By: Katei Cranford
They may get down, but they aren’t out: they’re Greensboro garagers, Instant Regrets, and they’re playing with Lee Bains III and the Gloryfires Thursday night at On Pop of the World Studios.
Started by Jeff Gordon and Jerrod Smith for a Guided By Voices cover-set, Instant Regrets added Kelly Cranford on bass after deciding to “get real” and put out a record in 2017.
“‘B-52s meets Melvins is how Jeff would love us described, even if it’s not accurate,” Smith said. The Melvins’ influence is undeniable, other obvious inspirative sources include Pixies, Thin Lizzy, and the Lemonheads.
Instant Regrets exhibits defiant frustration in a fun-sized package. It’s no surprise their narratives don’t stem from sunshine and rainbows (though there are plenty of fast songs about food with ample nods to pop-culture).
The songs are catchy, landing like a ton of bricks (or the weight of an instant regret, as the case may be) with depth and feeling. It’s heavy but splashy. Bummers get spliced with wit and energy, generating an on-stage humor that beams from three funny, talented friends spreading good times despite hard days.
Humble almost to a fault, Smith and Gordon switch between strings and percussion mid-set, orbiting around Cranford on-stage with a seamlessness requiring more talent than either acknowledge.
“It’s a utilitarian function,” Smith explained. “We have two singer-guitarists and no drummer, so we have to take turns.”
The self-titled release, recorded by Smith at Gordon’s house, hangs heavy in the alternative genre. Upbeat songs for the frustrated coast with surf-rock-waves and hardcore-crashes.
“The Head-Trip Games” provides a hymn of an opener before ripping into the following titular track. Defiance and resentment drive the punchy “Captains of Industry.” Fiery disdain seethes in “Get Here,” a solid burner. Things cool-off and collect in the breathy-banger “Take It Slow.”
“Back to School” boasts a jangley feel-good vibe with melancholy under the surface. Lyrics play into experiences extending well-beyond school days. The analogy is nostalgic, simmering with pains of starting over, whether you wanted to or not. By the time Gordon’s refrain goes from singing to screaming, things hit home.
The album winds down with “West Virginia,” a doleful track featuring dynamic vocal exchanges. The haunting retelling of an experience with a fairly casual backstory displays how Smith’s style often resonates in the somber (but not soft) register.
“When everybody has better stuff to do than playing music to, like, 10 people, you gravitate towards those who still want to be loser-adults in a punk band,” Smith said with his sardonic sense of optimism. “The general population doesn’t know what they’re missing. It’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Smith’s wry self-deprecation extends toward upcoming shows. “I don’t know how we’re lucky enough to open for Bit Brigade [at Boxcar on Aug. 3] but I’m pretty sure everybody’s gonna hate us,” he smirked.
Instant Regrets is a band for those unsure of themselves even though they shouldn’t be.
Regarding the show on July 19 with Bains, Instant Regrets seems almost outcast. Though the two bands circulate in different pools of Southern artistry, both use music as a means to “wrestle truth from noise.”
“Both are trying to make sense of their place, to tell stories about where they came from and to imagine a better world,” YES! Weekly music writer John Adamian wrote about Bains in relation to fellow Alabama-native Sun Ra. A similar notion extends to Instant Regrets.
For Bains, it’s outwardly political. With Instant Regrets, things are more internal. A fight and fire burns in each, Smith’s growing flicker silhouetting Bains’ match head character.
“All my songs recently are about dealing with my complacency towards everything. And of starting to come out of that numbness,” Smith said.
Fighting to carve a sense of place against your own cynicism can feel like a vacuum. And in that, Instant Regrets provide release. “You have to work harder to create something here, and that makes the talent really hone their craft if they want to survive,” Smith related.
“There are pockets of music and spaces but everything shuffles around because all the good spaces are usually illegal,” he added. “I think that makes every little moment of show magic carry more weight.”
Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires spit rhetoric from a rock’n’roll pulpit. Instant Regrets shows run like a session of sweaty punk-rock therapy. Feel it for yourself with Old Heavy Hands, Thursday night at On Pop of the World Studios in Greensboro.
Katei Cranford is a GSO rock’n’roller and would still be an unabashed fan of Instant Regrets even if she didn’t share chromosomes with the bassist. She also hosts a radio show called “Mostly Local Monday” that plays like a mixtape of bands coming through NC the following week on WUAG 103.1fm.