It’s exceedingly rare to hear something truly original. Something that’s actually breaking new ground, something that maybe we don’t even have words for just yet. Something like MSPAINT. In a time when so much musical territory feels well-trodden, MSPAINT are the exception. On their debut full-length Post-American, the Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based four-piece draw on everything from hardcore, to hip hop, to synth-punk, and beyond to make an unabashedly weird amalgam that sounds as fresh and compelling as it is instantly satisfying.
MSPAINT formed in Hattiesburg’s close-knit DIY music scene and are very much the sum of their parts. Made up of Randy Riley on bass, Nick Panella on synths, Quinn Mackey on drums, and mononymous vocalist Deedee, the pointedly guitarless band pull from each member’s individual tastes to make songs that grab you by the head and don’t let go. “We’re sort of equal parts uncompromising and collaborative,” Deedee explains. “Everyone’s musical aspirations are on each track in different ways. When we started, we knew there was something about it where there was no template, but we really believed in the songs and knew we needed to push it.”
This Hattiesburg scene brought the group together and also fostered their uniqueness. “Everything in the south and in Mississippi moves a little slower,” says Riley. “Sometimes we’re the last to get things. ike certain trends, or funding, or progressive ideas…a lot of time these things get to us later or not at all. But it also makes it so places like Hattiesburg are a little more self-contained and people can do whatever they want. They’re not affected by trends or what’s popular. It makes things very singular and cool.” In 2020, MSPAINT hit the ground running with a self-titled debut EP (first released on Earth Girl Records, and then later re-released on Convulse Records), and soon found themselves becoming one of the pillars of the Hattiesburg punk scene. “There’s always been a music community here but recently a lot more people have been moving here and starting bands,” says Riley. “A lot of our friends are putting in work to make spaces and to get the DIY punk circuit interested in coming there. It’s just becoming an environment where people are getting excited about being in bands and going to shows.” Deedee adds, “It’s definitely a bit of a state of mind. I think there’s just a lot of real artists right now who want to do their thing and that happens to be the mindset of our community.”
But the group was also surprised to find their music was starting to resonate with listeners outside of Hattiesburg as well–and one of those new listeners was Militarie Gun/Regional Justice Center mastermind, Ian Shelton. Shelton was instantly struck by MSPAINT’s extraordinary sound and energy, and soon got in touch about producing the band’s debut full-length alongside engineer Taylor Young (God’s Hate, Drain, Full of Hell). “When I first heard ‘Hardwired’ it felt like I was let in on a secret, like an undiscovered hit,” Shelton says. “I immediately wanted to do everything I could to try and spread the word about them.” After writing together with Shelton in Hattiesburg, the group decamped to The Pit Recording Studio in Los Angeles and began to record what would become Post-American. Shelton adds, “They’re a band of tinkerers, they will sit and re-work a song until you don’t recognize it anymore–I tried to get them to not look past their initial intuitions and just allow some things to be direct.”
Post-American delivers on the promise of MSPAINT’s early recordings while also taking a massive leap forward in every way. The album is 30 minutes of indefinable musical current that’s delivered with such passion and intensity that you can’t help but take notice, even while you’re trying to figure out what it is you’re listening to. Throughout the record, Riley’s hyper-aggressive bass lines collide with Panella’s vibrant synths, all while Mackey’s nimble drumming manages to be pummeling and groove-laden all at once.
The band’s uncommon instrumentals could only be matched by an equally singular vocalist, and Deedee’s distinct style bridges the gap between the bite of hardcore and the hooky cadences of hip hop. It’s a delivery that perfectly compliments the lyrics by conveying razor sharp ideas with a viscerally satisfying attack. “Sometimes with aggressive music I feel like the content can sort of fall flat or be too veiled,” Deedee explains. “It’s like you’re putting your whole chest into this vocal delivery but you’re not saying shit. I just really wanted to bring it all together–to say it like it’s the last breath you have, but for the stuff you’re talking about to sound like you’re gonna live forever.” Throughout Post-American, explorations of the self deftly intersect with a drive to overcome the absurdities and indignities of modern life. This is music that allows for aggression and love and frustration and beauty to all exist on the same plain, for the emotional and the intellectual to feel completely seamless. “I wanted to completely open up on every track, to be as vulnerable as possible, but also to have a hopefulness that comes from diving deep,” Deedee says. “Every song is coming from a place of wanting to critique but also uplift.”
Tracks like the blistering “Acid” or the churning title track evoke apocalyptic imagery, while “Information” or “Hardwired” grapple with technological overload and the need for a more human connection. That connection feels achieved on “Delete It” which features Shelton’s distinctive melodic roar on guest vocals. On “Decapitated Reality” Deedee is joined by Soul Glo vocalist Pierce Jordan for a caustic three minute snapshot of America’s festering anger and negativity, but elsewhere the driving kineticism of “Think It Through” and towering album standout “Titan of Hope” are bursting with a sense of unvarnished hope that comes from striving to be your truest self in face of an increasingly harsh world. “It’s about exploring aspects of yourself that are the most fearful parts, and bringing those things out whenever you can,” Deedee explains. “Those can be the hardest things to talk about but we need to be able to get to that kind of place. To want to be a new person because you choose to be, not because you’re being forced to.”
Post-American ends with “Flowers From Concrete,” a tremendous clash of post-punk atmosphere filtered through noise-rock chaos. As Deedee bellows the final chorus, the track melts into a warped, out of focus respite before abruptly kicking back into its explosive conclusion. It’s a striking bit of calm that accentuates the unbridled energy coursing through so much of MSPAINT’s music, like a fleeting but powerful moment of clarity that you can’t quite put words to. This is music so striking and exciting that it will move you before you even know how to describe it.