The Brooklyn-upstate New York band salamander was born out of spontaneity. In 2019, songwriters and then-SUNY Purchase students PJ Hunter and Leo Frampton joined forces to play a last-minute “experimental pop” show together with flutes, a loop pedal, Casio beats, as salamander’s inagural show. In 2021, drummer Ben Verde was added to the group. And since then, the spirit of playful improvisation and on-the-fly creativity streaks through the trio’s rockish-popish compositions, erring between jam-band and mad scientists in a studio.
It’s present on salamander’s latest release “wave,” which NYLON premieres below and comes off new LP, [container], out tomorrow. A gentle wash of melodic guitar, tambourines, and drums that steadily builds over the course of three-minutes, it climaxes as Hunter begins yelling about the miracle of water — “It’s in the sky! It’s in you! It’s in me!” — a thunderous and timely-feeling tribute. The song itself was born from improvisation: a riff off another song of their’s called “water” that they got tired of playing live.
“God psychically spoke to PJ in band practice and PJ began monologizing about water over looping guitar improvisation, while I started screaming my melody instead of singing it near the end,” Frampton tells NYLON. “We got in the studio with Carlos Hernandez and did a few long live recordings of the instrumental that we edited together. We had our friend Lyris sing and harmonize over my vocals, making them sound considerably better. We want this song to bring peace to our listeners as well as a sense of urgency. Please be happy, but not too happy.”
Below, salamander shares its amusing music video made from spliced live show footage, stock clips, and inside political jokes. Read on to learn more about salamander.
What are you up to right now — describe your surroundings.
BEN VERDE: It’s Thursday morning at 8:57 am. I’m sitting in my kitchen looking out my window at the Verrazzano Bridge in the distance. The sky above me is clear blue, but there’s some haze to the south.
PJ HUNTER: I'm at Ben’s apartment in Brooklyn and Chop has King of the Hill on the TV. It’s the episode where Bobby accidentally makes meth at a science fair. Tomorrow is my birthday and I wanted to go to see Old Table play music but I think I may have to cancel all plans because of a family emergency. I'm feeling stressed. Earlier today, I was with Adam Wheavey (Cropsey Records) mixing some songs I recorded onto tape in my bedroom when I was lonely and dreaming about Love. Then we got pizza in Gravesend. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
LEO FRAMPTON: I'm in my living room, it has no natural light. My roommate, who coincidentally looks a lot like Ben but is not, is on the phone. I can hear cars speeding down the streets of Brooklyn; at the wheel are people with ambitious career prospects, hitting the gas, proving that they are the fastest and meanest “Project Managers” in the USA.
How did you all meet?
VERDE: I saw PJ playing acoustic guitar with some people on the quad during our first week of freshman year at SUNY Purchase and I was like, oh man what a tool. But then later I talked to him and he was cool and we became lifelong friends. I spent most of my freshman year in his converted triple dorm room sitting on an uncomfortable desk chair watching movies on a laptop. Leo and I met when I saw his old band Hah. play their first show at Purchase and I immediately became obsessed with them.
HUNTER: We met at college. We used A.I. to cheat on every test. We got away with it too. It was a successful rite of passage. We didn’t learn anything. Now we’re venture capitalists.
What's your favorite show you've played this year, and why?
FRAMPTON: For me definitely the “ride” single-release show at Sundown Bar. Our friend Matthew Danger Lippman hosted the show as Matthew “Safety” Lippman, a youth pastor and rapper who was trying to make weed illegal. At the end of the show “Weed” (played by Gabby Brown) entered the stage and Matt performed an exorcism by rapping his song “Dont Smoke Weed” at her, causing her to change her stance to only support weed as a skin-care product. Our friends Feces and ThisisLorelei played killer sets to back us up and it was a beautiful night. For more antics like this, please come to our release show on Nov. 11 at The Windjammer!
HUNTER: My favorite show we've played this year was in Kingston, N.Y. We played in an abandoned bar on the corner. The city later prohibited the community from repurposing the space as an arts venue. It seems like no one likes art. It's a travesty. The Insurance Man is Winning. Anyways, we played with this group called GUSHY. It was their third show and they're so cool. They immediately blew out a subwoofer. I was about to quit salamander and follow them around like they're the Grateful Dead.
What's one song that you've been playing on repeat?
VERDE: “David’s Dead” by A. Savage. That whole album actually.
HUNTER: I've been listening to “Chew” by Shep Treasure on repeat. I love it so much. The whole album 500 dead or alive is amazing. The production on it is really warm. I want to get tea with them.
FRAMPTON: Whatever is playing on WFMU! I just got into that station this year and now I plan every day according to what show is on the schedule. Their taste in music and sense of humor is so special, they are antithetical to every bland, algorithmic aspect of our day-to-day lives. Fave shows are Feelings, Clay Pigeons, Seven Second Delay, and Miracle Nutrition.