Will Glass and Zachary Mexico met at boarding school in Massachusetts at the end of the twentieth century. They huddled together in dorm rooms, late at night, drinking from warm forties of St. Ides and handles of illegal Captain Morgan, listening to Motown, “Astral Weeks,” Guided by Voices, Dead Kennedys, and the Grateful Dead.
Time passed and life came calling. Will Glass went to Montreal and played with everyone in town, in the scene centered around Constellation Records and godspeed! you black emperor. Zachary Mexico moved to New York City and started a band, then got sick of the heavy post 9/11 vibes and moved to southwest China to open a bar.
In 2004, they returned to NYC and met up with bass player the Bunny. Over the next few years, they released two albums, “The Octagon” and “Nothing But Change,” played a bunch of shows, went on tour.
Then Mexico went back to China—where he still spends part of the year--to write his first book, “China Underground” (Soft Skull Press, 2009) which would later become a bestseller in Singapore. Glass went on the road as the touring drummer for the Dirty Projectors. The Bunny languished in Williamsburg, spending his days begging for money outside the Bedford Avenue L stop to support his gourmet sandwich habit.
And then in the dark winter days of February 2009, they all got back together and worked on a new batch of songs. Instead of going into a recording studio, the Octagon retreated to their dimly lit practice space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and, under the lo-fi recording expertise of drummer/producer/engineer Will Glass, spent three days laying down thirty tunes to analog cassette tape on two Tascam 4-track recorders.
They mixed the tracks down with Travis Harrison at Serious Business Records in lower Manhattan then sent along the results of the session to a few trusted friends. “We wanted to see if there were certain songs people really felt a connection to,” says Zachary Mexico. “When you’re the people writing the tunes, they are so close to you that it’s hard to tell what other people are going to dig.” With the input of this circle of colleagues, the band chose sixteen songs to make up “Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever.” And the album sounds great: Mexico’s Fender Mustang is warm, Bunny’s bass full, and the superb jazz-inflected drumming of Will Glass sounds clean and crisp.
Mexico sings lead vocals on the tracks he wrote, and Glass on the tracks he wrote. But everyone’s singing at the same time, most of the time. The songs are concise bursts of energy – short and to the point, expressing singular musical and emotional ideas. The tunes are poppy, and the energy punky; the band blends their gift for penning simple, catchy melodies with a tendency towards noise and sonic/structural experimentation – the reinvention of the pop framework to make it something unmistakably their own.
The themes addressed on the record include: the pressures of getting older, the truth of eventually dying, the relationship between humans and nature, the beauty of life, the sadness of poverty and cruelty, the death of family, friends, and other loved ones, the perfection of the world, and that old standby, love.
"Brooklyn trio The Octagon (display) punk tendencies but eschew the layered psych for purposefully lo-fi raw intensity. Unlike certain young lo-fi punker upstarts, the members of The Octagon are accomplished musicians of their own right (drummer Will Glass, for example, has performed with sound sticklers Dirty Projectors), and they never let the limitations of their 4-track cassette recorders hinder their punchy melodies. Most songs punch out at less than three minutes, and there’s enough variety here to ever keep you from feeling bored." KEXP Blog
"Recommended to all who love kinda dark, kinda scuzzy, definitely melodic indie rock." Brooklyn Vegan
"How many of you make use of the iTunes rating stars when you listen to music? You know what I mean, right? The five star icons you can click on, marking how much you like something. Any of you do that? I do, particularly on days when I’m listening to 3-4 different new albums. It is an easy shortcut for remembering how much you liked a record. If you have a handful of 4-star tracks, it was probably good. If there aren’t any, well, it probably isn’t worth going back to, at least not when you have dozens of other options.
Every so often – and it is more rare than I wish it would be – you give an album an initial listen and, after it ends and you look back to see what you thought, you realize you gave stars to more songs than you didn’t. This infrequent and wonderful discovery is exactly the kind I had after hearing the new release from New York’s The Octagon. The other night, when a friend was over and we were talking about new music we’d been digging, I told her about this new Octagon release and then made her listen – swear to god – to seven different tracks from it. Obnoxious, I know, but fortunately for me, the band makes such a tyrannical move actually enjoyable, and when I finally finished, she asked me to play the one with the glancing Nirvana reference (“Hound Adams”) again.
