The Sound of Animals Fighting Wrap Up Their Third Tour in Fifteen Years March 8 2019 at Terminal 5 in NYC.
Written by Dave Rocha of Truth Virus Records
Bare light bulbs flicker and hang over a darkened stage revealing a collection of some of the most talented musicians to have ever graced my ears taking the stage. The sound radiates, the lights flash and gleam, and the sea of spectators sway to the band’s uncommon time signatures spanning the three stories at Terminal 5 of Hell’s Kitchen. A crowd of dedicated followers’ voices coincide with every note sung by the craftsmen of our journey this evening. The Sound of Animals Fighting provided a rare experience that will likely never be reproduced.
The California-based experimental rock supergroup has always been shrouded in mystery, drenched in creativity, and indeterminately unique in its enigmatic musical organization. Singer and producer, Rich Loren Balling (Rx Bandits, Pyramids), the mastermind behind the project, crafts a monumental creation that approaches music and art through imaginative and uncommon methods. Collecting the talents of Anthony Green (Circa Survive, Saosin), Chris Tsagakis (Rx Bandits, Biceratops, C-Gak), and Matt Embree (Rx Bandits, Love You Moon, Biceratops, ME & LP), along with numerous other artistic talents and guest performers, Balling weaves together a masterpiece of a sonic tapestry unlike most anything witnessed within contemporary music.
Never intended to be a live band, The Sound of Animals Fighting wrap up their third and potentially final tour. TSOAF’s 2019 tour was a dream come true for their avid fans, and a bold, new experience for any listeners finding out about this act a little too late. When I ran into Rich backstage, I asked about the possibility of new music or another potential tour. He had expressed, with certainty, that another tour was unlikely without new music, but he would happily work on another album if the other members involved were interested. With a core group laying down the framework of this epic collection of musicians, the band layers multiple vocal guests who each offer their unique singing styles amidst organic and electronic percussion, synthesizers, guitars, and keyboards. Their albums are a complex assemblage and arrangement of separate and overlaid instrumental and vocal parts which I thought practically impossible to recreate onstage; this theory was immediately disproved within the first moments of the band’s performance.
I was brought to tears multiple times throughout the set. Here I sat humbly listening to an amalgam of artists that have conjoined under the same roof and upon the same stage only a handful of times. Fans crowd surfed across an ocean of observers and participants, while band members energetically traversed the stage while eloquently orchestrating their instruments. Some friends and I made the long journey from Maine to New York City to catch this once in a lifetime opportunity, and it will be remembered as one of the most notable experiences I have ever had during a live music performance.
After proactively maneuvering my mind around the seasonal depression that so commonly affects so many of my fellow Northeasterners, just weeks before this show the mental darkness had finally caught up to me. After battling the lack of serotonin and Vitamin D for a couple of weeks, alas, I had encountered my salvation. To be a spectator to a collaboration of my favorite musicians, many of which I have looked up to since I was a teenager, left me inspired, rejuvenated, restored, and renewed.
Shortly before the band took the stage, drummer Chris Tsagakis brought me backstage for a pre-planned interview. As always, I was looking forward to see him. The drummer, visual artist, videographer, record label owner (Headphone Music), electronic music producer, and father has always been kind enough to take a few moments of his time to answer some questions for my record label and our fans whenever given the opportunity since our introduction. I had asked him what the most exciting aspect of working with The Sound of Animals Fighting was, and he responded that what appealed to him most out of any other projects that he has ever worked on was that TSOAF’s focus was purely art for art’s sake. The supergroup had never planned to be a commercial success. It had always been about the music, as well as the artists, writers, poetry, and literature that the band pays homage to. Neither the members nor any of their artistic offerings to the project were neglected.
There were no rules and each member was allowed to contribute whatever they each specifically chose to offer. Each piece was interlaced together piece by piece, using the drums as the starting point. I feel like this rare form of artistic purity is where their cult-like underground following was inspired and born from. This is what truly sets the band apart from everything we hear within the commercial music industry of today.
Moments after interviewing Chris, I ran into Rich, undoubtedly the ringleader of these mysterious creatures (the band would wear animal masks during the early years of their incarnation during photo shoots, interviews, and performances). He was observing the last opening act who would perform before his set, Planes Mistaken for Stars, and he expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the band’s performances during the entire tour. Shortly thereafter, I encountered Keith Goodwin (vocals, Good Old War) exploring the backstage area with his young son. After some time passed, I decided to watch the beginning of the set from the second-level backstage area between some backdrop curtains. I was chatting with some friends of the band before I happened to witness the band come together and engage in a pre-show collective meditation before hyping one another up for their energetic set. I felt blessed to witness such a thing, only to later encounter Anthony drenched in sweat and water and catching his breath a few songs into the set, body draped across the stairs of the stairwell. It was a pure, behind-the-scenes snapshot of how much these artists invest and immerse themselves in their craft.
The Sound of Animals Fighting created an atmosphere of passion, vision, wonder, surrender, and unity. From moments of intricate ambiance to thrashing explosivity, the band mixes post-punk, progressive rock, and experimental noise rock into a delicately crafted masterpiece of artistic expression. Few ever actually manage to so purely exemplify this authentic and unadulterated artistic intent so masterfully. Their creative approach is almost as if it was “without a pattern but reasonable.”
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