A rousing mid-point between punk and rave, the sound of LA underground trio Sextile is couched in exhilarating squall, dirty electro and Prodigy-shaped breaks

A band who meet in rehab are going to have to replace those addictions with something else. Now based in LA, NYC’s post-punk electronic hooligans, Sextile, seek the serotonin high of music at its most exciting. And that’s what you can hear throughout ‘Push’, their third full-length album and perhaps one of the most instantly compulsive, hugely danceable sonic fixes you’ll score this year. It’s the kind of record so illicitly thrilling, so ecstatically deranged, you want to slip it under your tongue.

Sextile’s Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto, who both play in and front the band, as well as guitarist Cameron Michel, are all on that wonderful pre-release precipice of excitement – that moment where a band realise they are going to hear their music out in the world.

“I feel like everything’s percolating nicely,” grins Keehn. “I’m just about to explode a little bit. This sound is something new for us. Very different, addictive – we’re feeding you exactly what we’ve always wanted to hear. So we’re anxious and kind of boiling over because this music is designed for dancing, and that’s what we want to see.”

“A combination of excited and nervous,” adds Scaduto. “I think it’s a real departure from things we’ve done before, so there’s a bit of nervousness with that. It’s hard to have perspective when you listen to something so many times, but I’m more proud of it than anything we’ve done, and I’m excited to hear it hopefully go beyond just college radio.”

College radio might have suited Sextile’s music up to this point – check the potent punk/funk riots of 2015’s ‘A Thousand Hands’ and 2017’s ‘Albeit Living’ for a flavour – but it’s the increasing EBM-ness of 2018’s ‘3’ EP that indicates the trajectory the new album fully fleshes out. ‘Push’ is a cut above everything Sextile have done so far. There’s a finesse and fury to new tracks like ‘Lost Myself Again’ and ‘Contortion’ that you want to hear booming from passing cars, bumping out of shops and hotstepped to loud-as-hell in a giant field.

For this old fart, ‘Push’ recalls the best of 1980s and 90s underground dance music – everything from Meat Beat Manifesto, Front 242 and Jeff Mills to Dillinja, Pitchshifter and V Recordings. Crucially, though, it never sounds retrograde. It sounds like it’s crushing its dance and rock ’n’ roll influences together to make a whole new high.

“I don’t think we ever think about how it’s marketed or sold, so it’s interesting you talk about where it could be heard,” says Keehn. “For us, we never want to be stuck in the same thing, and what we’re all obsessed with is that moment in the late 80s and early 90s where the idea of a ‘rock god’ was something that had been moved away from.

“The key question throughout making ‘Push’ was, ‘Can you dance to this?’. When I think about that kind of Haçienda ‘89 vibe, it was less traditional rock and more the idea of a community around electronic music, where you’d gather to dance and experience the music rather than worship people on stage. Everybody is a part of the show. That’s the feel we love.”

Crucially, beyond the Stooges-meets-Prodigy rush of the sound, ‘Push’ is a revealing record, deeply connected with the personae and places involved. ‘Crassy Mel’ takes you from the rush and surge of a city street to a field in the middle of nowhere, replete with huge, trancey, mid-song pressure-drop, while the stunning highlight ‘Crash’ is like a dawn ride back from the party to some permanently distorted reality.

Running through every minute of this music is an unnerving sense that Sextile are buzzing right at the edges of the comedown, smeared neon and itchy eyeballs accompanying that simultaneous feeling of being in the place to be, but also feeling strung-out, dislocated and lost – a New York street-level toughness jostling for space with a West Coast trippiness that you want to slather your gums with.

It’s these dualities, the toughness and the tenderness, the danceability and the dreaminess, that makes ‘Push’ such a compelling record.

“Absolutely. This record reflects our personalities the most,” nods Keehn. “It captures where we are today. A lot of these songs were written within the past few months, where usually it takes us a year to create a record. That immediacy of recording was really important.”

“Although there’s no typical process,” insists Scaduto. “We go from vibes, notes from conversations, random ideas, boards where Brady will write things like ‘Beastie Boys’ or ‘Glitter Band drums’ or ‘Happy Mondays’, and things emerge organically from those kinds of random points.

“It’s funny that you mention The Stooges… there are two specific Stooges references on this record, because for me they embody this sexy dance feeling that a lot of bands just don’t have. The first time I heard them, I felt this inclination to rip my skin off! For a guitar band, they are one of the sexiest there ever was.”

“And the vibe of the tracks, because we recorded them so quickly, reflects how those songs came together,” chips in Keehn. “‘Crash’ was a real Monday morning, outsider, overcast type of feel. It might have been around six or seven in the morning, playing with my vintage MS-series synths, and I find this detuned sound where only certain notes fit and work. The sounds came, the words came, I was struggling with the chorus… Then Melissa suggested that our friend Izzy Glaudini could help and the next day she’d recorded this perfect vocal combination.

“The whole song is not in a key, it’s all slightly out of it, so playing it live is going to be pretty wild. That’s what we’re exploring at the moment – how to play these songs live in a way that doesn’t get too slick, but allows us total manipulation of the sound.”

That duality again, between wildness and discipline – it’s made ‘Push’ one of 2023’s most utterly compelling releases. Get hooked on it immediately and brace yourself for Sextile happening near you soon.

‘Push’ is out on Sacred Bones

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