Indie music listeners seem to have finally fully embraced the use of electrified sounds in rock. Judging by more mainstream acts like The 1975 and CHVRCHES (whose wildly-successful new albums make use of various electrified sounds), the subtle stigma associated with more electrically-manufactured sounds seems to have evaporated. With big names making more electrically-charged music (pun absolutely intended), listeners have finally come to realize that electronic doesn’t always equal “happy.” Just because you can dance to a song doesn’t make what it’s saying any less valid.
Which is paying off for smaller acts like Kid Cadaver, an LA-based indie rock trio made up of Ray Venta (vocals and bass), Jeremy Harris (guitar, backing vocals, vox), and Kenzo Cardenas (drums). Kid Cadaver has been blending more traditional indie rock with electrified sounds since the 2013 release of their first EP, the aptly-titled Kid Cadaver. The trio’s second EP, Roam, was released in August of last year and has already garnered tens of thousands of listens on both SoundCloud and Spotify.
Roam is more of the fast-paced indie rock making use of electric sound that Kid Cadaver is known for. It takes the band’s tested formula of new sounds plus traditional rock equals infectious melodies to a new level. The cover is unabashedly cheerful, with a collage of roses bursting out of a blue-lipped mouth. To the careful eye, it may be either yelling or vomiting–but either way, it’s grabbing attention.
Listen: “Ropes” – Kid Cadaver
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Roam’s first track, “Ropes,” launches straight into ambient sound that fades into an upbeat rhythm. In the very first line (“Everybody’s always trying to keep me on the ropes”), Venta’s voice shifts to falsetto on the end of the line, lyrically and physically drawing it out. As he continues to do so at the end of every line, Venta mirrors the lyrics he’s singing, balancing normal and high notes in a tightrope act that demonstrates his vocal range. The song’s fast pace almost distracts from the subtle digs of the lyrics, with jabs like “If you can keep me here then I’ll change my tone/But I’m the only one who knows exactly where I’ll go” somewhat masked by Venta’s cheery tone. The deep bass lines and dripping electric sounds also balance out the song, and build up to the chorus, with Venta spitting out
Let them all just think less
It’s easier to digest
If I’m wasting all this time here on me
over and over in a mile-per-minute cycle as the song closes in a whirl of electric-sounding feedback.
“Ropes”’ frenetic energy finds an outlet in the seamless transition to the second track, “New Friends,” which documents the singular sensation of making “friends” in your twenties. Beginning with
I loved my not so subtle introduction to my new friends
Who needs the weekend,
So have your ventures bound the eyes you used to see with
You used to love this,
the situation only goes downhill from there. Venta describes how the opposite party keeps “talking to the wall,” conjuring images of uncomfortable teenage house parties, complete with crossed arms, unmet eyes, and counting the rings on a red Solo cup to pass the time. Basking in the subtextual irony that some things don’t get less awkward with age, the song shifts from “laughing in my head” to the chorus:
Moving west. I’ll be a broken boy at best,
I’m over this. Over the promise of moving lips,
I came and went but all the symptoms have never left,
I’m only human
Lyrically, this should be a depressing comment on the nature of grown-up “friends.” But the upbeat tone and keep-on-swimming guitar riffs literally keep the song moving (west?), propelling the listener forward with Venta as he keeps on. Yes, he’s only human, but he’s mostly over it–and the song nudges the listener along without them even noticing.
The third and arguably-best track, “Keep Well,” is simultaneously dance-worthy yet perfect for playing while halfway-angrily texting the noncommittal person who constantly DMs you. The song starts with a burst of heavy electronic feedback and drums. When Venta comes in, he’s hitting high notes, giving the song even more energy. The duality of the first lines– “Princes and queens, And terrible dreams”–is kept in check by Venta’s vocals. With every high note, there’s a release and buildup of energy, much like in “Ropes.” Heavy bass and every-so-often electronic beeps keep the balance engaged, until the inevitable burst at the chorus. Every instrument and sound involved seems to yell, along with Venta:
What if you wanted to stay
What you gonna do if I just go, go, go away?
The simple question, charged with energy (but not anger), coupled with that heavy electronic-sounding feedback from both guitar and vox, makes the chorus explode. The rest of the song is a fun, almost tidal push-and-pull between the intricacy of the lyrics and the unrestrained energy of the music. It’s what makes the line “So just keep holdin’ me close/I shiver less when we hold” perfect for yelling at an attractive person across the pit or half-jokingly sung to an actual significant other. What makes “Keep Well” so engaging is this duality–though the chorus is simple and fun, the lyrics throughout the rest of the song are consistently strong. A perfect example is the bridge’s:
Thought riots come in the night
They shorten my life, a minute at most
Dead quiet builds in my eyes
Envelops my mind and grins when they close.
They’re subtly brilliant and not to be overlooked, and provide the perfect interlude before the final surge of the chorus.
Watch: “Keep Well” – Kid Cadaver
The final two songs — “Claws” and “Waves” –intentionally don’t match “Keep Well”’s frenetic energy. And why should they be expected to? “Claws”’ heavy bass and repetition of “You say you love me” with differing following phrases in the bridge manages to keep an upbeat tone while describing a relational hiccup. Gone is the “over this” of “New Friends”–here, Venta asks simply that the opposite party “keep putting the claws to me/I’ll take what you give to me.” It’s a dare delivered in an edible package, perhaps best resolved in the line “Honestly, I think you’re beyond me.”
Beginning with keyboard-esque sounds reminiscent of falling water, “Waves” at first seems to wind things down more, documenting a relationship that shouldn’t be working as well as it is. Venta describes how the relationship takes “the waves out of water”–and it first it seems like the song is mirroring that sentiment. However, upon the chorus, that electronic feedback is back as the keyboard sounds fade away. Though the chorus brings back the high energy, it’s also surprisingly sentimental, as Venta sings,
We haven’t made it this far for odds-makers
We’re doing well, aren’t we love, aren’t we, love,
We rise and fall but these waves, they won’t take us
We’re doing well, aren’t we love, aren’t we, love
No these waves won’t take us.
The repeated shouts of “no!” only serve to raise the song’s energy more as well as emphasize the fact that Venta is not giving up on this relationship. The waves will come, but nobody is going to drown.
And with faded electronic noise and toned-down feedback, the EP ends. Which just means it must be listened to again, on repeat, to find those cavernous rise and falls of pure energy. What Kid Cadaver has done in Roam is point out that songs that are fast-paced, upbeat, and exploding with energy doesn’t mean they have to be necessarily gleeful or ironically somber. On the contrary, Kid Cadaver illustrates just how extremely versatile the use of electronic elements can be.