Photo: Lauren Desberg (@laurentakespix)
Lauren Denitzio of Worriers
The pandemic threw a lot of working musicians out of whack. Unable to play in front of audiences or even get together with bandmates, many resorted to awkwardly charming (or charmingly awkward) solutions like balcony solo shows or Zoom harmonizing sessions. But, ultimately, the isolation made it tough to exercise those creative muscles.
Lauren Denitzio, who fronts the Brooklyn-based indie guitar-rock band Worriers (and goes by they/them pronouns), was more fortunate than most, as they also worked on commission as a visual artist. They drew and painted and dyed and played, but they also wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
This creative outpouring resulted in two albums being released in the last five months — Warm Blanket
and Trust Your Gut
, the band’s first since You or Someone You Know
from early 2020. Audiences will get to hear these new works performed live when, on Sat., Oct. 7, Worriers headlines a show at the New Kensington-based venue Preserving Underground
Denitzio says the albums came out of the opportunity "to focus on songwriting a little bit more" during the pandemic.
, the project that came out in spring, was very much written on my own — I played all the instruments, I recorded and mixed it myself, and it was really just a fun project for me as a songwriter to work on things that weren’t necessarily full-band Worriers music," they add.
Denitzio describes Warm Blanket
as "more obviously connected with the songwriters that I enjoy and admire like The National, Sharon Van Etten, Florence and the Machine, Magnetic Fields, much more in the indie and maybe less-guitar-driven zone” familiar to Worriers fans.
Trust Your Gut
, though, plunges right back into the rock zone, and the recording lineup included Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whom Denitzio met when living in a feminist collective in Brooklyn. While writing, they laugh, “I was kind of joking around saying, ‘I’m trying to write piano parts like Franz!’ He heard and said, ‘Hey, just send me the demos!’ I love how he brings piano and organ and synths and keys to songs in ways that come so naturally to him.”
Nicolay, along with longtime Denitzio collaborators Atom Willard (of The Offspring, Social Distortion, and Against Me!), Allegra Anka (of Cayetana), and Frank Piegaro “really brought my vision for the record and for these songs to life in a way that I couldn’t really have anticipated,” Denitzio explains.
“It was definitely the right match for this group of songs. That’s what’s so exciting to me about this album and getting to play these songs live: I was able to reach the sound that you have in your head when you start out. And that’s definitely because of the people I was working with.”
Fans of the Worriers might notice an attenuation of the loud-fast-aggro, punk-adjacent sound of their earlier records. The lyrics, too, dial back a bit on the angst.
“If you just focus on how the world is burning then you’re never going to do anything that brings you joy,” Denitzio remarks, pointing to the Trust Your Gut
track “Anything Else," which contains lyrics like I'm sorry the sprint to the edge of the cliff/Has to ruin all our good time/But I can't stop
. “I can think about doomscrolling all day and all the terrible things that are happening, but can we exist in a space together without talking about that?”
Their visual art, much of which depicts “queer domesticity and domestic spaces,” also helps Denitzio mute the doom-meter. In their music and drawings, they “try to find the balance between recognizing the fact that things feel very apocalyptic a lot of the time, but there are other things that I want to think about and do, like take care of other people and take care of myself.”
Denitzio and the band try to model this ethic of mutual care by creating an inclusive space at Worriers shows, something Denitzio didn’t find in the punk scene while growing up in New Jersey.
“It was difficult to find a place there, and felt limiting and isolating,” they recall. “And as much as Worriers shows can be a space for all sorts of people, members of the queer community, and all sorts of things that I identify with, they’ve also given me that space.”
But as a queer art radical, Denitzio doesn’t shy away from confrontation even when they are trying to build community. The Worriers’ 2015 single “They/Them/Theirs" — praised by Pitchfork
as one of the “catchiest anthem[s] to stick it to the gender binary” — remains a centerpiece of the band’s setlist and has only gotten more urgent in the age of groups such as Moms for Liberty, which, among other agendas, has set out to prevent young people from learning about LGBTQ rights.
“When I ended up writing that song I was curious as to whether anyone would even understand what I was getting at,” they remember. “Then it just took on a life of its own when so many kids knew exactly what I was trying to get at.”
Worriers with Kali Masi and Human Petting Zoo
. 7 p.m. Doors at 6 p.m. Sat., Oct. 7. Preserving Underground. 1101 Fifth Ave., New Kensington. $15. preservingconcerts.com