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Local Music Spotlight: Bad Motivator’s new EP ‘Protocool’ is pretty cool

UPDATED: Thu., July 15, 2021

Spokane garage rock band Bad Motivator’s new EP is titled “Protocool.”  (Alicia Hauff)
Spokane garage rock band Bad Motivator’s new EP is titled “Protocool.” (Alicia Hauff)
By Julien A. Luebbers For The Spokesman-Review

Local garage-rock group Bad Motivator return this week with their new EP, “Protocool,” out now on all platforms. They take the fast-paced, driven rock of their debut album, “Pleasure Island,” and expand on the guitar and sound with a newfound energy. Their lyrics, too, are back with more of the cynicism and sarcasm fans have come to expect.

The EP’s title, “Protocool,” can be read two ways. As lead singer and frontman Ian Nelson put it, the title emphasizes that “there tends to be a protocol to being cool. And that itself is fairly wack.” But you could just as easily read it as proto-cool: earliest cool, original cool.

Either way, “Protocool” is a pretty cool EP. Its four tracks take the band’s established hard-edged rock sound and add some of their most vivacious, enthralling guitar lines to date. This is in part because of the addition of Scottie Feider, who joined the group right after the recording of “Pleasure Island.”

Veteran musician Garrett Zanol on drums and the talented Joey Ozol on bass round out the lineup. They’re a group of all-star musicians capable of anything from irresistible live sets to this, a wicked four-track EP.

The record opens on eerie, space-y ambient sounds and quickly locks into the snappy bassline of “Sad Boy.” Soon the group is playing in full, and Nelson’s voice rips through: “Sad boy / where am I? / I haven’t seen myself for weeks.” It is at this point that the head banging (or, if you’re seated at your desk, emphatic head bopping) begins.

Those opening lyrics are angry, confused, dissociated. They bring out “Protocool’s” lyrical center: “Our sarcastic cynical kind of nod at depression. And every song ties into that and different ways people cope with it,” Nelson said. “That might not come across because the music’s so upbeat and fast.”

Upbeat, fast and textured. Bad Motivator have chosen not to edit and over-refine their sound because they can let the loose, rolling tempo of the music take control. In a move essential to the genre of garage rock, they show that they’re more uncut gem than polished stone.

“We kind of have this like ‘Who cares? Let’s just play it!’ mindset,” Nelson went on. “The band is not trying to do some whole rock star thing but just have fun.” And on the track, it certainly sounds like they’re having a good time.

“I kind of tried to keep it a little loose. So, it’s got a certain sloppy quality, a certain amount of dirt to it. But obviously we’re writing good songs, as well. And we make them palatable to people.” It’s a tough line to walk, between loose and abrasive, but Bad Motivator finds it. “Protocool” can play on repeat all day if I can find the energy to keep up with it.

Bad Motivator is at its best with title track “Protocool,” a song whose skittish tempo changes, dynamic structures and virtuosic playing intersect for a more active experience than mere passive listening. “It was probably the most collaborative writing process we had,” Nelson said of the track. “And it’s kind of all over the place.

“One of my favorite things is experiencing writing music with friends and seeing everyone’s different perspectives.” And in the case of “Protocool,” Nelson lets them all play off one another until they become something completely new.

The collaborative patchwork of sound comes together into a coherent piece and represents much of what the EP has to offer. Its characteristic “raw, fast, tight-loose” sound is exactly what separates Bad Motivator from the rest.

“I’m trying to get back in the mindset” for playing the EP “because – this is it sounds cheesy – but I’m a totally different person than I was back then.” Nelson said. The EP was finished before the pandemic started, but like many groups, Bad Motivator decided to push the release.

Bad Motivator have secured a coveted spot at this year’s Treefort Music Festival in Boise, where they’ll be joined by four other Spokane bands.

But until Treefort, stream their new EP “Protocool” on all platforms as of Friday.

Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at julien.luebbers@gmail.com.

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