Detroit post-punk band Protomartyr announces their new album, ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’, out June 2nd on Domino, and presents its lead single ‘Make Way’.
Composed of vocalist Joe Casey, guitarist Greg Ahee, drummer Alex Leonard, and bassist Scott Davidson, Protomartyr have become synonymous with caustic, impressionistic assemblages of politics and poetry, the literal and oblique. Casey describes the underlying theme of ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ as a 12-song testament to “getting on with life,” even when it feels impossibly hard.
The moody lead single, ‘Make Way’, doubles as ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’s’ opening track, with Casey beginning the record by facing tragedy head-on: “Welcome to the haunted earth // The living after life // Where we chose to forget // the years of the Hungry Knife.” The accompanying video, directed by Trevor Naud, is a striking cinematic. Naud says: “There's a deliberate through-line between the videos for ‘Make Way’ and 2020's ‘Worm In Heaven’. The two songs feel partnered with each other. So I wanted the videos to feel like they exist in the same world. There are layers of experiments happening all within a closed environment. We don't know what's happened to the world outside, but there's an undertone that things maybe aren't quite right."
On ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’, the desert brings an existential awareness that is ultimately internal. The “growth” came from a period of colossal transition for Casey, including the death of his mother, who struggled with Alzheimer’s for a decade and a half. Now 45, Casey had lived in the family home in northwest Detroit all his life. The neighborhood inspired many of Protomartyr’s acclaimed albums, serving as a base through the band’s growth from scrappy punks to ones capable of touring the globe.
Protomartyr’s music, more spacious and dynamic than ever, helped pull Casey up. “The band still being viable was very important to me,” Casey adds, “and it definitely lifted my spirits.” Having long served as Protomartyr’s unofficial musical director, guitarist Greg Ahee co-produced ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ alongside Jake Aron (Snail Mail, L’Rain). Ahee knew what Casey was going through and the challenges he’d been processing, and as Ahee was conceptualizing the music, he thought about how to make it all “like a narrative film.” Ahee explains, “I started to write at home on a piano and on a keyboard and I would then play along to short films and watch how I could affect and heighten moods as I played.” The filmic sensibility is manifest in Casey’s storytelling, too, whether he’s critiquing ominous techno-capitalism or processing aging, the future, and the possibility of love.
In some sense, ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ is a testament to conflicting realities — the inevitability of loss, the necessity of finding joy through it and persisting — that come with living longer and continuing to create. It begins with pain but endures through it, cracking itself open into a gently-sweeping torrent of sound that is, for Protomartyr, totally new.
Protomartyr will perform in Paradiso Amsterdam on the 7th of august and in Effenaar Eindhoven on the 14th of August. Listen to the brand-new single ‘Make Way’ HERE. Pre-save Protomartyr’s new album ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ HERE.