When singer and guitarist Alex Kent from the L.A. four-piece Sprain talks about his band’s music, he uses concrete terms. Released on the influential San Francisco-based dark music label The Flenser, Sprain’s brutalist first full-length album, As Lost Through Collision, came out in 2020. The band’s first West Coast tour since then stops in Eugene Thursday, Aug. 11 at Old Nick’s Pub.
In Kent’s words, Sprain’s experimental post-hardcore music is not so much played as constructed; it stretches and mutates. Through his band, Kent’s desire is to “exist in a room full of sound,” he tells Eugene Weekly over the phone. The more noise the better. To play music at a lower volume would be antithetical, he says.
Like everything else, Collision was somewhat overshadowed by the early pandemic. Though the music draws no direct inspiration from current events — the material was with Sprain since long before the outbreak — the hollow and somber tone documents those weird days, deep and disorienting, when time had no meaning and adrenaline lurked around every corner.
On the record, lengthy and unusual song structures meet a menacing atmosphere, with blasts of free-form guitar noise and angular twists and turns. Interspersed are moments of quiet to catch your breath, Kent’s singing a low mumble at times from the back corner of the room, and at other times a scream front and center.
Originally from Boise, Idaho, Kent draws inspiration from the Pacific Northwest proto post-hardcore Olympia legends Unwound. When he heard the New York experimental rock band Swans, though, it provided a blueprint for how to make music. After he discovered Swans, “I knew I had to make music differently,” Kent says.
Sprain’s song structures, seemingly fluid and improvisational, are in fact carefully written out and planned, Kent says.
“There’s a few things that we microscopically improvised,” Kent adds, such as the climax of the Collision song “Everything,” among the most accessible indie rock on Collision before it devolves into a bludgeoning sequence of guitar chords. At that point Sprain simply relied on their instincts, Kent says.
When Sprain writes new music it sometimes begins with just a fragment, such as the “Everything” denouement. Or instead, Kent continues, it begins with “a full piece that I have, that someone else has an idea for.”
Collectively the band then twists the music into something completely unrecognizable, and that process continues even when the band performs live in concert. “When we play live we try and stretch out different parts of the piece so they remain fresh,” Kent says.
According to Kent, Collision was a transitional record for Sprain, written and recorded as an ensemble. A great deal of the record was recorded live, Kent continues, calling the process both rushed and arduous.
“It was a learning experience,” he says. The band came out on the other side stronger, though, and it’s time to grow. A Collision follow-up album is expected sometime in 2023.
Kent calls Sprain’s new music, some of which will be performed in Eugene, the band’s best and most challenging work yet. “I think that it sounds quite different than anything we’ve done previously,” he says.
Sprain performs with L.A.’s Clear Capsule and Eugene’s psych-rockers Under the Clothesline 9:30 pm Thursday, August 11, at Old Nick’s; $10 advance, $12 door, 21+.