Culture abuse’s david kelling wrote an album to let his mom know he’s sorry – noisey

Kelling’s mother liked Peach, and has been encouraging of her son’s talents as a singer. “My whole life she’s been like, ‘You have a beautiful voice. You need to sing!’ And I was like, ‘Mom, you don’t get it, I’m fuckin’ punk!’” he laughs. She enjoys reading articles about her son’s success, too. But, if she’s reading this, he hopes she skips over this next part.

Kelling and his bandmates were in a bad place while making Peach. They’d lost two friends, Sammy Winston, who perished in a housefire, and Tim Butcher, who went into a coma a few days later and died shortly after. The band members also got priced out of their homes and all five of them moved into their practice space in Bayview, a windowless 15-by-15 room with a bathroom down the hall.


And then there were their problems with drugs, both using and selling, and generally doing whatever it took to get by in an increasingly unsustainable city.

What came out of this formative period for Culture Abuse was a cathartic debut. Peach was an album at war with itself, pronouncing its good intentions up front, to “let there be peace on earth; let love reign supreme,” but struggling to adhere to its own credo throughout. There was optimism to be found in its lyrics, but it was always tucked behind hard-headed nihilism, constantly falling back on a “whatever, dude” attitude. On one song, Kelling pondered the futility of trying to be an artist in San Francisco, and ultimately said meh: "There’s no future, but I don’t mind living in the city.” He shrugged his shoulders even higher when thinking globally: “There might be a war, well I don’t care.” It was like someone in the middle of a mental breakdown, helplessly repeating their calming mantra over and over again.

Peach must’ve been an exorcism on Culture Abuse’s soul, because there’s not a trace of aggression left on their follow-up, Bay Dream. The album is a complete 180, the greatest musical about-face since… well, it’s hard to even name a comparable example. While Peach was defined by its thick, punishing guitar tones and Kelling’s visceral gnarls, Bay Dream sounds like it was made by hippies who’ve been hanging out by the beach and listening to Wavves too much. It’s an album Kelling says he hopes people will blast in their car on a sunny day and just cruise around.

Bay Dream kicks off with a Looney Tunes sound effect of a pop gun being fired, as if all the bad vibes are immediately being dashed away, replaced with something cheerier and sometimes downright saccharine. You can almost hear Kelling smiling on one song, as he doles out life advice, “Be kind to the bees, be kind to the bugs, be conscious of others, be careful with drugs,” before topping it off with a self-care reminder: “Be kind to yourself, even though it gets hard, don’t let the distractions stack up to the stars.”

Unlike Peach, whose writing and recording process was crammed into a scant two months, Culture Abuse took their time with Bay Dream, and made use of the resources afforded to them by their new label, Epitaph Records. Zac Rae, who’s played with everyone from Lana Del Rey to John Legend kicked in on keyboards, as did Roger Manning Jr. who’s done work for Beck and Morrissey, and the whole thing was given some pop polishing by Carlos de la Garza, who’s been Paramore’s go-to producer. It was such a refined shift from their grimy beginnings that at one point, Kelling wondered: Have I gone too far?

“I was fucking losing my mind making this record. Just losing it,” he says, noting that he considered scrapping the entire thing right before it went to press. “My fear is: Is it too much, too soon for people? Should this be our third record? It’s the other people that get inside my head.” Ultimately, though, Bay Dream was the record Kelling wanted to make, not to meet anyone else’s expectations, but just because Culture Abuse is, and always will be, whatever he wants it to be.

Kelling’s mother liked Peach, and has been encouraging of her son’s talents as a singer. “My whole life she’s been like, ‘You have a beautiful voice. You need to sing!’ And I was like, ‘Mom, you don’t get it, I’m fuckin’ punk!’” he laughs. She enjoys reading articles about her son’s success, too. But, if she’s reading this, he hopes she skips over this next part.

Kelling and his bandmates were in a bad place while making Peach. They’d lost two friends, Sammy Winston, who perished in a housefire, and Tim Butcher, who went into a coma a few days later and died shortly after. The band members also got priced out of their homes and all five of them moved into their practice space in Bayview, a windowless 15-by-15 room with a bathroom down the hall. And then there were their problems with drugs, both using and selling, and generally doing whatever it took to get by in an increasingly unsustainable city.

What came out of this formative period for Culture Abuse was a cathartic debut. Peach was an album at war with itself, pronouncing its good intentions up front, to “let there be peace on earth; let love reign supreme,” but struggling to adhere to its own credo throughout. There was optimism to be found in its lyrics, but it was always tucked behind hard-headed nihilism, constantly falling back on a “whatever, dude” attitude. On one song, Kelling pondered the futility of trying to be an artist in San Francisco, and ultimately said meh: "There’s no future, but I don’t mind living in the city.” He shrugged his shoulders even higher when thinking globally: “There might be a war, well I don’t care.” It was like someone in the middle of a mental breakdown, helplessly repeating their calming mantra over and over again.

Peach must’ve been an exorcism on Culture Abuse’s soul, because there’s not a trace of aggression left on their follow-up, Bay Dream. The album is a complete 180, the greatest musical about-face since… well, it’s hard to even name a comparable example. While Peach was defined by its thick, punishing guitar tones and Kelling’s visceral gnarls, Bay Dream sounds like it was made by hippies who’ve been hanging out by the beach and listening to Wavves too much. It’s an album Kelling says he hopes people will blast in their car on a sunny day and just cruise around.

Bay Dream kicks off with a Looney Tunes sound effect of a pop gun being fired, as if all the bad vibes are immediately being dashed away, replaced with something cheerier and sometimes downright saccharine. You can almost hear Kelling smiling on one song as he doles out life advice, “Be kind to the bees, be kind to the bugs, be conscious of others, be careful with drugs,” before topping it off with a self-care reminder: “Be kind to yourself, even though it gets hard, don’t let the distractions stack up to the stars.”

Unlike Peach, whose writing and recording process was crammed into a scant two months, Culture Abuse took their time with Bay Dream, and made use of the resources afforded to them by their new label, Epitaph Records. Zac Rae, who’s played with everyone from Lana Del Rey to John Legend kicked in on keyboards, as did Roger Manning Jr. who’s done work for Beck and Morrissey, and the whole thing was given some pop polishing by Carlos de la Garza, who’s been Paramore’s go-to producer. It was such a refined shift from their grimy beginnings that at one point, Kelling wondered: Have I gone too far?

“I was fucking losing my mind making this record. Just losing it,” he says, noting that he considered scrapping the entire thing right before it went to press. “My fear is: Is it too much, too soon for people? Should this be our third record? It’s the other people that get inside my head.” Ultimately, though, Bay Dream was the record Kelling wanted to make, not to meet anyone else’s expectations, but just because Culture Abuse is, and always will be, whatever he wants it to be.