Planned Bastard breaks loose, shares debut single “Who Am I?”
You are watching a grainy video taken in someone’s backyard. Featuring: a semi-circle of onlookers clad in jean shorts bobbing back and forth to a frenetic one-man band. Flanking the musician: a bottle of vodka resting in the grass. A kick drum donned with a tambourine like a shimmering crown, and a sweater stuffed inside the shell of the drum. Two amps, one for a guitar and the other for vocals, sit sturdy atop a piece of plywood. The sensibility is DIY, right down to the signature milk-crate for miscellaneous cords.
In the video an almost unrecognizable Gus Rendell, freshly shaven and clean cut, blasts through a cover of DEVO’s “Whip It”, crunched into such a low-fidelity, high-speed arrangement that it sounded like something else entirely.
It was just a 15-second video, but Rendell’s frenzied creative energy was on full display. The serial bandmate who is always juggling multiple music groups and wielding different instruments, Rendell spent years accumulating an intimate clutch of original songs, with no definitive plan for release.
With collaboration put on an indefinite hiatus, the inordinate amount of time became an opportunity to incubate his solo ideas and finally record them. Rendell worked entirely alone on the arrangements, the instruments, the artwork, and the mixing. What, or rather who emerged, was Planned Bastard.
“It’s not always an easy thing when you’re an artist of any stripe, to let your own decisions really have their own merit.”
Planned Bastard developed as an exercise in numerous senses of the word. A rigorous interrogation of self, Rendell dug into years of disjointed ideas and half-finished works. “I feel like it’s not always a positive experience,” admits Rendell “There’s a fair amount [lyrically] that if you said it out loud to a person it would be embarrassing.” With much of the work created under the intense pressure of numerous depressive spirals, Planned Bastard became an exorcism of sorts, and an opportunity for Rendell to confront his past selves and unearth a few diamonds in the process.
“It’s really cathartic to go through these emotions, it takes on a different context.”
Without the soundboard of other bandmates, Rendell found a fluidity in the song-writing process. “When you’re hearing a song and you can kinda predict what comes next—there’s something to that,” says Rendell, “maybe that’s dummy-writing but I love dummy-writing. There’s a lot of beautiful dumb songs out there.” Relying on simplistic progressions and more traditional song structures, Planned Bastard borrows pop sensibilities and filters them through a lo-fi homerecorded garbage can.
This sense of visceral catharsis pulsates through “Who Am I?”, the gritty clunk-rock single that pits Rendell against himself, the Bastard. An exercise in instinctual songwriting, the Bastard takes over, blotting out Rendell’s face and name and replacing it with a hasty scrawl. “It’s a bit of a self-destructive thing,” says Rendell, “to desire a drastic change just to rattle your own cage. You have to calm the lizard brain down and give it a moment to breathe.” There are very few moments of calm in the breakneck single, “Who Am I?”, which serves as a manic interrogation of the disassociated self, equals parts acceptance and revulsion. Two chords and two personalities.
“If it feels good then it’s going in.”
It’s only appropriate for someone wearing so many hats to end up donning an entirely new one. But Planned Bastard isn’t exactly an alter-ego per se, rather an elaborate trust exercise for a musician who has always surrounded themselves with others willing to sit under the spotlight. “It feels like therapy to get it out,” says Rendell, “the energy of the music is no longer about laboring over the emotions, you’re exercising them.”
That interpretation, however is left to the audience. For those able to discern the words underneath stomping kick drums and spikes of feedback, Rendell is reassuring.
“I don’t dislike myself as much as much as it seems like” laughs Rendell.
Stream and purchase Planned Bastard’s debut release, “Who Am I?”, on Bandcamp.