Tucker Rountree from Total Slacker took the stage at Union Pool on a recent 100 degree night and attacked his guitar like it was the last time he’d ever play it. The ferociousness Rountree exhibited, in a way, came out of nowhere. Before the set he chatted and conversed with his band and others, ate avocado sushi and generally just seemed chill. But deep down inside him lay a latent desire to freak out.
And freak out he did. Rountree slammed his guitar into his amplifier, jumped into the audience, writhed around on the floor while playing and even enlisted an audience member to strum for him.
Total Slacker is one of those bands you hear a lot about them before ever seeing them live. They get a lot of blog buzz, and even hater comments on a Brooklyn Vegan post–that’s how you know you’ve made it into the ranks of Brooklyn hipster-dom. But all of that aside, Total Slacker is a smart and well thought out band that has a very effervescent guitar player.
Total Slacker is Rountree and Emily Oppenheimer’s project, and Ross Condon plays drums. (Yes, he’s the brother of Zach Condon of Beirut.) Rountree and Oppenheimer met in Williamsburg in a laundromat and began playing music together shortly after.
“She was reading a book about the Trail of Tears,” Rountree said excitedly before the show at Union Pool, and in between popping avocado sushi pieces into his mouth.
They needed a drummer and found Condon at a Woven Bones show at Monster Island Basement in late September. Randomly, Oppenheimer and Condon went to high school together in New Mexico, but didn’t really know each other.
All three of Total Slacker’s members found their way to New York City via unexpected places and life turns. Oppenheimer left New Mexico for New York to attend Eugene Lang, where she studied historical and political theory. She is now on leave. She also left classical guitar playing behind. Condon wanted out of New Mexico and attended college in Washington state, also dropping out to come to NYC. Rountree, a classically trained jazz guitarist came to the city from a Utah hippie christian commune to play jazz. He soon switched to rock and roll.
“I didn’t feel like I was talking to my generation,” he said.
Total Slacker is a real DIY indie band. They are lo-fi because they can’t afford anything else. They record onto Garage Band in Rountree and Oppenheimer’s apartment in Bed-Stuy. They play no name instruments. When Rountree treats his ax roughly, the first thing that comes to mind is not “what a rich brat” but “where is that fierceness coming from?”
Total Slacker’s music is stripped down and angular indie rock. Oppenheimer’s deliberate bass lines hold the band together. While Rountree entertains with staccato and elaborately decadent guitar solos, she stands stoically stage right and pummels on. Condon, who is far from a trained drummer, (indeed he’d never played before the first practice with the band), keeps time effectively, however ramshackle his playing may actually be.
This is a band that needs to be seen live. Without seeing the antics of Rountree, the band is just good. The live show is what makes them great. If you live in NYC, you’re lucky because they play all the time. They are opening for Wavves at Bowery Ballroom on August 2, at McCarren Park on August 11, at Silent Barn on August 14 and Monster Island on September 17.
Total Slacker: Crystal Necklace