The former punk-soul shouter for D.C. cult bands Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up is now fronting rabble-rousing R&B garage-rockers Chain & the Gang. Before hitting the road on tour with CATG, Svenonius prepped for a May 27 Make-Up reunion show at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in London. He was noncommittal about whether the Make-Up will bring its “gospel yeh-yeh” sound stateside: “It’s fun. And possibly we will.”
What can we expect from the upcoming CATG album?
The new record is called “In Cold Blood.” It is more primitivism, based around vocal interplay, call and response, and duets. The themes are nostalgia for old trash, the conundrum of time, what to do before the apocalypse, the idea of free will, dirty anonymous phone calls and things of that nature.
You’re also in a local band called Felt Letters. How does it differ from CATG?
Felt Letters is a collaboration with [Fugazi drummer] Brendan Canty and Tom Bunnell and is an ad-libbed project, whereas CATG is Katie Alice Greer and I singing premeditated songs.
What is it about ’60s rock and soul that appeals to you? It seems to be an influence in all of your bands.
I like the simplicity and the humor and the intensity and the amateurism of that stuff. It was all done on fly-by-night labels and was based on novelty, fun and idiocy — before the major labels constipated everything.