There are generally two kinds of bands that self-designate as psych rock. The first are bands deeply immersed and indebted to a canon that stretches from ‘60s era garage rock to Tame Impala. The second are bands that thrive on manic weirdness and refuse to be confined by genre limitations.
Shwarma is the latter.
The five piece Denver outfit is driven by “a desire to play whatever style [they] feel like trying,” as their website states, and the pandemic has spurned an especially productive bout of experimentation. In May, they live-streamed a 17-song, 47-minute set of new music called Emily’s Apartments to YouTube. To add to the madness, a number of strange occurrences were caught on camera during the recording. At one point it was revealed to the audience that Steve Sanchez’s drum set was rigged to explode if he ever stopped playing or dropped a beat.
On (yes) Valentine’s Day, Shwarma continued the saga with the Loveworthy Live EP which they once again debuted as a live stream. In the video, the overtly-silly mix of tightly-arranged funk jams and melodramatic ballads is accompanied by a revolving door of meticulous costumes, sets and effects.
The band lays down a catchy funk groove with energetic horn hits sprinkled over the top for the opening track, “Wouldja Rather?.” Guitarist Jackson Kaufman and keyboardist Dalton Groves trade irreverent lines of raunch with a pansexual ilk before arriving at the somewhat confusing refrain.
“I don’t care if you’re straight or gay, just wanna make love to you.”
As the EP progresses, the band continues to genre-hop. “Instinctual Love” takes on ‘60s era R&B while “Oh Lindsey” escalates a ballad to absurdly melodramatic heights. The performance ends with “Baby, No,” a 4-minute crescendo in which Kaufman sings (sometimes cries) the words “oh,” “baby” and “no” again and again over a descending keyboard progression and overdriven guitars.
No matter what genre they’re drawing from, one thing is for sure. Shwarma is having a damn blast doin’ it, and doin’ it well.