Full of sloppy and casually exuberant post-punk grooves, comparable to The Black Lips but not so psychedelic or contrived, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever is packed with sixteen solid tracks, all but three sub-three minutes and a good half-dozen I’d feel plenty confident placing on a mixtape for a (sadly hypothetical) hip and coy romantic interest. All of the songs are imbued with a garage-style sense of limitlessness, taking me back to when I first listed to pre-Dookie Green Day albums. The sounds is totally different, of course, but that same sense of adventure and loosely constrained melody is the same.
Where the song structures are loose, however, the lyrics are frequently taut. I wouldn’t call The Octagon a literary band, or even a verbose one, but they do a good job of saying what they want to say in a way that is as catchy as it is pithy and to the point (For evidence, consider the following: Exhibit #1 – “Radio Days”; Exhibit #2: – “Clew Haywood”; Exhibits 3-16 – every other track on the record). My guess is, part of that skillful wordsmithing can be credited to band member Zach Mexico, whose written work has received acclaim in other arenas, particularly with the publication of his 2009 book, China Underground, recently reissued in a second printing by celebrated independent publisher Soft Skull Press.
Taken together, the crisp writing and the nonchalant recklessness of the vocals create a credible lo-fi approach that is only enhanced by the trio’s handiness with a melodic hook. The album opener, “Suicide Kings,” provides perfect foreshadowing of what follows, with loose guitar work, thuggish drums, and vocals that swerve back and forth across the time signature. While the stereotypical three-chord delight is in full effect there and on many other tracks throughout Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, other songs take a significantly different approach. “Swindler Minnows” has a fuzzy Brit sound, while “Radio Days” has a deceptively cool 90s radio-friendly ska vibe. The band’s direct influences are more evident on other tracks, with “To The Flame” clearly harkening early 90s Flaming Lips, while “Easton” calls to mind Weezer’s Pinkerton. Most songs, though, bear The Octagon’s distinct style, which reminds me of nothing else, other than perhaps promising underage up-and-comers The Zookeepers. Stand-out tracks like “Cross Tops,” “Suicide Kings,” “Clew Haywood,” and “Hound Adams” dominate this particularly category." Citizen Dick
"At this point the Octagon’s frontman, Zachary Mexico, might be better known for his travel writing—see the charmingly offbeat China Underground—than his music, but hopefully the band’s latest full-length, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, will change that. Raw yet pervasively warm and wise, it’s the kind of record that reminds you just how poignant lo-fi indie rock can sound." Time Out NY
"Put together an expert on Chinese underground culture who wrote a book that made the bestseller list in Singapore, the amazing touring drummer for Dirty Projectors, and a Williamsburg bassist who calls himself the Bunny, and what do you get? Guided by Voices, apparently—or at least a rough approximation of Guided by Voices with some severe punk revival and grunge overtones. While Robert Pollard has been off high-kicking whatever he high-kicks nowadays, a band called the Octagon recorded Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, a marketably, lovably lo-fi record under the tutelage of Bee Thousand (1994). It’s a mystery why more young bands haven’t gone this route in developing their image. After a couple years of “lo-fi” records produced as if the moniker is an excuse to sound purposefully difficult or off—that is to say, with obligatory incongruities in sound (clear vocals and distorted guitars as opposed to a consistent layer of fuzz); fake DIY basically—a consistently produced album inspired by a band every indie kid knows well is a welcome development. This is lo-fi as nostalgic point of entry, not as raison d’etre.
So it is with highest compliments that I describe opening track “Suicide Kings” as like a lost tape from the Alien Lanes (1996) sessions: thin, reedy guitars, abstract lyrics in the second person, surprising vocal flourishes shining through a palpable haze, and an accomplished, seemingly extemporaneous instrumental segment. It’s a monument to precision in dishevelment and the record’s obvious first single. But by the third or fourth track, aggressive guitar attacks and resonant bass lines gain focus; while “Suicide Kings” is underpin by its lithe instrumentation and complex structure, “Cross Tops” and “Swindler Minnows” lean harder into louder, hardcore vocal deliveries and simpler melodies accompanied by thicker backing tracks, reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys more than GBV. One can easily come away thinking that the Pollard-esque opener was a feint.
