“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”
In early October, that ominous Bible verse first began appearing around Trinity Park on flyers that also pleaded for Durham neighbors to “stop smoking cigarettes and blasting sacrilegious ‘Truth Club’ music.”
The posters received attention on Twitter and Reddit, though the blasphemous local band in question wasn’t behind the gimmick originally. While selling merch at the band’s October 26 set at the Bowery Ballroom, Truth Club drummer Elise Jaffe explained that a friend came up with the idea and sent them videos.
The group was quickly on board and a street team shtick about “devil’s music” does seem to capture the band’s current moment. Truth Club may have a fresh new album—Running from the Chase, released in October on Double Double Whammy—raking in praise and recognition, but they still have the feel of a college band with a grounded sense of humor.
“If Wednesday are like the Superchunk-esque rallying point of the current NC scene,” Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman wrote in a recent glowing review of the album, “then Truth Club are like the more enigmatic and forbidding Polvo, deploying more oblique strategies to similarly arresting ends.”
It’s a comparison that someone was bound to make for a scrappy band born of the Triangle, but one that limits Truth Club to the world of its local predecessors. In truth, though, the sound the band is etching out feels less like a replica of the grunge era and more like a revitalization of the best parts of the old scene and a continuation of its story.
Truth Club began their 2023 tour with Chicago indie act Squirrel Flower in Asheville, staying with the same friends that they did in 2019 when they first began playing as a quartet. At that time, Truth Club was composed of childhood friends—lead singer and guitarist Travis Harrington, Jaffe, and bassist Kameron Vann—and had already begun receiving attention from national music outlets.
Their first album, 2019’s Not an Exit, earned them a spot on Stereogum’s “Best New Bands of 2019” list alongside Black Midi and Faye Webster. At the time the list dropped, though, the band had been on hiatus for about a month and canceled their set at Hopscotch Music Festival that year.
Despite the performance hiatus—and soon after, the pandemic, with its unforgiving effects on local music scenes nationwide—the group began working on what would become Running from the Chase, piecing riffs and lyrics together over time to create an album that gracefully succeeded the first. As the band tells it, the album’s title track was in the works in Harrington’s head from the jump.
“I’d been hearing you play that riff in particular for years,” Jaffe says over a Zoom call, in reference to that song, “just absentmindedly in the middle of practice.”
“We kind of took stock of what was there,” Harrington adds, “and what we needed to do to get a record done, which is kind of the opposite of how Not an Exit worked.”
Running from the Chase is a natural progression from that debut. The band is older—no longer college students performing as friends but musicians trying to carve out their own space in the local scene. The album oscillates between upbeat, guitar-heavy tracks and slow, sadder jams. “Blue Eternal,” a two-minute track that opens with amp feedback and the exclamation “found you again,” feeds into “77x,” with its heavy bassline and Harrington’s croon matching the tempo.
“I feel like when you write your first album you’re more focused on proving to yourself that you can do it than refining a concept or presentation,” Harrington says in an email. “The nine songs on [Not an Exit] barely got us through the door, but we used it as a reference point for how we wanted to approach [Running from the Chase].”
Back in 2019, the group had also brought on bassist and keyboardist Yvonne Chazal, whom Jaffe knew through work with Girls Rock NC, a local nonprofit that helps girls and gender-expansive young people express themselves through music. On- and offstage, the group’s chemistry and trust is evident, with each musician’s strengths shining through.
“I don’t want someone to be like ‘Elise is a good girl drummer,’” says Jaffe. “I would like to just be viewed as someone who is a good drummer and who is making good music with a group of people.”
Their set at Bowery Ballroom served this new era and the ethos Jaffe espouses. Dressed for Halloween as a mummy, a burger, a vampire, and one of the yellow Minions from the Despicable Me franchise, the band’s set reverberated through the famed venue with authenticity—from Harrington’s onstage bashfulness to the seamless movements between Chazal and Vann as they handed off bass duties, to the unspoken moments where Jaffe’s drumming was allowed to take center stage on “It’s Time” and “Is This Working?”
Harrington’s writing offers an honest portrayal of living with bipolar disorder: “I can show up for my own life / But I don’t have to be present,” he sings on “Clover,” midway through the album. The band’s lyricism, paired with the fuzzy guitars and a solid rhythm section, seems to have only improved with time and perspective.
“I don’t think I have any sort of great insight, necessarily,” Harrington reflects. “At least that’s not what I’m thinking when I’m writing. I’m just doing it because it’s a helpful way to process my own lens on the world. It’s a helpful way to process what’s going on in my head.”
Perhaps the song of fools doesn’t sound too bad, after all.
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