Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood just might be the dirtiest place in New York City. Decades of industrial use, sewage overflow and even alleged mafia body-dumping have transformed the district’s central canal into an oil-slicked, opaque slurry that only the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could love. Despite recent cleanup and reconstruction efforts, many of the buildings alongside “Brooklyn’s Venice” remain abandoned or, at the very least, charmingly dingy. In other words, it’s the perfect place to start a grimy, no-frills rock ‘n’ roll band.
But even though the punk-infused rock duo the World War I’s (pronounced “World War Is”) may call Gowanus home as a musical entity, the story actually begins in the cleaner, more cosmopolitan streets of Manhattan. In the fall of 2010, guitarist/singer Will Brown made every college musician’s dream a reality, using bits of acoustic paneling from a Columbia University lecture hall to transform his dorm room into a recording studio. There, the Massachusetts native crafted the burly, brawny rock tracks comprising what is now considered to be the band’s debut EP (titled Das EP in true collegiate rebel fashion, a nod to ol’ Marx).
Drummer/organist Sam Trioli, a native New Hampshirian who was playing in a bluegrass-cum-glam-rock band in Brooklyn at that time, stumbled upon the EP one day. Feeling an instant connection, he invited Brown to open for his band. The team-up was such a success that the two began sneaking into rehearsal studios, causing trouble and making music about the whole deal. By late 2011, the World War I’s had released the 20 Days EP and was slowly but surely building an audience with its infectious strain of scuzzy blues rock. “Are you guys sweating as much as I am?” Brown laughed at a recent Cake Shop gig, to a response of cheers. This is a band that isn’t afraid to get dirty.
The new year sees the World War I’s preparing to release a full-length debut and playing gigs in towns from “Maine to Mexico.” Even without an LP, the duo has the crowd-pleasers covered: reverb-y, psychedelic jams (“Psyche Assay”), adrenaline-pumping, surf-rock hurricanes (“20 Days,” “Heart Attack”) and even sensitive country-tinged ballads (“It Hurts To Be A Man Alone”). Trioli’s thunderous rhythms are a perfect counterpart to Brown’s honeyed tenor and blistering blues riffs: Think the Black Keys, roughed-up and ready for a fight but equally prepared for sweet talking that femme fatale at the bar.
Artists, submit for your own chance to be the Sonicbids Spotlight.