Karate, Guns & Tanning Goes Over the Top With its Psychedelic Sound

Photo By Annette Williams

The debut album by Karate, Guns & Tanning sounds like the work of musicians doing what they could to endure 2020: They’re eager to break free, unsure about the future and, yes, angry at times.

“Concrete Beach” is an over-the-top thrill ride crafted by a band that takes its name from a bygone sign outside a Plainfield strip mall on U.S. 40. You could find a karate dojo, a gun store and a tanning salon in one magical spot along the National Road.

Scheduled for release March 26, Karate, Guns & Tanning’s “Concrete Beach” offers enough attitude and ammunition to suggest it’s the lost soundtrack to 1994 film “Natural Born Killers.”

Chaos in the desert is heard on the song “Badlands,” humanity recedes in “Hot Bots” and punches fly on “Breaking Teeth.”

“Breaking teeth at the concrete beach,” sings Valerie Green. “It’s not a sane moment, it’s not a sane mind.”

Bass player Green founded Karate, Guns & Tanning with keyboard player Paige Shedletsky, who recalls her early assessment of songs that landed on the album: “This sounds like a bunch of angsty cheerleaders are on some kind of killing spree. They stole an 18-wheeler and they’re just wreaking havoc everywhere.”

“Mentally, we were there,” says Green, who co-hosts the Indy Propaganda podcast with Karate, Guns & Tanning guitarist Joy Caroline Mills.

Sonically, the band that includes Indianapolis residents Green, Mills and drummer Daniel Guajardo plants a flag at the intersection of psychedelic, dream pop, industrial, post-punk and shoegaze styles.

Louisville resident Shedletsky says she thought the quartet simply made a pop album. But Green acknowledges something heavier emerged when engineer Wesley Heaton delivered mixes of songs early in the recording process.

“A ‘wall of sound’ thing was coming out,” Green says. “We said, ‘Screw dynamics. We’re just going to go to 10 this entire album.’ ”

For Karate, Guns & Tanning, maximum impact doesn’t come across as a sludgy wallop. “Fire,” the first single released from “Concrete Beach,” is a precise showcase for Green’s fuzzed-out bass, Shedletsky’s sci-fi synth and Mills’ surging guitar riffs.

Although Karate, Guns & Tanning is releasing its debut album, Green and Shedletsky have been musical collaborators for more than a decade. The duo formed a retro psychedelic pop act known as Good Housekeeping while living in Colorado in 2006.

“It was a lot more meek than Karate, Guns & Tanning,” Shedletsky says of Good Housekeeping. “I think that shows how much Valerie and I have grown into our sound and songwriting – just not being afraid to be loud and take chances.”

Green says she’s happy “Concrete Beach” resolves unfinished business for the pair that made a habit of exchanging long-distance song ideas after the demise of Good Housekeeping.

“There was always a sense of, ‘My one life goal is to finish something,’ ” she says.

The vinyl edition of “Concrete Beach” will be tangible proof of their accomplishment. The record, featuring neon green and pink splatter in a limited run of 100 copies, is available for pre-order at karategunsandtanning.com.

Trippy collage videos for “Fire” and “Graffiti Children,” made by Los Angeles artist Andrew Knives, have been released to promote the album.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Karate, Guns & Tanning is a band that’s never played a show. Green promises that will change.

“As soon as the numbers are down and we can get vaccines, we’ll be spending all our time getting our live act together,” she says.

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