Pterodactyl might not be well-known in Pittsburgh -- or anywhere else, really -- but the band's label, Brah Records, certainly carries local cred here. An imprint run by the band Oneida, for the past several years Brah has been home to Pittsburgh underground elites Dirty Faces. And that's no passing association.
"Brah is about the people first, but they're all people who are making really good music," says Pterodactyl's guitarist Joe Kremer. "In a sense that's all Brah is, is a community, not so much a record label," says drummer Matt Marlin. "Brah does this wonderful thing of choosing a few records a year that they don't think would be put out otherwise that they would love to see released."
One of those records was Pterodactyl's debut full-length, which came out earlier this year through Brah and Cardboard Records. On it, the band fuses clear, melodic vocals -- sometimes in three-part harmony -- to repetitive punky riffs and drum-god splatter. The tension between those elements energizes the songs, whether that's the fugue-like "Esses" or the high-speed chase of "Polio," where Marlin hits an almost Quattrone-like polyrhythmic hurricane beneath relatively subdued vocals.
"There's a lack of pretty singing in music that has this kind of energy, and trying to match those two things together is a priority for us," says Kremer.
But although it's the band's first album, the group actually landed in Brooklyn in 2002, and was assembled some years before that, in Oberlin, Ohio. "We lived in a house where we had a lot of shows in the basement ... that ended up being people like Oneida and people like Avey Tare and Panda Bear at that time," says Kremer.
Another reason the debut is only coming out now is that, initially, the focus was more on performing live. "Before we had a lot of stuff recorded ... people were just reviewing us going by the live show," says Marlin. "We had a lot of comparisons in our early years to Lightning Bolt, which we've never understood ourselves, except if you just think Lightning Bolt is a sweaty band -- it makes people sweat."
And there's still a disconnect between the band's recordings and its live show. "No matter what song it is, the live shows have this punk energy," says Kremer, "because that's the only way we know how to play shows. But when we have a chance to settle down with the microphone in front of us, the stuff can be a little more subdued."
But which side of the Pterodactyl coin is better? Just don't ask the band. As Kremer admits, "We have a pretty distorted view of what the stuff we're doing is good for." Well, he's right about the distortion.
Pterodactyl with Aydin, Death Set and Ponytail. 8 p.m. Tue., July 17. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com