With their debut album still sitting comfortably as one of the best albums of the year, we chatted with noise outfit Model/Actriz
‘Dogsbody‘ is such a special album. It is disturbing but funny, sexual but intimate. It is both noisy and incredibly catchy.
We recently caught up with Cole (vocals) and Ruben (drums) from New York noise rock band Model/Actriz to chat about the album, their influences and their vision for their live shows.
We discussed the fun mystery behind their many influences, the joy of being able to humiliate yourself on stage and just how it feels to have such an odd album create such a buzz.
George: It must have been a wild ride since the release of your album. Can you take us through some of the emotions since the project blew up?
Cole: It’s a lot of adrenaline which keeps us going. We were besties before this year but we’ve been together so much that we’ve transitioned into a family. We really have to be each other’s family on the road and that’s the biggest change of this year.
Ruben: Overwhelmed is a good way to put it. I feel like we inhabit the songs more than we ever have but we’re also more distanced from them. I sometimes forget how dark they are on a thematic and sonic level because we play them every night and it feels like such a celebration of all parts of life. It’s funny because I’ll read someone talking about how intense or sonically emotionally brutal it is and I’m like “I forgot we did that!” It feels like a joyous party album even though it’s very much not.
Cole: We’re the monsters under someone’s bed for them but for us we’re just us.
George: Does seeing these reviews change your own views on the project?
Cole: It doesn’t change our views on it and I’m never super confused by people’s takes on it. I’m pretty good at understanding where people are coming from. Nobody has really nailed us on the music we’re referencing though. They think it’s Nine Inch Nails but it’s not!
Ruben: We’re all a little tickled by the comparisons to bands who are great but just not where we’re coming from. I don’t think we resent being lumped in with the post-punk/guitar-centric world because, at the surface, that is what the band is, but we just don’t think of ourselves in the heavy music world. We’re more in the dance world with that (rock) instrumentation. Even though it’s obvious, we kind of forgot that that was how it would be perceived. It’s funny how differently we perceive ourselves compared to the general response. The general response has been very kind to us though, we can’t complain!
Cole: Anyone is welcome to listen to our album.
George: Are there any inspirations that would surprise people when they listen to the album?
(A very long, thoughtful pause)
Cole: They do exist, we’re not stalling! No, we shouldn’t give it away.
Ruben: The one we have given away before is Big Thief. They’re a band we’re all inspired by on an emotional level.
Cole: I was reading a lot of their lyrics. If you’re listening to our album, maybe it doesn’t come across. But no, we’re not going to give away our influences because people are going to hear what they wanna hear.
Ruben: If someone nails it we’ll tell them! It’s fun because most of the influences sound very different than the sonics of the album. It’s fun to have that mystery there and someone will unravel it eventually.
Cole: We’re stealing from dance music. It’s always an impossible challenge to do that with acoustic instruments. We’ll never be able to perfectly match things made with electronics that we aspire to make but shooting for that and ending up somewhere else is where we end up sonically.
George: Going back a bit, when the band first started, did you expect your first album to sound like ‘Dogsbody’? Was that your original vision?
Ruben: I don’t think I expected it to sound like ‘Dogsbody’ until it was mastered.
Cole: In a self-actualisation way for me, very deep into the album-writing process, I didn’t fully comprehend that I was capable of writing an album. We’d been fiddling around with music for so long that it never really occurred to me that we were working on something larger until very late into the process. I realised that if I was going to finish my part, I had to believe that ‘Dogsbody’ could exist at all.
Ruben: We started trying to write an album early in the band and probably spent a year or two years unsuccessfully writing it and the band broke up. We got back on it in 2019 and spent another two years writing it from scratch. It felt like an enormous feat and a weight off us to have something we believed in and represented us.
Cole: Which circles back to why when we play this music it’s so fun because it’s a congratulations for doing it! Although the process of putting it together was harrowing.
Ruben: When I first started to know what it would sound like was the first day working with Seth Manchester (producer). We’d had a meeting before about our hopes, dreams, goals and Seth immediately pushed us so far outside of our comfort zone because he knew that to get to where we wanted, we would need to do that. That first day hearing ‘Mosquito’ in its half-recorded state was like “Oh my god, this is an album that’s going to sound this way that we couldn’t have imagined but is perfect to how we want it to be.”
Cole: Not everyone was ecstatic at first.
George: Were there some creative disagreements?
Ruben: All the time. The thing that fuels this band is that we all come from very different musical backgrounds and upbringings and skill-sets.
Cole: Where arguments used to feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, it’s way more like being Virginia Woolf putting a stone in your pocket instead. It’s not as heavy.
George: The album feels extremely personal but also extremely theatrical at the same time. Do you consider it a personal statement or is it more that you’re playing characters on stage?
Cole: I don’t think I’ve ever felt more in my body than when I’m on stage. Theatre to me is how I express myself and when there’s a light on you and you have a captive audience waiting to see what you’re doing, there’s no distractions. That, to me, is the most vulnerable time I have within my body.
Ruben: We definitely talked about the theatricality vs the intimacy of the album and about humour as well. A cornerstone of this band is the theatricality of the show and the hyperbole of it all. This album was the first time we could really convey the intimacy of these feelings. It feels much more like a real drama than a theatre show.
Cole: I’m able to humiliate myself in a playful way. What I want to invite is the audience to feel more comfortable with the idea of exposing or humiliating or making themselves vulnerable to whatever emotional experience they’re going through. The theatre of it is the conduit for people to feel more at home with their bodies and the environment around them.
George: I’ll be seeing you live for the first time soon. How is the experience of a Model/Actriz gig different from the experience of listening to the studio recording?
Cole: The album is a monologue but the show is a dialogue. It’s a party! It’s not the grim reaper in your room alone.
Listen to ‘Dogsbody’ here: