Cuzco creates dreamy math rock with ‘A Medicine for Melancholy’

By Melissa Wylie

April 4, 2017

The intricate instrumentals of Cuzco’s A Medicine for Melancholy are keeping math rock alive in Charlotte, as the band deftly merges the technicalities of the genre with their emo roots.

A Medicine for Melancholy, the five-song album released in December, is a mesmerizing display of musicianship. The album opens with the sleepy intro to “You Said Number 11” before gradually building to the upbeat and ever-changing time signatures that remain throughout. Guitarist William Schoonmaker say’s Cuzco’s songs rarely follow a pattern, but the members never fall out of sync.

Photo: Jake Roberts

The tracks are void of vocals, save for a few group chants in “Those Are Z’s” and “We Miss You, Clever Girl.” Schoonmaker said the band plans to remain instrumental as an ode to the math rock genre. “The amount of love and compassion we have for the genre is just enough to be heard through the music without vocals, so in the end we probably won’t ever have them,” he said.

Cuzco was born out of shared passion for math rock and short-lived emo bands of the early 2000s, including Clever Girl, This Town Needs Guns and American Football. “Considering these bands named really only put out a single record before splitting ways, we’ve thought to bring them all together into one,” Schoonmaker said. Schoonmaker and drummer Dylan Robbins became friends in 2013, and began playing with guitarist Arman Serdarevic. Bassist Matt McConomy joined them in 2015 followed by saxophonist Kevin Washburn to complete the lineup.

Photo: Zach NeSmith

Their collective background is eclectic, to say the least. Schoonmaker has previously played with Charlotte band The Business People, which he called a “spacey, pop rock group.” Robbins’ background is in hardcore and metal bands, while Serdarevic has attachments to jazz. McConomy has been involved in several indie pop groups, including The Local Traumatic, The Foxies and Good Bones, and Washburn often plays with Latin musician collective Quisol.

Although Cuzco has a lighter sound, Clever Girl’s intense instrumentals are among “A Medicine for Melancholy’s” most obvious influences, even without the indication from the track titled “We Miss You, Clever Girl.” Cuzco creates an atmospheric ambiance, but the complexity of the melodies and Robbins’ impressive percussion pivots keep the listener grounded and present.

Photo: Brian Twitty

The band plans to continue playing in Charlotte and other nearby cities, with upcoming shows in Charleston, Chapel Hill and Boone. Schoonmaker said they’ll be embarking on a mid-northern U.S. tour, making stops in Chicago and New York later this year. A collaboration with Charlotte indie rock act Knowne Ghost is expected this summer, and a full-length Cuzco album is in the works for 2018. You can catch Cuzco next at Snug Harbor on April 21.

Listen to the new album A Medicine for Melancholy by Cuzco

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