Messy Pretty (2/22/19)
Noble Kids (Brooklyn, NY) is Bryce Barsten, Michael Steiner & Kevin Chang. Messy Pretty is the their sophomore LP, slated for February 2019. It’s a bold and forward record with sparks of shiny pop, and hints of gritty indie rock; with subtle nods to multiple music eras. It’s driven by an interplay of clever guitar work, unafraid and upfront vocals, dirtied by demo takes and reprocessed sounds. Messy Pretty is the realization that despite growing and settling into your queerness or your identity in general, the real obstacle lays in how others, sometimes your closest friends, (mis)classify your experience. If anything, Messy Pretty is a frank admission or assertion that regardless of your identity, your experiences are allowed to be normal despite how disastrous they may seem. Messy Pretty is both the mistake and the lesson.
After recording their first record, Noble Kids set out to make something deliberately different and less constrained by their expectations of what a record should sound like. They left in original demo takes recorded in their underwear, scratch tracks, a zither recorded through an apple earbud microphone, and background noises that reflected the spaces where the record was made. They threw more at the wall, experimented, and layered ideas to create concepts, and then subtracted from the songs, ending with a song that felt simple . Small lyrical moments carry important weight, subtle reminders of the record as an attempt to talk about queer relationships, as just another person’s experience that we can all relate to (I’m praying now to St. James, She’s living off the R train, He’s living out of bags / I never said he was perfect but truth is that it worked like nothing ever had”) Small comments and quips about geography, specifically new york, hint at the city’s influence on love. Messy Pretty talks about love and relationships in a straightforward, specific way, pulling lyrics from places and experienced. (All this time I thought you didn’t want to meet my friends/Cause you’re only nice when I take you to Manhattan Inn.) There’s a sincerity in the sarcasm that we use to say how we feel but pretend like it’s all ok. When our generation writes about love, it can come off as either vindictive or love sick. Messy Pretty focuses on nuanced highs and lows of trying to find yourself, your partner, and/or your voice.
NobleKids worked closely with engineer Greg Giorgio (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Tokyo Police Club)at Tarquin Studios, and at Bryce’s home studio in Greenpoint. Produced by Bryce, and co-production by Michael and Kevin, the three collaborated and crafted the record together. They recruited Joe Schaffer of Slow Machete who contributed new and unfamiliar sounds by adding harmonic atmosphere, percussion loops, and manipulations using tape machines and vocoders. They also had Manuel Ruiz on drums, Danny Rose on Bass, and additional instrumental and vocal contributions from Bri Leary, Kit Karlson (Sweets & Pop Music), and Ben Seretan.