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Artist Profile: Ben Potrykus and Andy Sadoway of Bent Shapes

Bent Shapes are, perhaps, the consummate Boston-based band—a self-described “hyperliterate, tightly-wound, and irreverent” quartet, performing jangly garage rock with a healthy dash of critical theory. In advance of the Mar. 11 release of their second album “Wolves of Want” on Slumberland Records, The Harvard Crimson had the chance to sit down with frontman Ben Potrykus and drummer Andy Sadoway.

The Harvard Crimson: What are you most excited for about the new album?

Ben Potrykus: I’m just excited for people to hear it because we finished it almost a year ago. With the way release schedules were going, what Slumberland could do, and the lead time that we needed, it worked out that it wasn’t going to be until the following spring that it would be released.

THC: Have you been performing the new music yet?

Andy Sadoway: We made a little bit of a conscious decision to roll back how much we were playing.… We knew that once the record came out we were going to sell and share it with everybody, so we thought, why don’t we just chill out and work on some other stuff.

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THC: Are there shows you are particularly excited about in your upcoming tour?

BP: I’m most excited about all the bands that I’ve found [to perform with] that I’ve been like, “Oh crap, I had no idea!” … These bands that I never would have heard of if we weren’t touring through a place. Some of them, they were busy, but they might come out to the show or they might trade shows. I think that’s the most fun thing about booking. The fun part is making those connections.

THC: Are you moving in new directions on the upcoming album?

AS: The difference between the last record and this one is that we’re a four-piece band now, which for recording really helped round out the way the song is shaped.… Our first record was kind of a mix-tape of everything we had worked on for the first four years of being a band. And this was stuff that was written over the course of a shorter period of time.

THC: What inspired the new album?

BP: Lyrically, the album is mostly about my anxiety in particular. I have had pretty acute symptoms at points in the past couple years. I finally kind of set out to deal with them with level of self-compassion maybe that I hadn’t had previously. It’s a hard thing to reach out for help.… And I think putting that into songs has been really useful for me.

The other kind of ongoing theme I guess, for me, is my interest in radical politics. Systematic oppression is huge in our culture.… I know that I’m rehashing a lot of ideas that pop up in political theory or even in other art forms or songs, but it’s interesting for me to write about them in a pop song. There’s something funny to me about music or slogans that have been screamed by the Black Block or slogans that were used in the student riots in Paris in the 1960’s over kind a of doo-woppy sounding pop song.

THC: What role do you feel music can play politically?

BP: At times in my life I’ve felt really useless writing about stuff.… Maybe using direct action. You can be an activist or an advocate on behalf of people who are disenfranchised—an ally, I guess. You are always running the risk of speaking for people.… Basically, I think [music] can inspire people and I think even people who are fighting oppression every day in very real ways that involve a certain level of emotional upheaval for them need something to center and ground themselves. And that doesn’t have to be political—it could be like watching reality TV just to blow off steam or like riding your bike with Killer Mike blasting.

THC: What is the significance of the title of the album?

BP: “Wolves of Want” comes from a short piece that was written by Lucy Parsons who was an activist.… She talks about how despite working really hard and working to make a life for yourself you’re never more than a few days ahead of “the wolves of want.” … [This is] the personification of some of the themes of the album, whether it be the need for comfort, or the need for emotional support.

THC: How do you feel about the Boston scene?

AS: Obviously students change, undergrads change.… There is fresh blood all the time.… I think it’s kind of exciting.… We do things on our own terms and we have fun in the process.

—Staff writer Amy J. Cohn can be reached at amy.cohn@thecrimson.com

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