Or not entirely, looking at the track listing: Warm Love‘s sixteen songs range between 90 seconds and three-and-some minutes while weaker, longer tracks like “Stop Snitchin’” devolve into two-minute ravers with simplicity and sloppiness but without a proper pop backbone holding it all together. Others just mystify; like, what exactly are they going for in “Loulou,” a dirge-like jam on the tonic? If there’s anything glaring over time, besides the obvious artistic influences, it’s the album’s lack of any trenchant melody—but c’mon, Pollard himself has barely been able to top the highlights from the above-mentioned records and he’s had about twenty tracklists’ worth of opportunities.
In the end, Warm Love is saved by a series of tiny surprises: an unexpected chord progression into the bright major chorus of “Hound Adams”; the chanting in “Clew Haywood”; the free jazz buildup to “To the Flame”; the horns in “Buffalo”; the light, jazzy drumming in “Charles Lavender”; and, finally, the tempo change in “Revolution.” Perhaps a change in perspective is warranted. If one considers the Octagon as an art-punk band that flaunts and subverts influences and Warm Love a record that prioritizes atmosphere and ambience, the slow pacing and lack of bubblegum start to make more sense; the “surprises” gain importance. Just because I want to hear another “I Am a Tree” doesn’t mean this is the group to make that happen. And so, despite starting off on a well-worn path, the Octagon manages to make something new and refreshing within familiar constraints. For an act like this at a time like now, that’s not half bad." Coke Machine Glow
"Back in September we flagged The Octagon as a band poised to have a big year. Well, here we go. The New York post-punk trio is embarking on a full tour in support of their new (vinyl and digital only) album Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever which drops Jan 5 via Serious Business Records. All accomplished in some way outside the band, the three members, Will Glass, Zachary Mexico and bassist "The Bunny" come together as The Octagon to expel powerful bursts of melodic, gritty and downright addictive nuggets of analog rock goodness. While you can tell these tracks were recorded to tape and have that blown-out sound, the band does well for themselves to avoid paying homage to the "shitgaze" trend of '09. From what we've heard of the new album, these are merely tight three-minute rock songs of the purest sense. Highly recommended. ." Stark Online
"I'm fully subscribing to the new record by the Octagon, an LP with sixteen crunchy numbers like these, brambled, messy and sincere. I can say words like 'nirvana' and 'constantines'; I can say names like 'Lou Barlow' and 'Eric's Trip'. But I doubt any of these words & names were uttered as Zachary Mexico, Will Glass and a bassist called the Bunny recorded this lacquered disc of furious heart. They were too busy clutching & pitching & caring, caring keenly, sloppily; and playing hooks. When Glass lived in Montreal he was this little treasure, hoarded. Now he's one third of an eight-sided band, a group that's chipped and twinkling, all of them furiously sharing the dusty stuff of their days." Said the Gramophone
"Garage rock sounds best rough around the edges, and The Octagon deliver a short, crunchy gem with “Cross Tops” from their forthcoming album, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever." Eleven Music Mag
"The Octagon - Warm Love And Cool Dreams Forever - This scrappy New York three-piece hearkens back to the heady postpunk days of Dinosaur Jr. Their debut album has been previewed with an EP that's free to download here, and if all of the overproduced pap that you've read about has you craving an ear-washing, this could be just the soap." Heavy
"The Octagon's new album "Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever" was recorded on 2 Tascam 4 track cassette recorders - which will force us to move them from our "indie rock" chart to the "lo-fi" one. But the band's music has always been lo-fi even when it wasn't so on a technical level: their songs are brief bursts of almost disorganized energy somehow tied together by Zachary Mexico's concise pop songs." The Deli Magazine
on Suicide Kings...
