The Austerity Program

"Can we get a volunteer to start our drum machine?" Justin Foley asked Friday night at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Union Pool. Unlike many other humans I've come across, Foley and bassist Thad Calabrese don't have to try to hard to be funny. Since their enlistment in the Hydra Head army in 2003, they've put out some of the most unconventional press releases this writer has ever seen.

The most recent press release was this bit from Hydra Head: "Three years after they released their debut full length, the Austerity Program are back with not even twenty minutes of music -- a four-song EP. You are not us, their label and so you have no idea how much this absolutely infuriates us. We have probably been on the phone with these guys averaging at least once a week over that time. 'Guys, guys, we have invested a lot of money in you, when are you going to come out with something?'"

The release continued, "And they f---ng promised us like a triple LP or something. And then, three years later, we get this. That's like, just over a song a year. And not a 45 minute, seven part epic song. These things are barely five minutes each. You could probably learn to play them over a long afternoon ..."

"Was the press release we first put out where we claim were suing the label for patent infringement serious? Like anyone can put a patent on a song. By the way, you can't," Foley said.

"There are necessary things you do as a band other than play music. You get up on stage. You put out records that look a certain way. And some of those things I think are genuinely important in chance that they are opportunities to be creative in a meaningful way," Foley said. He admitted that artwork is one of those important things he looks forward to as a music fan. "There's a whole other world of things that are opportunities to be creative when my instinct is just to be like, 'This is the stupidest f---ing s---.' Like, 'Let's put out a press release.'" Foley prefers to put out a press release that he can look at 10 years later and still find funny, rather than one that is hyperbole madness.

"The people who work at the record label are people who I have a ton of respect for and I really want them to succeed. I don't want them to loose money," Foley said. There was also that faux rap beef the Austerity Program started with Coalesce in 2007.

"They didn't take us on because they were taking a bet. They took us on because they were willing to," bassist Thad Calabrese said. "That's our goal for them: to break even."

When I asked both Foley and bassist Thad Calabrese what bands are currently on their radar they said they were digging Helms Alee and Disappearer. Despite both members mentioning they didn't have much time to pay attention to other bands in 2009, Foley admitted, "[I like] pretty much every band on [Hydra Head] -- as goofy as this sounds -- the new Daughters record [is] fantastic and amazing. I'm very sad that they're not a going concern right now.

"We played with Dysrhythmia in December and they were great," Foley added about other bands he likes. It was at that show that bassist Colin Marston -- whose other band Infidel?/Castro! played a show with the Austerity Program a couple years ago --- handed Foley Krallice's first CD.

"I think its such a refreshing take on black metal because its very well recorded. The vocals were appropriate. There was nothing stylistic about it in the perspective that was like 'we're doing this to be true' or whatever. You get the sense that it's an honest record. I've been really bothering [Marston] to see if we could play a show with them because I think that'd be wonderful."

Their latest release 'Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn' will be out May 4 on Hydra Head. It's for fans of the Jesus Lizard, Shellac and Young Widows.

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