My initial reaction upon seeing (and hearing) the Miami-born, Brooklyn-based Deaf Poets? How can they possibly make this much noise?
But for singer-guitarist Sean Wouters and drummer Nico Espinosa, making noise comes almost too naturally. A tantalizing amalgamation of 70s psychedelia, 80s belligerence, and 90s grunge-chic, the most appealing aspect of Deaf Poets’ sound is that they don’t sound exactly like anyone. They’re a little bit punk with a twist of grungy garage rock and the perfect amount of Zeppelin mystique, but from the first overdriven note of Change & Bloom, the band’s sophomore record, there’s a distinct coolness to their signature wall of sound that belongs solely to the duo.
Childhood friends, Sean and Nico jammed for the first time in Sean’s bedroom when they were only fourteen years old. Fast forward to October 2017, and the two bandmates found themselves in (literally) the same place, locking themselves in Sean’s room to write and record a six song expose of their struggle with self doubt, radical change, and feeling trapped.
Just under a half hour of gritty, glamorous, dirty rock ’n roll. “We wanted to make that shit heavier, faster, longer than our previous work,” the band said upon the release of Change & Bloom. “It’s a real mind trip.”
That would be the understatement of the century. From top to bottom, Change & Bloom delivers a monstrous groove, thanks to Nico’s hard-rocking drumming, while Sean’s vocals and distortion-soaked riffs rise and fall at a breakneck speed. As the anxiety mounts, so does the volume, climaxing at the titular track.
My wasted years, trying to change and bloom
My future’s written and it’s not with you
Sean sings, his vocals bearing a tension reminiscent of Layne Staley as he dives into the pair’s decision to cut ties with everything they loved most and move over twelve hundred miles from their homes and families to start fresh in Brooklyn.
Don’t be fooled, though: this record, as introspective as it may be, is broad in its focus. Their commentary on social injustice, inequality, and the current political scene is barbed and intuitive.
“Monarchs,” the lead track — and one of the first Sean and Nico wrote for the EP — was inspired by the overwhelming dysphoria that swept the country following the 2016 presidential election. Nico landed in New York City on November 9, 2016, and the anger and fear that poisoned the air then is memorialized in “Monarchs,” frantic and almost tangible as they challenge the establishment:
Give me something
Give me something to believe in.
“We are the sons of immigrants, who will not stand for all this hatred and divisiveness this person has created,” they stated. “This track is our way to express how we feel.”
But what’s life but a trip?
they follow up in “Die with the Young,” reminding themselves — and the rest of us — that everything is temporary.
“Fumes” echoes this statement while also expressing the frustration and doubt of a man on the verge of collapse, struck by bad luck and at the bottom of a hole. “The beautiful truth is that, no matter how deep the hole is, there is always a way to get out,” Sean and Nico say. “Even in the eye of adversity and depression, it is important to learn how to let go and find the things that can help you push through.”
For so many of their devoted fans, a record like Change & Bloom is exactly that.
Yes, there’s frustration, anxiety, and indecision woven throughout the record, just as they weave through every life, but more importantly, there’s hope. There’s the reckless, dizzy, exhilarating rush of young love. There’s strength, and there’s faith: in themselves, in the music, and in the world as a whole.
Change & Bloom may have initially meant to tell the story of two rockers moving from Miami to Brooklyn to pursue a dream, but somewhere along the way, it became so much more than that, carrying on the grand tradition of rock records that spur hips — and social constructs— to shake, rattle, and roll.