"This song is awesome and the sound reminds me of a dirtier, lazier Strokes, when The Strokes were brand new. LoFi in that old school way. Strong melody. Good lyrics. I’m sold. Also, I should add that as a kid, we played a few different variations of schoolyard handball. Weirdly, the names of these two varieties (always involving the school’s brick wall and a neon yellow/green tennis ball) were 'Suicide' and 'Kings.' Coincidence? I think not." One Sweet Song
"The songs are concise bursts of energy – short and to the point -- showing off the band’s gift for penning simple, catchy melodies mixed with sonic and structural experimentation. It’s a cool enough sound to be represented on a boarding school kid’s t-shirt... and catchy enough for another one to make fun of him for." the Devil Has the Best Tuna
"“Like Pavement, Silkworm and Archers of Loaf before them—and Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du before that—The Octagon ride a wave of noisy guitars and washy, clamoring drums into familiar but comforting territory: gritty, grungy, urgent indie rock.” A Record a Day
"`Warm Love And Cool Dreams Forever` seems a rather whimsical, if not idealistic name for an album involving a New York based lo-fi art-punk band, lovely thought though. Despite the fluffy title and cool sentiments, The Octagon have produced an honest, unrestricted release that`s devoid of senseless attitude. Previous press snapshots use the words rough, sloppy and lo-fi swagger to highlight their individual melodic sound. Two or three spins should clear the haze." Mojophenia
"die erste single für "warm love and cool dreams forever" (05.01., serious business records) haut mächtig auf den putz, da kriegst du die letzten asseln hinter den kacheln hervor, klingt dennoch charmant: Suicide Kings" hilarious german -> english auto translation: "the first single for “warmly love and coolly dreams more forever” (05.01. , serious business records) strikes powerfully on the finery, there get you the last woodlice behind tile out, sound nevertheless charming: suicide kings" Das Klienicum
"As a writer, Zachary Mexico chronicles the parallel between Eastern and Western culture in China Underground, a fascinating exploration of Chinese youth published in 2009 by Soft Skull Press. As a musician, Mexico fronts the grunge-punk trio The Octagon, whose brief lo-fi rock numbers are somehow just concise and enchanting enough to land at the unlikely but undeniable end of the pop spectrum. Like Pavement, Silkworm and Archers of Loaf before them—and Dinosaur Jr. and Hüsker Dü before that—The Octagon ride a wave of noisy guitars and clamoring drums into familiar but comforting territory: gritty, grungy, urgent indie rock. Unlike Mexico’s timely literary work, records like The Octagon’s Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever could have just as easily been released 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. No, you won’t find The Octagon breaking new ground at The Basement tonight, but you will find them jamming most fruitfully on fuzzy, nostalgic indie rock. Let’s hope Mexico never has to choose between writing and playing music." Nashville Scene
It's easy to deride Brooklyn bands for being pretentious—not only is it fun, it's often totally called for. But the Octagon are a notable exception to the stereotype, and their recent Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever (Serious Business) displays zero trace of affectation. Though the album was home-recorded on Tascam four-tracks, giving it the kind of lo-fi sound that's currently in vogue, the music itself is simple, direct indie pop a la Eric's Trip, loaded with crunchy overdrive and big, hooky power chords—no highlife guitar licks, atmospheric synths, or other fashionable flourishes. Not all the songs succeed, but the better cuts are good for a couple minutes of pop bliss, which is about the best thing a band like this can hope for. The digital EP Arm Brain Heart & Liver, a teaser to Warm Love, is free at seriousbusinessrecords.com. The Chicago Reader
"It takes a lot of courage for a band who could have all the perks of technology to simply disregard the idea and go the lo-fi route. But that is a big part of the charm to Warm Love And Cool Dreams Forever.
What comes out of a Brooklyn practice space and analog tape on four track is earnestly brilliant. Sloppy only on the surface and with the best intentions, this is an album whose songs are solid through and through.
Don’t let “Suicide Kings” fool you, although soothing in its melody and lyrical coolness that meshes with noisy guitar riffage, it’s songs like “Cross Tops” and “Stop Snitchin’” that make you want to freak out with excitement.
And “Radio Days?” Holy crap, this is every fan’s fantasy who wished for more early ‘60s garage rock with a tint of shoegaze. A Ventures sandy drum beat, and a raunchy early ‘80s three-chord New York rocker melt your mind with a wall of noise coming in like a tsunami. “You can do it right, you can make it on your own. You can fall in love with everyone you know,” it’s a message that needs to be instilled over and over again as the chorus rings out.
