New Artist of the Day: Controller


Here’s a nice find, and by find I mean a good job on the PR front by the band. Chris Hearn tells us why he is all about this four piece from the mean streets of NYC.

So this band Controller from New York sends over a nice email and their EP for us to check out. So I listen to it. Boy am I glad they sent their EP over. Thanks guys!

First thing I think of when I hear song one, ‘Kicking and Screaming’ is Gaslight Anthem which is plenty okay because I like them a whole lot. Then, bam, song number two, ‘Control’ comes on and I think U2. You could swear that was Bono in that chorus. And, low and behold, I look at the email sent over by Jonathan Bellinger telling us about his band and he says this: “We sound like a blend of Echo and the Bunnymen, early U2, The Who and the Buzzcocks.” No, really? Couldn’t tell. Okay, yes I could. I lied. But first and foremost I think, “Hey, this is pretty good stuff!”

This is a new band, and by new, I mean, they have been around since 2003. Confusing? Ya, it was to me too. So, here is the deal. Vocalist (and email writer) Jon Bellinger and guitarist Josh Shabtai used to play in….oh, screw it, he put it best, so here is what he wrote:

controller cover

“The band traces its inception back to 2003, when Jonathan and Josh first began playing music together at a house party, spontaneously united by their shared love of punk, no wave, post punk, late 70’s heavy metal music and video games. Playing loud and chaotic improvised sets at bars in NYC’s East Village throughout the early aughts, it wasn’t until they combined forces with Keith and Brian that the signature Controller sound fell into place. From the very first rehearsals, the band found its distinct balance at the intersection of punk ethos and pop music: passionate but disciplined, optimistic but dark and urgent; intimate and personal but sized for arenas. “

And there you have it. I couldn’t have written it better myself, which is why I didn’t. I know that seems lazy, and for that I apologize. I do wish I could have been at some of those early shows to be perfectly honest. Given the strength of their EP, I can imagine that those improvised sets were pretty intense, high energy events.

This is their first release, and it does not sound like a first one at all. That does make sense given their relatively lengthy history, but this does not have the sound or feel of a debut. This sounds like a mature, rounded band that is in control of its sound without stifling it. I suppose that is the “passionate but disciplined” part.

And these songs have gotten into my head completely. Controller makes catchy, sing-a-long-able songs and they make me happy. Now that doesn’t mean they are simple songs. That’s part of what is cool about them. These rich, layered, full, dynamic songs are still begging to be sung along with.

Their EP has probably been one of my favourite releases thus far this year, and I can see that lasting until 2014 easily. I love the sound and the energy these guys have. They have done a good job of capturing the energy that I would imagine would exist in their live show which is, as many people know, not an easy thing to do. It’s especially hard I think when there are such high production values like this EP has. Sometimes in the quest to make things sound this polished, the live feel gets completely lost. Not here. I really do wish I could have found a YouTube video or something of these guys performing, or better yet, at some point see them live myself.

Controller thus far is more than the Artist of the Day for me, but one of the artists of the year thus far. I know it’s only February but it’s going to be hard to uproot this one from my list.

Check out Controller on Facebook. You can get their self-titled EP on their bandcamp page and on Soundcloud.

Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.

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