Track Premiere: “Sawed Off Cellphone” by The Fills

Upcoming Norman alt-rockers go full cyborg on new cyperpunk love album

It’s a tale as old as rock ‘n roll. Friends form band. Band begins to jam. Jam sessions morph into songs. Songs collect into albums. Save for less common origins like concept projects, solo outings, or long-distance collaborations, rock music is still more or less born in this fashion.

Unless one is a friend or family member, though, this process often happens behind closed doors. It would seem that in the age of social media, this would no longer be the case, but perhaps it’s the very nature of that beast that pressures bands to have all of their ducks in a row before revealing anything unto the scrutiny of strangers. Fleeting glimpses of behind-the-scenes progress rarely offer more than the vague notion that something big is on the way. In other words, the prohibitive doors of the studio and the practice room have been to some extent replaced by the curtains of marketing.

The Fills, though, is one of those bands that hasn’t always had it all together. Formed in 2018, the Norman-based four-piece began sharing demo quality singles as soon as possible, trying out different sounds from song to song. In 2020, the band released a self-produced alternative rock EP, Negatives, that took its ideas and audio production to the next level. Meanwhile, the group’s songwriting and playing improved substantially. It’s been a public journey.

Now, with its proper LP debut, The Fills is making its mark. Titled Upload to You, the band’s collection of eight new tracks promises to pull cyberpunk themes and sounds into The Fills’ rock music trajectory. Two lead singles have already dropped, including the drum machine and synth chord fueled “That Part’s Over”, which plays like a Smashing Pumpkins song infected with a techno rave.

Upload to You officially drops everywhere tomorrow. Another song off of that album is called “Sawed Off Cellphone”, and if you’re chomping at the bit to hear more, you can stream this one right now in this Make Oklahoma Weirder premiere.

From its opening seconds, “Sawed Off Cellphone” brims with flavor. Cymbal splashes, syrup-drop synths, and a funky sequenced beat set a cosmic dance atmosphere. Most striking is the band’s foray into autotune, which feels right at home in the new sound.

Like the album at large, the song is themed around technology and love. Its “message” motif is treated as a verb instead of a noun, lending to an air of suspense and playful potential. “Sawed Off Cellphone” comes in second in the album’s tracklist, so its flirtatious energy is perfect to help bring the listener into the band’s worldbuilding, which refreshingly does not succumb to the dystopian tendencies of the cyberpunk genre. 

There are some nice touches in the mix, too. Little pockets of ad-lib add a street-level flair, and the inclusion of sawtooth synths is a clever callback to the weapon-referencing title. “Sawed Off Cellphone” is the sort of number that benefits from a meta wink like this.

By the time the track begins to glitch out into a beat-switching landing, though, one question may linger for some listeners — is this rock music? Judged by its sound, its influences, and its very lack of electric guitars, the answer is pretty evident. In strict genre terms, it isn’t.

However, that doesn’t mean that Upload to You isn’t a rock record or that The Fills isn’t a rock band. Anyone who has been along for the journey can see the latter. The band has been gracious enough to share its growth with the scene, and on a deeper level of what rock and roll is beyond sound and style, The Fills proves that the classic rock process is alive and well. Its new stuff might challenge that notion, but there’s something pretty rock-and-roll about that, too. The Fills is a cyborg quartet that can help bridge the gap back…and forward.

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aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

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