Profile: TRVSS (2019)

There are shreds of feedback and, waiting, waiting, waiting, also an air of anticipation as members of Pittsburgh trio TRVSS wait for WRCT DJ Sean Cho to peer through the studio glass and give them the thumbs up to start. Then, after a requisite “Alright, go!” TRVSS erupts over the airwaves and, figuratively, of course, blows the roof of the Carnegie Mellon’s Jared L. Cohon University Center. 

“For being as loud as they are, small venues are too much,” says Cho, a CMU alumnus who has caught the ascending noise-rock outfit at Spirit and Preserving Hardcore. “Here, we’re sheltered from the noise and they sound really great.”

For a band that sounds this loud and, yet, this refined, TRVSS – which is set to play a live set alongside Chicago’s Salvation and Pittsburgh punk-metal outfit T-Tops at brillobox Nov. 13 – is fairly new. The group only formed last summer and played its first show in September 2018, opening for Pittsburgh indie-rockers The Gotobeds.

Aside from some of the basics, TRVSS’ members – guitarist and vocalist Daniel Gene, bassist and backing vocalist Jake Pellatiro, and drummer Neal Leventry –  are hesitant to provide details about themselves. They don’t cite any other bands as influences. They work day jobs but don’t want to reference them. And they surely don’t talk about other bands in which they’ve played, other than to say they’ve been doing it for a while. After all, TRVSS – pronounced “truss,” not “Travis” – is its own thing.

“We don’t need to flex our library or show our bones,” says Leventry, of Crafton. “That’s not what we’re about.”

“We obviously don’t want to sound like other bands,” adds Pellatiro, who lives in New Kensington. “It’s okay to have influences but it’s not cool to imitate. [For us] it’s more, like, ‘This part should be quieter, this part should be louder.’”

Many parts are, um, quite loud. The trio self-released its debut, Absence, earlier this fall and it remains one of the year’s overlooked gems – and definitely is in the running for the best rock record released this year in Pittsburgh. It was recorded, largely live with minimal overdubs during one winter weekend, by Matt Schor at The Worm.

In the basement studio at CMU, where colorful curtains cover drab white walls, the songs from the record weren’t just faithful reproductions, they were propulsive acts, even bordering on violent. (Set opener “Convergence, 1946,” which also opens the LP, was particularly visceral.) 

At WRCT, the band cranked down the live presence for which it is becoming known – Cho says, at Spirit, Gene perfected his “on-stage freak-out” – but the material still made unprotected eardrums throb. In a room that smelled, at the end, at least, of sweat and old pizza, the music on display was not stale.

Gene, who plays an aluminum-body guitar that calls to mind noise-rock guitarists like Steve Albini, says his biggest influence when writing many of his wiry contortions for TRVSS is not a band but the film The Shining, especially its use of space. It makes sense for the band; wouldn’t you describe both as unnerving, densely textured and teetering on the precipice of an uncontrolled madness?

“Because we come from different musical perspectives, [our influences] are more about tonal vibes than a band,” says Gene, of Upper Lawrenceville. “I feel like we all pull from different things. I think that’s what makes us interesting – I think we complement each other well.”

If I could hear myself think right now, I’d wholly agree. – Justin Vellucci, Pittsburgh Current, Nov. 12, 2019

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