Last year, I had the pleasure of participating in weekly songwriting workshop with handful of other Brooklyn songwriters which was organized by the infinitely prolific chasm of creativity, Maggie Denning of Tetchy. So it’s indeed no surprise to me that she released an entire Tetchy EP recorded on her cell phone, and that it also holds up as a proper release in its own right. It’s also no surprise that it while it may not have been intended to be released in this format, it was at the behest of her friends and fans of the band who insisted it see the light of day. I’ve seen and heard firsthand what Denning is capable of creating in a mere seven days with nothing but a cell phone and a guitar week after week and it’s nothing short of amazing.
Smaller/Better, the EP and title track (read our thoughts here) may lack many of the elements you’d expect of your typical full band Tetchy release, most notably bangin’ drums and a bunch of distorted guitars. The band happened to be in the middle of a metamorphosis of sorts and I’m sure that provided them the uncomfortable space necessary to really dig into some raw places and the opportunity to turn that into something wonderfully vulnerable. Songs like “Crack the Yolk” (smattered with real life VHS audio from Denning’s early years) are heartbreakingly real and expose the layering complexities of familial identity, touching on childhood loneliness, confusion of memory and the utter devastation of loss.
Tetchy (photo by Mike Borchardt)
Stylistically the whole EP plays out like a haunted music box, slightly warbled and detuned from from years of neglect, forgotten and buried deep in the traveling carnival trunk of a snake oil salesman. Much of the lyrics feel almost stream-of-consciousness or journaistic in nature. The songs are almost Schwarzenbachian in their lack of lyrical repetition. But that’s all because Tetchy’s not the kind of band that would drop your typical acoustic EP with a couple of guitars and standard vocal meter. Tetchy is the kind of band that uses the fact that they are going through something as an opportunity to GO THROUGH SOMETHING together and make something truly special in the process.
That’s not to say the entire record is an emotional onslaught of complex darkness. There’s levity and tongue-in-cheek humor in the hopeful “Next Generation” (read our thoughts here) and an ugly beauty in closer “To Give You My Heart.” Stacking up the broken human pieces of biological and emotional matter in a crescendo of crude dissonance and a perfectly-suited overblown guitar lead that settles nicely into the final vocal movement until it’s abrupt and awkward end, reminding us that this wonderful record was indeed recorded on a cell phone.
Smaller/Better is out now and available on Bandcamp and all major streamers.