inherent in Ipps – a band full of Columbus lifers, growing old, but keeping their lifestyle anything but dull.
“We’re like the groups you hear on a.m. radio,” concludes O’Shaughnessy. “Except it’s cranked up beyond comfort.”
To check out where Ipps plays next, or to listen to Everything Is Real, visit ipps.bandcamp.com.