Activity

Activity, the Brooklyn-based band of Travis Johnson (lead vocals/multi-instrumentalist), Jess Rees (guitar/vocals/keys), Bri DiGioia (bass/vocals), and Steven Levine (drums), release their new album, Spirit in the Room, on August 4, 2023 via Western Vinyl. Produced by Psychic TV’s Jeff Berner, the band’s sophomore album is an emotional seance held through an unearthly haze of menacing trip hop, ambient electronica, and synth-based noise rock. The album’s darkly urgent lead single “Careful Let’s Sleepwalk” is out now alongside a video directed by the band’s own Levine. “Lyrically the song is dream fragments, nights that all left me with the feeling of something being really wrong (danger, shame, repulsion) without there being anything happening in the dream to obviously trace the sense of evil back to,” Johnson explains. “Just these internally grotesque and dreadful forms that are mundane on the outside. Everything seems calibrated to make us go insane now, and the feeling of the song corresponds to that.”

The band’s most collaborative album to date and follow-up to their 2020 debut LP Unmask WhoeverSpirit in the Room was written and recorded during the pandemic, “to keep from losing our minds”, as Johnson explains. The inherent limitations of lockdown meant that the band had to strip down the process considerably, relying heavily on processed samples and drum machines to sketch early ideas and begin to process the collective trauma. It was also around this time that Johnson experienced a series of personal tragedies, namely the loss of his mother to pancreatic cancer. “The grief was (and sometimes is) this colossal thing,” Johnson explains, “and I kept finding myself thinking of how I could find her or get in touch with her, like there was a phone number or address and I just had to find it.”

Spirit in the Room is no lighthearted journey, but the band’s playfulness and obvious natural chemistry keeps the collection from being burdened by its own solemnity. “Unlike the first album, where we’d barely played live before we recorded, we got to take some of the less electronic songs out on the road in the fall of 2021,” Johnson explains. “Some tracks had been incubating for over a year in our rehearsals. We could feel them change and open up in a live setting, so when we got back home, we went back to the drawing board on a lot of them. Some got scrapped altogether and we haven’t played them since. You get an idea in your head of what it is, but it’s something else when you’re trying to hold other people’s attention. Every part needed to feel earned or necessary.”

The 11-song set–also featuring tracks sung/written by Rees and DiGioia–ultimately reflects the band’s deep anxiety about the modern world while simultaneously displaying their immense gratitude and—believe it or not—joy. As Rees describes it, “One moment it’s bottomless shearing chaotic noise, and the next it’s a sweet melody. Sometimes at the same time.”

This dichotomy seems to set Activity apart from their peers in the noise rock world. On the one hand, Spirit in the Room is a harrowing journey through a Bosch-like landscape of illness, global capital, and human-caused destruction. On the other hand, it’s a room full of friends who are simply trying to make it through the day and process this world that we’ve created. When asked why this album needed to be made, Johnson put it best: “None of us can stand to not make music is all, really.”

Past Shows


Oct
5
th
2023
Turf Club
Oct
5
th
2023
Turf Club

Activity

with ahem and JØUR
Oct
13
th
2021
7th St Entry
Oct
13
th
2021
7th St Entry

More Shows

Jun
16
th
First Avenue

Wrestlepalooza

May
25
th
Amsterdam Bar & Hall

Glass Cannon Live!

Nov
16
th
Fine Line

La Femme

Jul
19
th
Fine Line

November Ultra