by Jeff Milo
Dustin Mclaughlin’s only 27 but he’s already been to 42 states in the Union and he has his band to thank for it. The singer/guitarist of Woodbridge-based The Summer Pledge also has their van to thank for it. “Make sure your van is healthy and happy,” he quips.
Indeed, “Health,” is his one-word answer for touring survival tips. The self-ascribed “gear-head” (employed at Motor City Guitar, he’s talking about pedals and amps, not manifolds and carburetors) is refreshingly candid, not shying away from dropping taboo music-snob categorizations like “throwback-Emo” or “hardcore punk” to describe this quartet’s stylistic roots. He’s also quite frank about what you’re gonna need to survive on ambitious, self-booked tours out to California: “Wet-wipes
and don’t forget your Gold Bond. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up with a no-bake cookie living inside your ass for 3 days cuz you don’t get to shower as much.”
That’s speaking from almost five years of touring/gigging experience. Along for the ride are guitarist Jeremy Damaske, drummer Rob Wilson and bassist Andrew Davis, who, with Mclaughlin, have “finally pinpointed the sound we’re looking for” on their new LP Vessels. “The first and foremost thing we wanted was to take all our influences, a hybrid of all our weird brains and throw ‘em in a blender.”
Whereas before their songs were akin to an avalanche, heavily knotted-up into layers of dazzling synth-shimmers, skewing polyrhythmic experimentation and many magical/malleable pedals for guitar tones, echo effects and loops, they’ve “focused” it down to a manageable four piece, a palatable, straight forward space-rock aesthetic.
“Focus,” then, is Mclaughlin’s one-word answer to sum up Vessels. Not as much “tap-dancing” with pedals and letting his vocals come up to the audible surface. Cut back the synths and sequenced drums. “Focus on the song as a whole, instead of: how many weird sounds can we make