York Factory Complaint’s Ryan Martin (left) and vocalist Michael Berdan.
A Q&A With York Factory Complaint, The Fed-Up Punks Behind One Of The Year’s Best Extreme Albums
Are you fed up with viral marketing, hype cycles and the 24/7 onslaught of social media? Are you resisting the urge to stop worrying and love the photobomb? Are you of two minds on the hive mind? Then you have a kindred spirit in York Factory Complaint, the Brooklyn duo of Ryan Martin and Michael Berdan. The two underground music stalwarts aren’t shy about their frustration with society’s trajectory, and their conviction is infectious, even inspirational, on the forthcoming album Lost In The Spectacle, one of 2014’s best extreme records.
Equal parts rhythm and noise, the six-part suite was structured around the stages of a consumption-based economy: “Conceived,” “Produced,” “Loved,” “Commodified,” “Bought” and “Forgotten.” If that sounds too heady, don’t worry: The music is as visceral as anything I’ve heard this year. At the risk of sounding reductive, imagine a dystopian cocktail of Tim Hecker and Perfect Pussy.
Martin, who runs the independent label , and Berdan met at a show 10 years ago, and started York Factory Complaint in 2009. (The unusual moniker references an outbreak at the northern headquarters of Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s; it turned out to be lead poisoning, but at the time was treated as a “complaint” by its executives.) The band has released several limited-edition cassettes and CD-Rs, but Lost In The Spectacle () is by far its most polished album yet.
I exchanged several emails with both Martin and Berdan over the past week to find out what begat this monster of a record. You can read our edited correspondence below.
Otis Hart: Lost In The Spectacle is the name of your new album as York Factory Complaint. Is that the same “Spectacle” French philosopher Guy Debord addresses in his book ?
Michael Berdan: It is indeed the that we’re referencing, yes. Ryan and I both stand in agreement that the Spectacle is a very real social constraint and encompasses the whole of our psychic and spiritual existence. The individual idea no longer exists. The individual feeling disappears the more we allow our computers to socialize us. We believe what we are told to believe, we feel how we are told to feel, we make what we are told to make and we buy what we are told to buy. There is no such thing as a subculture in 2014. Any a——— can manufacture the full illusion of a clandestine identity within 10 minutes on Tumblr.
It’s a pointless exercise in futility to rebel against the Spectacle, as it absorbs all that it touches. So what can we do? We can acknowledge it for what it is and stare it dead in the eyes.
Now, it’s a pointless exercise in futility to rebel against the Spectacle, as it absorbs all that it touches. So what can we do? We can acknowledge it for what it is and stare it dead in the eyes. Through a series of conversations, we decided that we wanted to make something that openly acknowledges the fact that taste and politics are bought and sold and how everything we create is just another cog in the Spectacle. This record is about our collective spiritual death.
Ryan Martin: I think Berdan summed it up pretty well. It’s about the concept of people and ideas being lost in the spectacle, which has happened in a very timely, cyclical fashion in New York City for as long as either of us has been active here. It’s our observation, and this record is a document of that observation. The brutalist design references in the record packaging further drive that point home. We see people are pacified by their subculture (which was never the point), we see this on a local level, and we have had a very extreme, dramatic reaction to all of it by way of this album (and I guess you can say by the band’s existence.)
York Factory Complaint’s “Forgotten” Is Streaming Now
If you’re looking for lots of soft melody, or something lilting that will ease you into to slumber, run for your fucking life. York Factory Complaint, a duo made up of members of Uniform (who also have new material), Veins, DAIS Records and more, craft an abrasive and caustic style of industrial music that uses a lot of effects, a lot of samples, and even more harsh vocals. Not for the faint of heart, and utterly devastating.
Lost in The Spectacle is the duo’s new LP, and first for Accidental Guest. Check out the first single from the LP, “Forgotten” below. Headphones recommended, and with volume on 10.