Post-punk Imperial China showcases experimental side

Tim Bracken, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Imperial China is one of the most experimental post-punk bands you’re likely to hear in the District.

Band members draw influence from the likes of Fugazi, but multi-instrumentalist Brian Porter’s knack for creating strange sounds via samplers and keyboards adds a new dimension to the D.C. hardcore sound.

Porter says bands, such as Black Dice, Gang Gang Dance and Animal Collective, influence the electronic side of the band.

The trio formed in 2007, when drummer Patrick Gough responded to a Craigslist ad, posted by Brian Porter and Matt Johnson. The three knew that they had some musical chemistry right away.

“We actually wrote a song [during] the first practice pretty much,” Porter says.

Imperial China’s first full-length album, Phosphenes, was released in 2010 by local record label Sockets.

Sean Peoples runs the record label, which has a healthy roster of mostly of D.C. bands.

“We liked that [People] had a real community-oriented sort of focus… It’s definitely got a D.C.-based objective,” Porter says of meeting with Peoples for the first time.

Another plus for Imperial China: Sockets Records doesn’t deal with just punk bands either.

“He just puts out music that is experimental,” Porter says.

The latest offering from Imperial China, How We Connect, finds the band expanding its sonic parameters to include even more weird loops, more driving rhythms and effects-laden guitar soundscapes.

Porter says that the album often showcases drummer Patrick Gough because the band decided to pay close attention to each song’s arrangement and to take a “simpler approach to percussion.” The result is an impressive range of dynamics throughout the album.

“We really tried to write really linear songs that all had a consistent theme,” Porter says.

“When you take a simpler approach on some parts, it makes the parts that are crazier — that have a lot more going on — it makes them sound that much more dynamic.”

The band has booked its own club dates over the past few years. Each member has a day job, so it really is a labor of love for all involved.

Imperial China does short tours, with help from other bands in the cities where the band wants to play a gig.

“It really helps having friends who are in other bands,” Porter says.

Imperial China performs Saturday, May 12 at the Rock & Roll Hotel at 1353 H St., NE, along with local bands Black Clouds. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the 9 p.m. show.

Who should come to the show?

“If you like big, loud music, this is definitely in your wheelhouse,” Porter says.

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