Living in the shadows of a musical legacy can be as frustrating as it is exhilarating. Bands hailing from the legendary Washington D.C. punk scene have had quite the expectations to meet, as creating art in the same realm that influential acts such as Bad Brains, Nation of Ulysses and Rites of Spring can make for an overwhelming experience.
A Day in Black and White � a driving, melodically-charged post-punk four-piece - however, takes its innate D.C. music history in stride as it blends lessons from the past with an abundance of energy, passion and wit. Garnering the group comparisons to some of the most diverse punk-rooted bands of the past twenty years such as Fugazi and Sonic Youth, the band�s new Level-Plane Records release, Notes, was recorded by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Cave In, Since By Man) and serves as the main piece of evidence to the aforementioned references. In short, these fellows are more than up to the challenge of finding their own place among D.C.�s musical luminaries.
While influence from past musical masters is behind much of A Day in Black and White�s current musical and philosophical ideas, these brazen twenty-something rockers are also broadening their horizons as they embark on their own journey.
According to vocalist/guitarist Daniel Morse, �We keep that traditional D.C. ethic in mind as far as how we run our band; we do everything ourselves or with friends- Level Plane as a smaller punk label run with the same philosophy has been a good home. At the same time, we�re basically a group of people who are really passionate about music so we put aesthetics first and our politics second, which may seem different from the perceived D.C. method. Which is not to say that we�re not political; we just have a slightly different perspective on things.�
The outlook that Morse speaks of has been firmly entrenched since A Day in Black and White first got together in 2001. Originally a three-piece, the group rapidly attracted attention due to its raucous sound and intense live performances. As word of mouth spread, however, the band also went through a period of soul-searching. After a couple of line-up changes and a chance to once again harness those creative flames, Morse, drummer Ian Thompson and two newcomers � bassist Mike Petillo (also of D.C.�s Navies) and guitarist Aaron Leitko � upped the ante by forging an updated version of the high-wattage rock the group was already known for.
�We started as louder and heavier and after some reevaluating and experimentation we really hit a turning point,� Morse says. �We had gotten pigeonholed a bit but writing the songs on Notes really helped us break through some barriers.� While the jagged chords familiar to those with a taste for unbridled, go-for-the-throat post-hardcore are still a staple of A Day in Black and White�s musical pedigree, the grandest gifts contained within Notes come in the form of more direct melodic undercurrents. Though this may come as somewhat of a surprise to those familiar with A Day in Black and White�s 2004 Level-Plane EP as well as the outfit�s previously released split with North Carolina�s Black Castle, those truly paying attention will be enraptured with the musical and emotional outpourings throughout the entirety of Notes.
�Our music reflects a wide range of interests, which seems to be less and less common generally,� Morse muses. �With the commercialization of punk records have become products rather than experiences. I think its terrible for a band to keep writing the same record and I hope people will like Notes because we took risks and tried new things.�
Even after an initial listen, Notes comes off as an addictive, weathered sonic soiree complete with ample amounts of rollicking rhythms, layered instrumentation and tempered yet ragged vocals. Cynics may doubt whether or not the intricacies showcased on the record will match A Day in Black and White�s typically high-powered live show. That being said, Morse and Co. have their own opinion on the legitimacy of this concern.
�A lot of bands look at their records as inferior versions of their live shows,� Morse shrugs. �We look at it as an artistic work in and of itself. The idea that its created to be replayed in constantly changing contexts is exhilarating. I think it�s equally as exciting to make a record as it is to play a great show. We�re certainly happy with the results.�
So, where does A Day in Black and White fit when compared to D.C. greats? Maybe that�s best left to history to decide. What Morse and his comrades are more concerned about is making their own mark and doing their own thing, voices from the past be damned.