Hand Grenade Job
Show: With K.A.G. on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Center, Eighth and F streets NW. 202-633-1000. americanart.si.edu. Free.
The old Brian Eno maxim that ambient music “must be as ignorable as it is interesting” doesn’t quite apply to the atomized balladry of Hand Grenade Job. Instead, this group’s music seems to be as forgettable as it is enjoyable. Having never seen the District duo perform live, I polled a few scene-heads who had, and received an interestingly uniform response: The only thing anyone really remembered about the set they caught was that it was good.
To find out whether this warm-fuzzy conclusion was on point or deeply insulting, I phoned Beck Levy, who formed Hand Grenade Job back in 2012 with her friend Erin McCarley (who also plays in the terrific rock trio Governess). “Having somebody’s take-away not really be about the music is totally fine,” Levy said. “I feel like we’ve achieved one of many possible outcomes.” And that sense of possibility seems to be what Hand Grenade Job is ultimately chasing. Levy and McCarley met in the punk scene, but are now pushing toward a sound they call “post-Americana,” with live sets that have utilized traditional folk instruments, a cappella chants, ceremonial stage props and lots of candles. The idea is that minding all of the tiny details might allow for a vaster experience.
“There are all of these different components to [a performance], and if you don’t control what they are, you’re letting circumstance dictate them for you,” Levy said. “Every show we play is a site-specific event, so we want every component to be intentional. . . . In this band, we strategize as much as we practice.”