Hear First: GUPPY’s In Heat

The premiere of the LA quartet’s debut album, plus an essay about it from Greg Katz of Cheekface.

Hear First is Talkhouse’s series of album premieres. Along with streams of upcoming albums — today’s is GUPPY’s In Heat — we publish statements from artists and their peers about the mindsets and impressions that go into, or come out of reflection on, a record. Here, Greg Katz (Cheekface) shares some words on the humor and emotion of the LA quartet’s debut album, which you can also listen to right here.
—Annie Fell, Talkhouse Senior Editor

I like songs that balance humor and emotional honesty. I like Willie Nelson. I like The Modern Lovers. I like The Dead Milkmen. And I like GUPPY’s new eight track album In Heat, which comes out today. I like it a lot.

Across In Heat, vocalist/guitarist Julia Lebow takes an irreverent look at a bunch of things, ranging from a high trip to 7-Eleven to taking time off for self-care. But they also look searchingly at gender fluidity, at trying to be tough when it doesn’t come naturally (“Please don’t pet me, I am working!” Lebow implores on “Sentimental”) and at the pretenses of social justice dilettantes: “Oh, you think about your feelings and you sometimes even cry?/Well that’s called being human and it’s not hard if you try!”

The LA quartet’s hip-shaking grooves pull in many early punk sounds — you hear Buzzcocks, Ramones, X-Ray Spex, The Cramps. But there are a bunch of non-rock influences too: with all four band members (Lebow on lead vocals and guitar, Michael Keehan on guitar, Gabi Cohen on drums, and Marc Babcock on the bass) often joining together with nakedly silly “la la las” and “oo-oo-ooohs,” you detect bits of early Saturday Night Live’s musical comedy, forgotten radio and TV commercial jingles, and midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

But if there’s one takeaway from a first listen to GUPPY, it’s surely Lebow’s charisma-oozing vocals. There’s something to their loose lyrics, especially the spoken ones, that sounds improvised (you will definitely laugh when they blurt out, “You best watch out, you little bitch!” in “Blonde Mustache”) — and yet Lebow’s voice is so animated, and the emotion of the lyrics so vivid, that it’s clear a lot of consideration went into even the album’s lightest moments.

For a long-player that’s funny throughout, it’s also a record that lingers on growing pains and insecurity, trying to navigate a society that’s often unwelcoming to sensitive people. Record-closer “I Sucked All The Air of the Room (and Now I’ll Float Away)” strikes the balance, ending with Lebow repeatedly pondering, “My laugh — is it really that bad?” Hopefully GUPPY don’t think your laugh is that bad, because you’ll laugh a lot at this true and witty album. Either way, though, I’m pretty sure GUPPY are laughing with you.

— Greg Katz

(Photo Credit: left, Yasmina Hilal)

GUPPY is an LA-based sound recognizable for its driving rhythms, catchy melodies, and playful lyrics sure to leave you thinking “GUPPY IS MY FRIEND.” The four-piece rock band captures the essence of versatility from their first basement show in Boston, MA to some of the most popular punk rock venues in Los Angeles.

(Photo Credit: Yasmina Hilal)