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Review: Protomartyr At Paper Tiger

Michael Flanagan

Protomartyr is a band from Detroit, Michigan. Their sound is reminiscent of English art rock legends The Fall and Australian luminaries Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Lead singer Joe Casey’s lyrics are often inspired by ancient history, classical literature, the mundanity of everyday life, and the inevitability of death. In the midst of an International tour in support of their fourth full length album, “Relatives in Descent,” the group performed at Paper Tiger, in San Antonio, on October 19th. The packed room alternated between a state of hypnosis brought on by the ethereal qualities of the music and fervent dancing during the more up-tempo moments.

After the show, TPR intern Michael Flanagan spoke with lead singer Joe Casey about the band’s history. Excerpts from that conversation are below.

On Detroit, and its influence on Protomartyr’s sound:

“It’s one of those cases, I’m sure people in San Antonio have the same feeling, where you grow up in a place and you don’t have any other reference points. So it’s only until I went other places that I realized Detroit has a certain narrative put upon it. I don’t know that it affects the music very much other than the fact that it’s cheap to live there. Detroit is just like other cities, it has its suffering and its joys.”

“King Boots”, from 2012’s “Dreads 85 84”:

On the balance between seriousness and levity in the band’s songs:

“We’re serious about the business of being in a band, practicing and making music. There’s always going to be jokes in it, because life itself is a joke. It’s not all laughs, but I think if we were a band that was constantly dour, that wouldn’t represent us. Sometimes you have a terrible day, but there’s moments of joy in it.  And sometimes you have a great day, and there can be moments of pain in that. I like that our songs can go back and forth between darkness and light. I think that’s what living's about.”

“Why Does It Shake”, from the Protomartyrs third album, “The Agent Intellect”:

On the current state of the band and its future plans:

“We are two weeks into touring our new record, 'Relatives in Descent.' We do another week in the United States, then we go off to Europe for a month. We’ll enjoy the holidays, then come back and tour on this record as much as we can. Really the only way we make money is on the road. We enjoy it, we have a good time doing it, and we’re going to be touring for the rest of our lives.”

“Don’t Go To Anacita”, from the group’s latest album “Relatives in Descent”:

“Relatives in Descent” is available now from Domino Records.