“Shark Song” by angular post punk band PUBLIC FIGURES is a spirited embodiment of what the band is: creative and seemingly effortless expression. Today, we’re stoked to give you its first listen, along with the band’s special commentary about the track, their project, and their legendary independent music scene of Washington, D.C.
“Shark Song is, in essence, a cheeky homage to the evolutionary prodigy that is the modern day shark.” – comments the band.
“From the Greenland sleeper shark, which primarily spends all of its 300-500 years coasting along the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, snacking on lumpfish and carrion, to the iconic Great White. As for composition, Shark Song sort of dreamily transpired without having to use too much graph paper, and it is perhaps our most pleasant-natured track, even though it does feature the word die eight times.”
For fans of: Trans Am, Ikara Colt, Brian Eno.
Asked about their take on the current state of the DC independent music scene, PUBLIC FIGURES offer: “The DC music scene has surely been an influence on us, granted much of that took place before we moved to DC in 2003.”
“We both grew up in the Southern U.S., and in the early nineties we’d go to whatever fusty club and mosh our brains out to Jaxbox, Candy Machine or whoever, buy their CDs and their merch, and then go home and wear their shirts to school on Monday. Some of those CDs are still vital listening, especially Shudder to Think’s Pony Express Record and Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker. ”
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝐷𝐶 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐 𝑠𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑒 𝑛𝑜𝑤 𝑖𝑠 𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑡𝑙𝑦 𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑡’𝑠 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛.
“It isn’t just punk and post-punk and go-go anymore, there’s a huge experimental scene, tons of jazz acts, soul, r&b, hip-hop, punk, hardcore, goth, electronica, straight-up rock & roll, rockabilly, you name it. It’s extremely diverse and very comprehensive and, bias aside, much of it suggests focus and prowess and innovation. It’s quality music that its creators take seriously. And the DC area in general is pretty tightly woven, so music makers here tend to either know each other or know of each other, which can lead to a host of deliciously strange bedfellows when it comes to collaborations.”
𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑚𝑖𝑐 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑤𝑓𝑢𝑙.
“Aside from the obvious damage that it has inflicted upon the world, the necessary total cessation of live music, which has been a steadfast outlet for catharsis and a source of camaraderie for, well, basically the history of humanity, has been soul crushing—and not just for the musicians, but for enthusiasts of live music, of which there are plenty. If there is a silver lining, speaking only for the DC scene here, many artists have just the time to double up on their craft. And I know that a heck of a lot of recording has taken place, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of that. We don’t think we’re being old fashioned, though, when we say there’s really no substitute for live music, and we’re enthusiastic about the prospect of playing live again soon.”
“𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝐼’𝑚 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐, 𝐼’𝑚 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑦𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔.”
This is the sentiment echoed by both Chad McCall and Van Hihillard, the D.C. musicians who make up the ardent two-piece that is Public Figures. This singular state of mind, however, signifies not an absence, but instead an acute presence that feels as honest as breathing. It is the presence born out of a deep comfort, a natural ease, and a 20 year story of musical collaboration that now, finally, allows McCall and Hillard the ability to create a language that feels entirely like their own.
When Public Figures was formed in the early days of the pandemic, McCall and Hillard had recently seen through the benign break-up of their latest project, Park Snakes, and were considering starting a new three-piece band. Instead, they stumbled upon a sound that needed nothing more than the two of them. With Hillard on drums and McCall on bass, the duo was able to unlock a world that feels at once expansive and succinct. Their debut record Year of Garuda unfolds straight from the source, a riotous, fun, and sincere chapter in the artists’ decades-long journey.
McCall and Hillard met in the late 90’s in Tallahassee, FL, and within years they were collaborating in various projects in the Tallahassee scene before making the decision to move to D.C., drawn to the underdog energy of the scene that inspired D.C. bands such as Jawbox, Shudder to Think, and the Dismemberment Plan, among others. They were quickly welcomed into the local punk scene and went on to play in several projects over the following two decades.
“Sometimes you find that some relationships just click better than others,” McCall says of the musical and personal connection that formed over the years.
The band’s new single, Shark Song, is a spirited embodiment of what Public Figures is: creative and seemingly effortless expression. From amidst the wallop of Hillard’s drums and McCall’s lively bass—which is split between two amps to create what has become Public Figures’ signature sound—emerges a playful, delightfully odd collection of call and response lyrics: All hail the shark, and not just the great white shark (Your dear friend is circling beneath). “It just kind of came out of the blue while walking. One of those wayward ideas of such unidentifiable origin and so leftfield that you absolutely must trust them,” Hillard says of the song. “It’s a lot of fun and very pure of heart.”
Indeed, Shark Song, though lighthearted, carries with it a kind of compelling authenticity, an infectious delight that seems poised to be shared with a crowd.
“One of the most important things that I know from being a music fan is going to see live music and just being a part of the song,” McCall says. “There are certain bands in certain concerts that I go to where I sing along at the top of my lungs. Music is a very powerful thing, and I just I want to be able to pay that back.”
Year of Garuda was recorded by McCall and Hillard in their basement studio – the affectionately titled House of Decay. The songs were tracked almost entirely live, creating a sound that promises to be fulfilled faithfully and with vigor when live shows return. The pair have played in various D.C. bands including Park Snakes and People Chasing People, which have shared the bill with a host of notable acts, such as French Vanilla, Priests, the Dismemberment Plan, Lithics, and more.
March 26th // Washington D.C. // Rhizome DC: Live Stream