With 16 songs on the plate, the back half of the album is just as impressive as the front. “One Five Five” is pounding power rocker while “Revolution” sounds like a lost gem from mid-’80s Minneapolis.
All in all, The Octagon is my new favorite obsession that keeps me constantly amazed with how well these songs stick to you, even in its rawest form."
Some bands have the irresistible characteristic of sounding like they wrote their songs just for you. I am not talking about universal lyrics, but rather, a quality of sound that permeates your entire being, be it through headphones or at a live show. The Octagon are exactly this type of band. The NY band begins their third LP, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, with a superb Pavement-esque number, “Suicide Kings”, but soon deviate by emulating the two bands which influence their sound the most—Guided By Voices and Dead Kennedys. The album has 16 punchy yet incredibly lo-fi songs that will allow you to sink back into yourself, to good summer memories and happy oblivion. The music has all the good energy of punk wrapped in the appeal of 90’s apathy. It’s the aural equivalent of that really good level of inebriation, when your own sense of self is heightened and everything else is pleasantly drowned out as redundant. Music Induced Euphoria
"free-wheeling post punk...(Suicide Kings is a) a garage style tune full of mysterious lyrics, fuzzy, discordant guitars and thrashing percussion." WNYC.org
"Pour ces trois new-yorkais l'aventure musicale est faite de rencontres, de pertes de vue et de nouvelles rencontres. Leurs dernières retrouvailles en 2009 ont abouti à la réalisation d"un album enthousiasmant. Warm Love and Cool Dreams Foreverc'est 40 minutes de rock garage au son bien crade sur... 16 morceaux!! Autant dire que les titres défilent, que c'est parfois inégal mais on y trouve son compte, ne serait-ce que pour le morceau d'accroche "Suicide Kings" véritable coup de cœur qu'on ne se lasse pas de reécouter"
" For these three New York the musical adventure is done encounters, of losses of view and of new ones meet. Their last reunions in 2009 resulted in the realization d" an exciting album. Warm Coils and Cool Dreams Forever this is 40 minutes of rock garage to the sound well crade on... 16 pieces!! As much to say that the titles march, that it is sometimes unequal but one there finds his account, would not be what for the piece of catch phrase "Suicide Kings" true blow of heart that one not oneself tired any reécouter." Toujors un coup d'avance
"...New York's The Octagon, a disarmingly charming indie rock troupe with a cool and super casual, sloppy punk edge. I've been spinning their just-released record, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever, practically non-stop. Should you get therr early enough (and you really, really should), be sure to keep your ears open for songs like "Suicide Kings," "Radio Days, and Hound Adams." You better believe I'm gonna be requesting all three when I harass the band at the merch table before the show." Addicted to Vinyl
Mixing ’90s college rock with the sights and sounds of today’s West Coast psychedelic scene, The Octagon have done well for themselves on this album. On some songs, I sense some Built to Spill inspiration, while others are straight up garage punk." Kids Like You & Me
Taking serious cues from such kings of 90s lo-fi as Robert Pollard and Lou Barlow, The Octagon does indie-rock in a way that hasn’t been heard much lately: murky guitars, even murkier vocals, intriguingly cryptic lyrics, tightly crafted melodies delivered with sucker-punch bluntness and all slathered in a warm analog hiss. The demo-quality roughness of the band’s sound stands in defiant opposition to 21st Century indie’s tendency towards technical proficiency and polished tastefulness (although, amusingly, drummer Will Glass also tours as a member of the decidedly ornate Dirty Projectors), but neither does the band indulge in “shitgaze”-style sonic abrasion for its own sake. Instead, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever is simply sixteen very-good-to-occasionally-brilliant rock songs delivered in what has become a lamentably unfashionable style, proving in its finest moments (the jagged “Clew Hayward”, the dramatic slow-build of “Suicide Kings”, the raging “Cross Tops”) that rock and roll can still function at its fiercest when clawing against its own limitations.
Jer Fairall at Tone and Groove