Drew Price makes weird music. Catchy music, cathartic music, evocative music, but weird music all the same.
The Oak Mountain native will be performing as Drew Price’s Bermuda Triangle, supported by fellow reverb-friendly locals Wray, at a free show at the Bottletree on Tuesday, August 20. Price is playing in part to support his upcoming record, Friends and Family, which is scheduled for a September 4 release from Montevallo’s Happenin Records.
Price, who grew up in the same small neighborhood as Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, is a rising star among Alabama musicians like his old neighbor and onetime touring buddy. “Something in that area must have given us this weird, psychological complex to make music and be successful,” Price said of growing up near Crutchfield. Though he’s mildly incredulous at her rapid success, the 23-year-old Price has enjoyed plenty of early buzz himself, including glowing press from VICE and Consequence of Sound.
At the same time, Price’s recent success might just as easily have evaporated. After taking an extended leave of absence from his spacey Bermuda Triangle work, Chris McCauley, founder of Happenin Records, “found all the Bermuda Triangle stuff while I was in the middle of one of my many identity crises – I was putting out R&B music, and a rap album, and anything I could make my friends do.” Price cites McCauley’s expertise and genuine enthusiasm as critical influences on his career: “Working with him – I couldn’t praise him enough. He’s got this profound energy that makes sure I don’t get down in the dumps about whatever I’m doing, or pessimistic about the direction of anything.”
The result of McCauley’s encouragement is some of Price’s most mature work in his persona as Drew Price’s Bermuda Triangle. The project finds Price constructing oddball sonic collages around strong melodic ideas, burying his stream-of-consciousness lyrics deep into the mix.
His new record indicates a shift toward a more distilled sound, however. “If you listen to the old stuff, you’ll hear noodling, simple ideas, not much of a fleshed-out aesthetic,” Price said. He describes his new record’s first single, the driving synth juggernaut “SSP,” as “kind of a dream pop, shoegaze approach to a pop song, just trying to hone in on this big lush layer of a song instead of dropping random beats over a guitar loop or something.”
Like many acts on the Happenin Records label, Price is deeply inspired by pop music, although few of his songs appear destined for the Billboard Top 40. “Maybe it’s better described as a ‘pop approach,’” Price said, noting his adherence to 4/4 time and his focus on melodies. Most basically, Price embraces the fundamental philosophy of pop: “I don’t think music is necessarily supposed to make some big statement. I think it’s supposed to capture a feeling, make you feel good.”
The result is an enormous sound that, at its best, can mimic the instant nostalgia of My Bloody Valentine and the engrossing psychedelia of Deerhunter. Instead of overwrought lyricism, Price finds more resolve in what he calls the “surface-level feeling” of each song as it washes over the listener. It’s “operating in a different language,” Price said, a different kind of storytelling for a different kind of medium.
One of the most intriguing aspects behind Price’s overriding approach is the utilitarian purpose he feels music can have. He makes music, to crib from R.E.M., that’s automatic for the people. “I just want people to play the record, to listen to it while they’re doing the dishes or sautéing veggies,” Price explained. “I don’t want or need them to commit to it in this big emotional way. Overall, I want it to match their closet. I want it to look like their bathroom. Music for a room. An application to your house. An aesthetic service you can buy, turn on, and suddenly everything makes more sense.”
It’s a philosophy of music that seems somehow antithetical to the Romantic notion of the musician as tortured artist, yet also comes across as fundamentally true to Price’s beliefs. He constructs brief lives to play in, some tempestuous, some yearning, some elated. They change with each listener and with each listen, but they always serve the same underlying purpose: to enhance the listener’s life on a subconscious level that prioritizes feeling over thinking.
Price will be the first to admit that he’s still figuring out the right balance between his pop inclinations and a newfound obsession with sterile electronica. “I wanted to challenge myself to try and find this world that mixes these lush, rock ‘n roll, pop, guitar-driven songs but somehow get it to translate into the goofiest-sounding electronic song,” he explained with a laugh.
When asked how he translates his wall of sound approach to a live environment, Price simply responded, “Frustratingly.” While he finally feels comfortable articulating that sound, he looks at the Bottletree show as an opportunity to hone it even more precisely. As for his audience, the musician who dreams of putting out the next “Blurred Lines” just wants people to feel good.
Price’s instinctive use of the term “surface-level” for his music shouldn’t be confused with shallowness; they’re about as different as “childlike” and “childish.” On the contrary, he’s making playgrounds of the imagination, implying the strange and sympathetic arcs of whole lives, in four minutes or less.
Drew Price’s Bermuda Triangle will play a free show along with Wray and 11 Year Old on Tuesday, August 20 at 9 p.m. at the Bottletree Café. For more information, call (205) 533-6288.