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Twinkly emo dudes Curse Words talk life, Pittsburgh and WBCR Fest

Curse Words, a three piece indie/emo band from Pittsburgh, arrived on campus this Friday and, after eating some tamales, drinking some beer and playing some video games, sat down to talk with me.

The band was missing its bassist, Cal Tarasi, because, in the words of guitarist Billy Simmons, “he has a big boy job” at the post office that prevents him from traveling. Curse Words’ drummer, Becir Paco, works at his family’s pizza place, and Simmons does landscaping, works at a hardware store and occasionally delivers pizza with Paco.

Simmons has a large, bushy reddish beard, and flowing locks (he dressed up as Charles Manson for Halloween this year) and Paco has black hair and large glasses (he looks a bit like Milhouse from The Simpsons which may explain the band’s song “Everything’s Comin’ Up Milhouse!”). They first met each other when playing in band called Manlet that lasted about a month, and when the band dissolved they decided to split off and start a new one. Both Paco and Simmons struggled to remember when “the band became a band,” but a mid-interview Facebook search found their first profile picture was Sept 10, 2014.

Since then they’ve involved themselves in the Pittsburgh DIY concert scene, playing in living rooms, basements and even a venue beneath a flower shop. Simmons mournfully announced that the list includes “no kitchens,” a phenomenon he feels is especially prevalent in Florida. As far as touring goes, they’ve had one trip, where they made it to Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio. Beloit is the farthest west the band has made it so far, but they hope to travel more this July.

Curse Words discography is composed of three collections: one LP called Doggie Heaven, which came out this January, one EP named what? and a demo. All of their music is available to download for free.

They define their music in terms such as “self-reflective,” “twinkly bummer jams” and “noodly.” Paco, drumming throughout the interview, wanted to make sure it was on the record they’re not a math rock band. It’s “happy sounding music” said Simmons, with “kind of a depressing undertone.” The band’s clean guitar sounds frequently draw comparisons to the emo band American Football, which Simmons said is sometimes meant as a compliment and sometimes as an insult.

Bands they’ve played with include, according to Paco, “Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, and the original Beatles, before they got Ringo.” Other, slightly less known bands include The Appleseed Cast, Pity Sex, One Hundred Year Ocean, maybe Foxing and You Blew It. (Neither Paco or Simmons could really be sure.)

They were the headliners at the WBCR Fest show at C-Haus this past Friday, where they followed Beloit band Scavenging and Cincinnati, Ohio-based group ForestFox. Beginning their set at about midnight, Curse Words faced a nearly empty floor, as most of the people in C-Haus were gathered around the back. By the time their first song ended, however, their atmospheric, surprisingly powerful (for two people) sound had drawn a core group of about fifteen people to the front, a group which largely remained for the rest of their set.

Simmons, the singer and guitarist, was at times competing with his own intricate playing (which was being blasted through three separate amplifiers), as the mic wasn’t always loud enough to make his voice heard over the instrumentation. With his hair falling over his eyes, and his guitar worn high up on his chest, he presented an endearing figure to match Curse Words compelling songs. Paco’s drumming was fast, loud and impressive, and he helped fill the awkward gaps between songs with a few A+ corny jokes. One example: “A hamburger walks into a restaurant and asks for a hot dog. The waiter says, ‘sorry, we don’t serve food here.’” Badump psh…

The members of ForestFox, the band that played before Curse Words, proved to be excellent hype men, as they drunkenly bounced through the crowd, energizing the set in the process. The style of the music Curse Words play always seems to run the risk of having songs blend into one another, but to the band’s credit each song felt distinct and memorable, and I found myself humming their last song, “Don’t you think it’s a little odd for a man to be giving another man a pair of shoes?“, to myself as I walked home.

Curse Words’ performance was fantastic in its own right, as well as a reminder that C-Haus can still attract compelling, vital acts. The campus bar has seemed strangely dead all year. Here’s hoping the excellent Curse Words performance is the sign that things will pick up before the semester comes to a close. 

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