Pablo Picasso practices in the least inviting building in Brooklyn. From the outside, it looks like the kind of windowless old factory where puppies go missing and children’s bicycles are melted to make switchblades and brass knuckles. On the inside, it’s spectacular. The interior walls are covered from floor to 40-foot ceiling in massive abstract paintings, and most of the spare room is taken up by towering, totem-like sculptures, tortured-looking pewter figurines and sawhorse tables strewn with all matter of brushes, trowels, pencils and other assorted tools of the artist who owns this place. An enormous misshapen disco ball hangs from the ceiling. When the band—drummer Oto Gillen, guitarist Eugene Wasserman, bassist Keegan Monaghan and singer Darius Greyson—plays here it feels like perdition’s drawing room. It has an air of infernal bargain, as if just by being here, you’ve made some unwilling pact with young hellions.
They so casually set upon their instruments that when the first notes are struck, their tattered amps seem to lurch in shock. Wasserman and Monaghan pluck jagged, woozy earthquakes while Gillen pounds out a motorik beat, his face tensing into a frozen grimace within the first measure. In the middle of this, Greyson stands sheephishly gripping the mic stand waiting to sing. And when he does, he becomes someone other than the slight kid with adult braces and high-waisted pants. His guttural, anguished voice is so incongruous with his appearance and general demeanor that it’s almost hard to believe when you see it. “Darius’ voice, that’s the main thing that makes it sound not—most guys sing like girls,” says Wasserman. “A friend says we sound like a sophisticated Danzig,” adds Gillen. “Performing is so far out of the daily routine, like I can be really fucking loud and make you listen to me. I can’t go on the subway and do that.”
When the four of them sit down to talk about how they got here, it gets less ominous, but no less bewildering. Wasserman, Monaghan and Gillen answer questions over each other in a tight weave, so that one’s theory of negative space overlaps another’s dissertation on krautrock overlaps another’s statement about the importance of surprise in rendering art. Meanwhile, the beast who sings of heartbreak and turmoil barely makes a sound.
Pablo Picasso are that rare group who actively choose not to be down. They rarely play shows, their music is hard to find and they don’t know much about their contemporaries. Maybe it’s their art school pedigree that taught them to question everything and seek invention. More likely, it’s that they know they’ve got something extraordinary in Greyson, and if they don’t equal his gravity, it would all be for nothing. “You recognize a certain lack of control,” says Wasserman. “The end result is hopefully something that surprises you, and it’s usually going to be because of failings or inspiration.” Whatever the case, this limbo won’t last forever.