Double Barrel Benefit 17

Friday, Feb. 7 & Saturday, Feb. 8, 8:30 p.m., $13–$22

Kings, Raleigh

From the outside, 2019 looked like a great year for Truth Club

The Raleigh indie-rock quartet released its debut record, Not an Exit, on Tiny Engines in May, and then completed a 25-date national tour. In October, Stereogum named it one of the best new bands of the year, alongside the likes of 100 gecs and DaBaby, dubbing Truth Club “the wistful, nervy relatives of indie rock’s past and present.”

But at the time of that signal boost, the band had been on hiatus for more than a month, since its last-minute Hopscotch Music Festival cancellation. And by November, Tiny Engines would be embroiled in controversy when another signee, Adult Mom, accused it of late payments and other contract violations

It seemed that the album’s title track had been prophetic when Harrington sang, “I can work for so long on a dissolve, but there is not an exit.”

The story behind the hiatus is a familiar one for young touring bands: Singer Travis Harrington was burned out. But after a period of recuperation, Truth Club is returning this weekend at WKNC’s 17th-annual Double Barrel Benefit at Kings. It’s the band’s first show since August, and they’re ready to pick up their momentum where they left off.  

“Travis is not feeling well and decided it would be best for him to take some time to recover,” said the Facebook post announcing the band’s withdrawal from Hopscotch. Then Harrington, with guitarist Yvonne Chazal, drummer Elise Jaffe, and bassist Kameron Vann, took the rest of the year off. It seemed that the album’s title track had been prophetic when Harrington sang, “I can work for so long on a dissolve, but there is not an exit.”

Harrington says he has bipolar disorder, and touring had taken a toll on his mental health. Going back to school and playing a music festival proved to be too much. 

“I pretty selfishly mandated that we take some time off because I was super depressed and burnt out,” Harrington says. “I just needed a break. My mood is just going to fluctuate over time and luckily, right now, it has moved out of a state of depression. I feel some degree of clarity because of that, but also from taking some time away and finding that intuitive desire to play again.”

That inspiration came in part from Raleigh singer-songwriter Max Gowan. Gowan, who performed at last year’s Double Barrel, invited Harrington to play drums in his live band in the fall. Harrington credits drums as his primary instrument, yet he never had the opportunity to play them in a band. Backing Gowan, he rediscovered his initial attraction to music in a low-pressure environment.

Truth Club will headline night two of Double Barrel. (Raleigh rapper Pat Junior caps night one.) Three of the four members attended N.C. State, the school to which WKNC belongs. Chazal is an alumnus of the radio station’s board and was program director from 2015–2016.

“[Playing Double Barrel] is something I never thought would happen,” she says. “It’s really exciting because back in the day I put so many hours into it. It was such a big accomplishment to the team at WKNC, so it’s really cool to be on the other end.”

As well it should: Many Double Barrel headliners were or went on to become staples of the Triangle scene. The Mountain Goats, Future Islands, Bowerbirds, American Aquarium, Des Ark, and The Love Language have all headlined in the past.

Truth Club’s origins aren’t shrouded in press-release mythology; it’s clear that they’re good friends making music for its own sake. The members are post-grads teetering on the line between millennial and zoomer, but their ethos is more aligned with the indie-rock bands of their birth decade. 

The band’s energetic, overdriven sound evokes Sonic Youth, Pavement, or even Nirvana. But more important, they’re tight, dynamic, and relatable—everything you could want in a college-rock group.

Harrington’s introspective lyrics take on post-adolescence nuances like returning home from student housing. Jaffe’s distinctive drumming draws as much influence from her marching band and classical music background as it does from indie rock. Combined with Vann’s steady bass lines and Chazal’s atmospheric leads, you’ve got one of the most captivating guitar-based bands coming out of Raleigh.

Harrington and Vann have been playing together since middle school. In high school in Wilmington, they had a band called Astro Cowboy. After high school, they parted ways as Vann set off for Appalachian State and Harrington went to N.C. State. But they kept in touch, and Harrington quickly established himself his school’s D.I.Y. scene.

“I knew who Travis was prior to when he came to State,” Jaffe says. “His old band would play in Raleigh and we’d go to shows together.”

Harrington and Jaffe started practicing and writing songs in the fall of 2016. They soon began looking for other members, and the band officially formed in early 2017. Their first show was at a house venue nestled in the Fairmont neighborhood behind Hillsborough Street. Their second was at Duke Coffeehouse, where they opened for Palm and LVL UP. By that summer, they were already on their first East Coast tour.

They’re planning to record and tour another album, with or without a label. They only had a one-album deal with Tiny Engines, and they already do their own booking. They’re ready to pick up their momentum where they left off, but perhaps with new wisdom to see it through.

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