The music of Science Man feels incredibly invigorating. Science Man is the creation of Buffalo, New York’s John Toohill (who also performs as part of the also Buffalo-based group Alpha Hopper, who have a new record dropping soon via Hex Records). Science Man’s latest record, called Science Man II, drops on Nov. 6 via Big Neck Records and Swimming Faith Records. Get a first listen below to the high-energy new album!
Science Man II runs on a noise rock foundation, with boisterous blasts of hoarse riffing coursing through the music, and the songs lean into a kind of off-kilter punk rock ferocity. Much of the rather brisk music feels like a jarring splash of cold water in the face, and there’s never exactly the pattern of stability that one might find in more straightforward punk. Instead, the songs veer wildly all over the place, as if the music captures a wild and chest-thumping rush through backwoods. There’s a kind of refreshing no-holds-barred confidence in the songs, as if Toohill has slapped some big and booming rock energy atop the record’s swirls of punked up noise rock.
Science Man’s music feels fun to listen to and delivers a dizzying exploration of some subtly awe-inspiring musical extremes, and Science Man II feels like a wild and chaotic mud-soaked ride through a moonlit countryside. Toohill’s vocals feature rather prominently in the mix, but rather than a kind of punk rock roar, he sticks to a more soulfully inclined energy reminiscent of artists like Alexis Marshall from Daughters, which helps drive in this feeling. There’s a triumphant rock n’ roll vibe in the music, but it’s marvelously twisted.
Pre-order Science Man II at this link.
Listen to Science Man II below! (If there’s an issue with displaying the music, please refresh the page and/ or wait a moment.) Scroll down to check out a chat with Toohill about the record.
Read the Q & A with Science Man below:
Foundations of the Record:
Captured Howls: Thanks for your time today! The new record rips. The music carries a rather unique-feeling sonic imprint, blending punk rock fury with a kind of soulful rock vibe, so from your perspective, how would you characterize your sound? On a broad level, how would you characterize your musical style?
John Toohill: Soulful?! Alright. Haha. Well shit, I guess buying all those pricey Numero Group eccentric soul comp LPs the last 15 years is finally paying off for me.
So the other day my new neighbor, dude in his 40’s (maybe?), saw me carrying some gear outta the house and asked what kinda music I play. So I said “uh, like punk, I guess.” And he quickly responds “oh like the Chili Peppers?” So I smiled and said “well… Maybe a little noisier.”
Cuz I mean, If you asked me what section at most record stores would I guess a Sci Man LP belongs? The chop bin. But ya, I’d say with their punk records. It’s broad enough and makes sense. I doubt they have a section that’s like “noise-y punk/hardcore with a drum machine (but we’re gonna sometimes let it get compared to industrial (which it doesn’t really sound like and it usually upsets and alienates it from industrial fans when they hear it after we say that (but this guy does probably like Ministry (lets be honest here)))), with a real noise-rock and roll vibe – but don’t worry – I see the face your making right now – its not that kinda “rock and roll” it’s really more noise-rock but it just faster than that Jesus Lizard riff yer picturing right now and doesn’t take itself super seriously… op. I’m losing you… you like Motorhead right?… so it’s… It’s guitar music”.
So yeah, I guess what I’m saying is it sounds like the Chili Peppers.
Inspirations for Science Man II:
CH: Are there particular musical inspirations that you used for this record, whether specific other artists or more general musical ideas? In other words — did you aim for a particular sound, or did you tend to build the songs around particular thematic/emotional vibes and go from there? Some of both?
JT: I don’t really have a specific plan. I think I’ve established what works in the “science man world” in my head and then just sorta pick up a guitar and go. If I start to play something cool but it doesn’t seem to fit there, I try to use it in Alpha Hopper or one of my other bands or just record it for fun and throw it on a hard drive to be forgotten. If anything about this record was exclusive to it and the process of writing it, I’d say I felt like I was still riding the whacked out good vibes of the first record but wanted to really squeeze the fun out of it. Ya know? Put the hurt on it. Really… just…ugh…. pressurize it till it pops. Get a little mean. Sadistic. Slap it around a little before you start the real torture. Put the hood on it and let it suffer in the dark a while. Real claustrophobic. That stuff that really draws people in for the feel good sequel. Makes them check doesthedogdie.com 15 mins into the movie to see if they are gonna keep watching. Something like that. A lot of this record got written this Feb/March/April so, ya know. Good times 2020.
CH: Your vocals stuck out to me on the record. At times, I felt like they had a sort of old country, soulful rock vibe — and they also reminded me of noise rock stalwarts like Daughters. Are there particular inspirations that you took for your vocals? How did you tend to build your vocals?
JT: You know how sound guys HATE when you cuff the mic up at the head and really cram the whole thing right up to yer mouth? I do that but with big black rubber gloves on too. Maybe that’s the secret for soulful vocals – maybe not. Who am I to really say? But I once saw a video of the dude from Daughters just really wailing himself in the forehead with the mic. Like the house owed him money. Some real Monday Night Raw shit. Maybe he’s onto something though? Wait, what’s the question? Country vibes? See I kinda thought Sci Man was kinda going for like an Elvis thing… Drug addled and perhaps mid being-kidnapped-for-imposter-replacement Elvis. But yea. That quiver lip, mumble shit. I don’t know. I see what you mean. I can’t really help it. I didn’t think of it as a country western thing. More a nasally, moron thing in my case. Ya you got me here. I ain’t got no excuse.
Putting Together Science Man:
CH: Science Man seems to be a solo project. Do you find crafting these songs solo to be particularly challenging? Freeing? Some of both?
JT: I fucking love it. I’m having fun and it comes easy to me. Control is a sick drug creatively. It’s like a big bag of cocaine though, right? Everyone around you is super annoyed by you unless you are sharing it and you just think yer AWESOME. Nobody is calling me on my bullshit. Which arguably can be bad. But whatever. I just wanted to do a project that was all me. I have other bands and love sharing creativity with people. Just not with this. I’d love to do sci man with a full on backing band of real live musicians… but I don’t know if I can afford that kinda drug habit. Haha. I got enough demons I’m fighting off. Would be sick for a tour or two.
CH: Science Man seems to be a comparatively new project — the first release that I see on Bandcamp is from 2018. What would you describe as kind of the guiding force of the project that sparked its creation in the first place? Alternatively and/or concurrently: what is your personal history and experience with music like, in reference to Science Man?
JT: I just have a lot of ideas and love to work. Science Man was supposed to just be the thing I do while I’m not at band practice with my “real bands.” Then it slowly crept up towards the front. It started while in the van on long drives between shows on Radiation Risks tours. I would just sit in the way back, map out the song on my drum machine, then record the guitar and bass tracks direct with this USB-powered interface onto my laptop. Potholes and all. I guess being manic as fuck on the road and seeing tons of great bands helped spark it. Seeing people do cool things at a time I really wanted to do more. We’re all victims of creative influence by what we like and what surrounds us. Those songs turned into “Science Man” and I just kept going with it.
I don’t care for the illusion that a lot of people seem to buy into where you are only allowed to/ are capable of releasing like ONE good album a year at most or something. That’s stupid. OK, sure I hate overachievers too. I’m not listening to whatever 6 albums Ty Segall put out this year either. I get it. But it doesn’t make them bad because there is a lot of content. It’s cheaper, faster, and easier to record than ever. Do it. Just don’t put out every crummy song you write. Point is that I have to write music or I’ll fucking pop and I genuinely hope other idiots like me dig what I do. Honest. Cuz I’m gonna keep doing it not matter what.