Speed Plans delivers fast, scuzzy hardcore with Statues of God | Pittsburgh City Paper

Speed Plans delivers fast, scuzzy hardcore with Statues of God

click to enlarge Speed Plans delivers fast, scuzzy hardcore with Statues of God
Photo: The Cazart Chronicles
Speed Plans

If you walk away from the new 12-minute Speed Plans record with anything left rattling around in your noggin, it’ll be the ringing in your ears.

Statues of God, released Jan. 27, marks the third official record from the Pittsburgh five-piece, which consists of Matt Maitland (vocals), Matt George (bass), Justin “Twisty” Bennett (guitar), Ralph DiLullo (guitar), and Justin Danylko (drums). Recorded around three years ago, Speed Plans waited until the vinyl release was ready to drop the album digitally.

Statues of God opens with a feedback-laden guitar rip that drops away for a drum barrage that sounds like knocking on the gates of hell. You could call it a hardcore call-and-response, but if you ask the guys in the band, like true-blue Pittsburgh punks, they’ll probably chalk the moment up to just fucking around.

“You just hit the drums hard and loud and fast, cause if you don’t do that, then the band sucks,” says Danylko. “Cause if I didn’t do that — if I didn’t hit the drums hard — we wouldn’t be good.”

The band lineup has changed over the years, but what’s been consistent since their first release, the 2019 More Hardcore, is their output of scuzzy hardcore music that kills in DIY spots around the city. Technically two cassettes — a self-titled demo tape in 2018 and Eeking Out in early 2019 — predate that release, but they’d prefer to keep those early experiments in the past.

“Yeah, we took those down. We don’t talk about those,” says Danylko.

Danylko and Maitland exude a slaphappy attitude, a vibe that you need when your music is for scrappy punk fans to bang shoulders to in the Rock Room on a Thursday night. But where their previous work achieved that amped-up severity, while faltering slightly in totality, Statues of God represents a significant step up in recording and music quality.

Released off the Seattle-based label Iron Lung Records, the album is a tightly mixed epitome of old-school guitar licks and drum beatdowns — the kind of music that Danylko and others have loved for years.

Speed Plans originated from the high school friendships between Danylko, DiLullo, and George, who all hail from Erie, Pa. After moving to Pittsburgh in 2016, Danylko, a longtime hardcore music fan who was active in the Erie punk scene, tapped his then-roommate Maitland to be the singer for Speed Plans.

It was an unlikely fit for Maitland, a kid from Mars, Pa. raised on Jimmy Buffet.

“[Justin] kinda just told me I was the singer rather than asking. He was like. ‘You’re singing for Speed Plans,’ so that started happening,” says Maitland. “Growing up I never really went to many shows. I definitely didn’t come from the hardcore scenes. It was funny to be like, OK, now I have to do something over this music on the mic.”

For Statues of God, the band wanted to capture Maitland’s vocals and the band’s backing to produce a sound that was less hi-fi than their previous albums. With the help of friend-of-the-band Christian Neimeyer (founder of Pittsburgh record label Kill Everyone Records), the band recorded the guitars and drums live and then added Maitland’s vocals.

Recording the instrumentation presented a distinct challenge: maintaining the stamina to perform the album all the way through without stopping, redoing songs when needed. Tracks like “I Can’t Read” may clock in at a lean 29 seconds, but they move at a pace as breakneck as the band’s name suggests.

“You can notice the quality of drumming goes down towards the end because we recorded the album in the order of the track listing,” says Danylko. “So the drumming gets weaker as the record goes on cause I got tired.”

The song’s lyrics are full of rancor and pissed-off spitballs. On “Bald Boss,” Maitland yells, “Pay me nothing / Piss my time away / Don’t know my first fucking name / Stuck in your warehouse 12 hours a day.” Songs like “Freak Flag” tackle undying alienation: “Human science project / I will never feel the same way / I swam in the fountain, made this way and I can’t change.” It’s an apt lyric given the album cover art, which Danylko pulled from a medical book titled Abnormal Psychologies.

Danylko pointed out a loose religious theme across songs such as “Jesus Christ” and “Redemption,” but overall, he and Maitland hesitate to latch meaning onto any of the lyrics. If anything, the songwriting process is utilitarian — they’ll have an idea for a title and slot in words where they work, Maitland says.

“Often we’ll come up with a name for the song and then that dictates what the lyrics will be about thematically, and what words need to flesh it out,” says Maitland. “None of them are that particularly meaningful at the moment.”

Catch Speed Plans in action and it’s easy to see why it doesn’t matter. At the release show for Statues of God, which took place on Jan. 4 at a local DIY venue, a mix of beret-wearing college kids and leather-clad old-timers tossed and tumbled around together. The set was 20 minutes, max. Speed Plans, indeed.