Original Writeup

Premiere – What To Do Have All Kinds of Plans and Ideas on Gripping New Album

by Brody Kenny

The only way you know exactly where What To Do are headed is if you’re them. Even then, you might surprise yourself.

Illinois three-piece What To Do were originally known by a much lengthier moniker – “What to Do with Your Newfound Animosity for the World as You Wade through the Sea of Sin.” They might’ve trimmed their name since forming in 2016, but their ambition is supersized. Their debut release, My Very Own Real Life Porno, is a melange of sounds as scratchy as sandpaper and as gentle as bubble bath they cleverly label. “clusterfunk.” Whatever it is, there’s really no telling what What to Do are going to do.

Key among these sounds are Jesse Tijerina’s vocals, which range from pointedly lackadaisical to on the verge of a breakdown that won’t quite come to fruition. There are moments when Tijerina and his bandmates (bassist Ben Van Pelt and lead guitarist/backing vocalist Sam Nelms) let things settle for a bit, but they’ll switch things back into chaos right when you think it’s safe to retract your proverbial umbrella. It’s not a bite-sized catch-and-release, either. Tracks take on all sorts of vibes, like the 8-minute “NO COPS IN THE JAZZ ROOM,” alternately funky, dreamy, and spastic. The only way you know exactly where What to Do are headed is if you’re them. Even then, you might surprise yourself.

The band also graciously answered some questions for us, via email.

What’s the meaning between the album title – My Very Own Real Life Porno?

Well, a core concept of all the songs together is the idea that things are overblown/sensationalized online & in media than the reality of things, like love, sex, daily life, lots of things. And even as a habitual user of things like Facebook & Tinder I was always weirded out by how commodified very basic human instincts are with all the technology. So the title satirizes all of those things.

What really allowed me to call anything “My Very Own Real Life Porno” is my love for grandiosity, hyperbole, satire, and my predisposition to not take anything seriously. 

There’s a very improvisational feel to this album? How formed are your songs before your record them?

A lot of the music is based off of jam sessions that we had, and we would take specific things we did and liked and grew them. That’s how Viri, MRSA, and NO COPS came to be. After that normally I’d take it home with me and just write on the spot, improvise on the stuff we came up with and progress it. It’s all done on an iPad, so they’re kind of formed as they’re recorded.

What influences/genre stylings that aren’t on this record do you hope to incorporate in the future?

Definitely wanna start experimenting with ambient bits here and there. More formless stuff like that in between structured bits. We’ve also talked a lot about writing the next album in a way that’s seamless for the most part, where it’s all one consistent piece of music you can break up into tracks or vignettes. Also really want to genre hop even more, experiment with folk and post-punk sounds. Oh, and different (and better) methods of recording as opposed to just an iPad.

How are you able to agree on all these sounds together?

What To Do is an extremely collaborative project and it wouldn’t work at all if it weren’t like that. We’re all pretty much on the same page with how versatile and experimental we wanna get with this project, with our main interests being based in jazz & funk.

How did the vocal harmonies develop?
I kinda learned how to write vocal harmonies as I went on with this album. I learned some music theory awhile ago which helped me out with the basics, after that it was just feeling it out and seeing what sounded the best. It’s something I still wanna get better at. The ones in “Private Property / Private Parts” were really collaborative with Sam though, which was a great time.

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