Girth Control was born to be a one hit wonder. It just didn’t pan out that way.
The group has been playing together for over a decade in bands like The Slaughterhouse Chorus, who started to slow their roll in 2014. Lead singer Chris Jordan split off to start his own business but the bandmates still wanted to play. “He decided to be a grown up and we decided to regress,” drummer and vocalist Mark McKenna grins.
They had a show booked for the following month and all of their friends were coming, so the trio of McKenna, Jay Bonafide (guitar, vocals) and Bob Watson (vocals, bass) decided to regroup and change their message, playing as a ska punk band called Girth Control. It was a hit.
They had only played with one goal: to make enough money to buy a six-person beer bong from Spencer’s at the mall. They made $9, bought some 40s and dumped them into their prize, triumphant. “In Slaughterhouse Chorus we would sell merch at the show and put that money in the bank, save it up, that’s what a real band does. So we were like, ‘Alright, let’s do the everything as the opposite of that. We’ll just blow all of our money immediately and it felt really good,” Watson said with a satisfied nod.
“We were only gonna play that show but we took all that attention and absorbed it. It was really fun and we did a lot better at writing songs than we thought we were going to,” McKenna said. “We were like, ‘Let’s see if we can write a few more,’ and now it’s been three years.”
“The Slaughterhouse Chorus is a pretty serious band with serious lyrics, it’s artistic. Girth Control was started to be the exact opposite of that,” said Bonafide. “It’s stupid and fun, like all the music we loved when we were kids and we first started bands.”
In 2015, the band put out a live album, What Got You Stoked In The First Place?, an atmospheric 12-song set including songs like “Too Many Dudes” and “The Neverending 40” that the bandmates admit are still a struggle to play without laughing through the lyrics. Now they’re back again with a new LP called Shorter Faster Dumber.
Inspired by the legendary 1999 Fat Wreck Chords compilation Short Music For Short People, the new album–released on 7 inch vinyl available in “Bongzilla green,” “Busch yellow” and “Dorito orange”– rounds out at about eight minutes, comprised of 14 hilarious songs of about 30 to 50 seconds. It includes bangers like the 40-second “Central Ave” about the frustration of double parking in Albany, or the 35-second “Yuengs (Who Drank The)” about a time the band met up for practice expecting to drink some of their recently purchased 12 pack of Yuenglings, only to find that the beers were gone. “It’s like a murder mystery,” said Bonafide.
“You’re hooked and then 30 seconds later you find out it was my cousin Jeff,” McKenna adds.
The album is full of songs about anything at all and the trio has found freedom in their lack of deep meaning or lengthy presentation. In Girth Control, nothing has to matter–and it doesn’t. “We’re not trying to be deep and that makes it really easy,” Watson said.
“Once you start writing short songs, it’s exhilarating,” Bonafide adds. “You just start cutting things out and you’re like, ‘Oh, that song didn’t ever need a second verse and nothing needs a bridge ever.”
Girth Control made sure that each of the 14 short spurts have a unique sound in order to make the record a dynamic and entertaining listen, which provided a significant challenge.
“How do you fit something into that 30-second timeframe without it sounding like one big jumbled mess?” Mark laughed. “It was surprising. We had fun the entire time but we didn’t know what we were getting into.”
The bulk of the record was recorded nearly a year ago, on Dec. 3. With the challenge of nitpicking the details of each short track, it’s taken quite a while to master.
“The stupid thing is that we had ideas like bringing in a horn section on a song. So you get all the people and the time and Dan has to deal with recording a horn section and it’s literally five seconds,” Bonafide said of working with their sound engineer and producer Dan Maddalone–who has recorded both Girth Control releases.
“When we recorded the full length [What Got You Stoked In The First Place?], we just played a whole basement show and it was great. Listening back to that, it’s just pure joy,” McKenna said. “For this, it’s like, how do you take a drunken, tater tot filled, 24-hour period and then stretch it out for an entire year until anyone hears it?”
The band initially released two tracks from the record prior to its Nov. 10 release– “Coffee Me” and “Shirt Control” — chosen to remind prior listeners of the band’s sound and feel. The songs are succinct, playful and hilarious. ““When you’re in a stupid band, this inspiration just comes to you,” McKenna said.
“‘Coffee Me’ is a sequel,” Watson explained. “One of the first songs we wrote is called ‘Beer Me’ so we were like, ‘Alright well, after you get ‘beer-ed,’ you’re hungover so you need coffee.” The trio barrels forward, churning and screaming about their insatiable need for caffeine and the side effects of a good cup of brew: “I can’t sit down / I can’t see / Oh my god, I gotta pee / Coffee me / Coffee me / Coffee me!”
“We were also working on some longer songs that we put on the backburner for this [project]. We have one song called ‘The Neverending 40’ so we’re working on ‘The Neverending Coffee’–there’s a theme here, running through,” McKenna added.
The other release “Shirt Control” is a band favorite, detailing the literal growing pains that follow years of beer and pizza adventures.
“It’s a tale as old as time. It hurts my pride, you know what I mean? The things that you go through when you’re getting older, no one wants to talk about but it’s funny,” McKenna laughs. “It really genuinely sucks when you have this dresser full of t-shirts that you love, from all your favorite band–that I’ve had, seriously, since middle school. They’re so soft and they brought back all these memories and then all the sudden, one day I walk past a mirror and I’m like, ‘Ah, no!’ And then I gotta go buy a bulk pack of extra large black shirts at Wal-Mart, like, ‘I guess this is just me now.’”
“That’s the one where people will hear it and go, ‘Oh yeah, I know that,’ unless they’re young and in shape–but they will.”
“Then they’ll have to turn them into a pillow,” said Watson, who has made quite a few of his old band t-shirts into decorative pillowcases.
“The longer it goes on, it becomes this escape,” McKenna said of the band. “Serious shit happens, life’s not all Doritos and beer–though that would be pretty sweet–but then we get to go write a song about going bald…or my shirt not fitting right. We play fast and yell into a microphone and feel better.”
The record release party for Girth Control’s Shorter Faster Dumber is tonight–Friday Nov. 10– 8PM, at The Low Beat in Albany featuring Kimono Dragons and Front Business. The album is also available on Bandcamp.
Photo of band by Sarah Winner Photography; records by Dan Maddalone