Local band transcends genre boundaries

When Elvis Costello wrote “Little Triggers” in 1978, little could he have known that 27 years later it would lend its name to the band keeping quality new-wave and indie rock alive in Pittsburgh. On the verge of officially releasing its second studio album and with more than 240 shows under its belt, Triggers will be performing at three different locations on Carnegie Mellon’s campus in the next two weeks, including the Midway stage during Spring Carnival.

According to Triggers guitarist and co-lead vocalist Adam Rousseau, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2003 with a degree in art, the group was founded in 2005 when four “twenty-something” musicians, all recently fired from different bands, “coalesced and formed something new, as the rejects of other groups.” Along with drummer Rich “Woody” Kawood — a 2005 Carnegie Mellon graduate — bassist Joe Kasler, and keyboardist/vocalist Brett Zoric, Rousseau now brings upbeat and refreshingly original music to stages all around the Northeast.

Triggers identifies as a rock and roll group, but strives to transcend any one genre. “We’ve been compared to Elvis Costello or Spoon ... but we try to keep the songs as diverse as possible,” Rousseau said.
The majority of the songwriting is done by Zoric and Rousseau. “We’ll bring in either a fully formed song or most of an idea, and then it sort of gets fleshed out from there,” Rousseau said. “Everybody contributes to the arrangement process ... and many times something we’ll come in with will end up sort of totally transformed and completely different by the end.”

Complete with distorted guitar leads and catchy, defiant vocal hooks, Triggers does not disappoint as a straightforward rock outfit. It does, however, offer a bit more flavor than your average rock group. The group emulates from track to track the Clash-inspired punk rock of the early ’90s, mid-tempo rockabilly shuffles reminiscent of Johnny Cash, and driving alternative rock in the vein of Franz Ferdinand, all composed and arranged with a smart, distinct, indie pop sensibility.

“There’s been some intra-band turmoil over the years,” Rousseau said, explaining the group’s internal dynamic. “I don’t think there’s been a time when at least somebody didn’t want to quit, if they didn’t actually quit. [But] somehow we’ve managed to stay together for seven years, so there must be some kind of glue keeping us together.” Commenting on those experiences deemed typical of most rock musicians, if not musicians in general, he added that Triggers has “played some interesting shows ... where stuff’s got broken, people’s teeth have gotten broken. If you play enough shows, some [stuff’s] gonna go down.”

With that said, Triggers has established itself as an excellent group to hear live. All four members sing in various capacities, and several are multi-instrumentalists, adding unique style and texture to each song with everything from hand-percussion to synthesizers. While Triggers “[hopes] for a decent break to keep [them] going” according to Kawood, at their most fundamental, they are a group of guys who love to write and perform music and, despite tribulations, love being in a band together.