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April 18, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Special Explosion ready to go off | Concert preview

Special Explosion

Special Explosion plays a record-release show Friday at The Vera Project. Photo by Tommy Calderon.

For local DIY showgoers, indie rockers Special Explosion have become such a staple since emerging in 2010 it’s easy to forget half the members still can’t legally drink.

Regardless, the young Eastsiders deserve a toast. They just returned from their first U.S. tour — supporting their first widely available vinyl EP, “The Art of Mothering” — and this Friday at The Vera Project, they’ll take a victory lap.

In meeting three-fourths of the band at a Capitol Hill diner on a recent weekend evening, their camaraderie is evident from the moment they sit down.

Bassist Lizzy Costello, 21, and her brother, guitarist Andy, 19, share vocal duties and have an endearing habit of finishing each other’s sentences. Joined by guitarist Sébastien Deramat, also 19 — drummer Jacob Whinihan, 21, was out of town — they rhapsodize about obscure 1990s bands over sandwiches and tater tots.

They themselves may have been tots when Sunny Day Real Estate, Codeine and Unwound existed, but their music comes from a similar place — one where tone and tightness are paramount, that wears its heart on its sleeve while also rocking really hard.

The foursome’s story begins at School of Rock Seattle, a Montessori-style music academy in Lake City.

“Every three months,” Andy explains, “we were put into groups to work on covers, then play at real venues.”

“It was really flexible,” says Lizzy. “The kids got to make a lot of the decisions.”

Having caught the bug, but wanting to write originals, the Costellos looked to Ben Barnett — school music director, and Kind of Like Spitting singer-songwriter — for advice. He introduced them to Deramat — also enrolled there — and Special Explosion was born.

Their first demo, 2011’s punkish “A Smaller Me,” wowed all-ages audiences, EMP Sound Off! judges — they were finalists in 2012 — and even popular art-rockers Deerhoof, who invited the then-fledgling band to open a gig at Neumos after seeing a YouTube video of them covering their song “Fresh Born.”

Last year, they slowed and refined their sound for a seven-inch single made over five months at Ground Zero Teen Center, their Bellevue haunt.

That record’s title — “Past/Future” — would’ve been equally appropriate for the new “The Art of Mothering,” seven more tracks that seek to reconcile where Special Explosion has been with where it might be going.

Recorded in just two days by Steve Fisk (Beat Happening, Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney), the 25-minute set is scrappy yet streamlined, exuberant string-bending (“Clotheslined”) alongside deliberate arpeggios (“If Only,” below) and elegant harmonies (“Hide,” the title track).

On record — and at dinner — the members’ ability to listen carefully to each other belies their age; the siblings’ connection, in particular, seems borderline telepathic.

Deramat nods in agreement. “It’s pretty scary sometimes!”

“Well,” says Andy, “we know each other better than anybody…”

“…and we have similar tendencies,” adds Lizzy, “so it’s easy to write together. Most of the time, we’re thinking the same thing.”

“We’re all still learning,” Andy concludes, “but we’re getting closer. We’re trying to get… to that Beatles point, writing the best possible songs for [our] sound… our range.

“That’s our goal.”

7:30 p.m. Friday at The Vera Project, 305 Warren Ave. N., Seattle; $10 (206-956-8372 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: School of Rock, Sound Off!, The Vera Project


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