On third album Spills Out, Brooklyn noise-punk mischief-makers Pterodactyl have mutated from their abrasive loft-show roots into a glorious, broken-pop juggernaut. The band’s squealing, sweat-soaked Brooklyn art-bustle had rapidly put them alongside contemporaries like Oneida, These Are Powers and Parts & Labor; but Spills Out gently leads the trio towards the uplifting, wistful harmonies of ’60s rockers like The Zombies, CSNY and the pre-acid Beatles— “When John was a heavy drinker and the songs were kind of sad,” says bassist/vocalist Jesse Hodges. Pterodactyl’s onomatopoetic barks have been replaced by a luxurious three-part croon; their adenoidal squawk has been expanded to include Spectorian levels of reassuring fuzz. Their most ambitious statement to date, Spills Out is triumphant, melancholic, unapologetically pop.
Alongside the band’s experiments with Wurlitzers, Farfisas and ukeleles, Spills Outfeaturing a slew of guest appearances—Dan Friel (Parts & Labor), Zach Lehrhoff (Ex-Models, Seconds), Mike Gallope (Skeletons), Amy Cimini (Starring), electronic wunderkind Frank Musarra (Hearts Of Darknesses)—expanding the band’s sonic arsenal to a diverse palate of psych textures and heartening modern squelch. The record is bulging with the scorched hum of the Kawasaki Dual Cool Keys, a discontinued toy keyboard from the early ’00s that the band loves for its unpredictability, bizarre soundbank and unique ability to fold in half for duet play. Beams guitarist/vocalist Joe Kremer, “It makes sounds nothing else makes.” Adds drummer/vocalist Matt Marlin, “We wanted it to be our signature instrument, but it turns out it’s rather unreliable.”
With help from producer Jonny Schenke, band laid the basic tracks in Hodges’ Bushwick loft space, The Wallet. From there Pterodactyl moved the files to their Williamsburg practice space for exhausting, obsessive overdub sessions that created the album’s monolithic sound clouds: Kremer spent eight hours recording a dueling lead guitar part, Hodges recorded six intertwining vocal lines, the band huddled in their freezing, windowless space for up to 12 hours at a time. At the end, Pterodactyl passed the recordings off to Musarra for mixing, giving its mountainous pile-up of noise new spatial life. The incredible album art, done by a Warsaw-based artist Otecki, compliments these ominous and mysterious undertones lurking under the album’s sunny façade.
Lyrically, Spills Out is a bittersweet look at endings and conclusions. In the two years since their gnashing Worldwild, members of Pterodactyl experienced romantic break-ups, attempted to quit drinking and endured the death of a close friend. Notably, Kremer quit his job as a high school physics teacher after seven years and “The Break” details the complex emotions of life-after-work. “The thing that was most striking about not working anymore,” says Kremer, “was that I didn’t have the job to cover up the things I was feeling day to day. If you have something you can pour yourself into—a job, a girlfriend, a band, drugs—then you don’t actually have to face yourself at all.” Once the treble-saturated brats of the Brooklyn underground, Pterodactyl is digging deeper than ever before. - Christopher R. Weingarten