There are only a few bands I follow as closely and laud as loudly as I do Kissed by an Animal, comprised of Dima Drjuchin (guitar/vocals), Jon Daily (drums), Tsugumi Takashi (bass, vocals), and Hiro Williams (guitar, vocals). Over the years, our bands have played a lot of cool shows together, and we’ve gotten to know them as great people and friends. But also, they are just a really goddamn good band!
The quartet just released their second full length I Don’t Have to Explain Myself to You on Handstand Records/EWEL Records, and it’s just as unapologetic as it sounds—though maybe not in the way you’d expect. As much Walkmen as they are Dead Milkmen, this time around the band seems to take a softer, cooler, more calculated approach to their post-punk stoner dream surf hybrid musicality. As Greg Barris writes in the band’s press release, this record is “is a love song from our present spirit to our past identity. Touching on the existential nature of living and growing older while existing in the body of your 20 year old self running through the streets of New York, invincible but not reckless. Past feeling like you don’t fit in, past finding your purpose, and entering the solid foundation of just being the most you you have ever been.”
When you stack it up against their 2019 self tilted debut LP (with fuzz stomp hits like “Lemonade” “Floating Head” “The Good Times Are Here Again” and “In the Clouds”) first impressions suggest maybe the band dialed back the punk a little this go-round. I had thought maybe 2020’s bedroom EP Stoned Eagle (a beautiful piece of musical work in it’s own right and a haunting snapshot of inside Dima’s mind during the darker days of the pandemic) may have bled into and softened the edges of I Don’t Have to Explain Myself to You. But when you actually line up these 2 masterpiece LPs side-by-side, you see that simply isn’t the case. KBAA somehow manages to expertly rearrange the same components, stretching gritty overdriven punk guitar over ethereal dream scapes in order to tell a whole new story this time around. It’s cut from the same cloth of the KBAA imagination; the only difference being where and how they punch the holes in the canvas.
From the very start of its deep pocket bass/drum intro, the unassuming lead single “Be” immediately grabs you, hooking you in like an earworm even before Drjuchin’s quirky vocal inflection proceeds to burrow its way into the back of your brain. Both Drjuchin and Williams execute the guitar work with impressive technique. The attention to texture and tasteful interplay between the two is almost surgical in its delivery, both often playing far below their individual skill set to perfectly suit the needs of the song. Takashi’s picked basslines drive the entire operation with a thick clean melody that ties all the other lines together while anchoring it like bunches of bright balloons to the unbridled raw force that is Jon Daily behind the kit.
The result here is by far greater than the sum of its parts, and the entire record tugs and pulls you between quick tempo drivers like “Songs About New York” and spacey cruise control coasters like “Lack of Plan and Attack,” it often switches those gears and pace literally mid tune. This is particularly impressive given the fact that almost every track on the record clocks in anywhere between a minute and a half and three minutes in length.
Much like their live shows, where it often seems they deftly smash like 45 songs into a 30 minute set, I Don’t Have to Explain Myself to You obviously follows a carefully laid road map leaving little room to breathe, though you never really notice because you’re already strapped in for the ride. And when it’s over, you wanna go again.
This LP (much like their last) tends to live on my turntable and spend a lot of time in my Spotify rotation. As a result the record grows with me and my favorite songs tend to change more often than I change socks. At the time of this writing, however, the powerfully haunting “Unicorn Baby” intro track trods with its percussive slam thudding over the “I don’t wanna die” vocal crescendo into a wash of cymbals and ringing guitars usually saved for the end of an LP or live set. It is an oddly effective and obvious fakeout into the up-tempo “Negative Joy” signaling we’ve officially strapped in for the ride.
I could write an entire other piece on the color explosion artwork that runs a direct line through every piece of the KBAA brand straight into Dima Drjuchin’s imagination. Also a visual artist his entire life, Drjuchin has mastered an extremely unique and recognizable style that can be seen all over NYC via countless show flyers and artwork for local musicians and around the world, having done art for musicians ranging from Father John Misty to Tool, The Flaming Lips and many more. So while the music grows out of the collaborative relationship between its four extremely gifted players, the visual component of the band has always been pure Dima Drjuchin. Both frantic and reflective at the same time, there is a meditative quality to its balance or maybe lack thereof. I personally purchased a stunning, rare and unique hand-painted test pressing of I Don’t Have to Explain Myself to You from the band before its release, but then upon seeing the official finished artwork, I was completely compelled to buy another copy. It’s just that good.
The record, just like the title, and like the band itself is reflective and true to its core. Beyond pretension and without bullshit, this is a band that knows exactly who they are. There is a quiet confidence that connects these four friends, and that comes across in how they carry themselves as a band, as artists, and as people. They no longer feel the need to try and impress you with how hip and cool they are, but at the same time probably exude the most genuine gratitude when you appreciate the caliber of their work. And it’s really hard not to.
— Mike Borchardt
Kissed By An Animal's sophomore album! Twelve golden scorching jams! Eye-popping gatefold artwork! Luscious baby blue color vinyl. What more could you possibly want?