The members of Paint It Black, formed in the early 2000s after vocalist Dan Yemin recovered from a stroke. (Danika Zandboer)

One of the tracks on the new album from Philly band Paint it Black incorporates sounds familiar to many local commuters: the squeaks and squeals of a SEPTA trolley

“Riding SEPTA’s a great place to pick up sound,” said Dan Yemin, vocalist and lyricist for the hardcore group, which just released Famine.

The band’s first record in a decade has eight tracks that feature not only their signature thunderous drums and riffs, but explore new territories. “Exploitation Period” features the trolley sounds mixed with a pulsing bass riff from Andy Nelson, feedback from Josh Agran’s guitar, and samples from David Lynch.

Nelson helped bring the idea to life, Yemin said. “I’d be like, ‘It’ll be no drums for two minutes, just bass and vocals. Crazy, stupid or cool? Run with it.’”

Yemin’s life with music got off to a running start as his parents encouraged him to learn musical instruments while growing up between New York City and the Northern Jersey suburbs.

“I played trumpet in elementary school and early middle school too, but you know, didn’t really care about it or practice much,” Yemin said. “Kind of hid in the back and hoped nobody would notice that like in middle school orchestra that I didn’t know the pieces. 

The transformative moment happened when he was around 13 years old: He found his mom’s old guitar in a closet, he said. “That was kind of instant love.”

Punk rock called to him, and after graduating high school and getting a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, he moved back and started Lifetime, a hardcore band based in New Jersey. He soon moved to Philly to get a doctorate in psychology from Widener University.

After Lifetime broke up, Yemin started Kid Dynamite — which also broke up.

“Maybe I should take the hint,” Yemin recalled thinking. “Maybe this is just not going to happen for me anymore… I like to think of myself as resilient, [but] serial disappointment is hard to take.”

He got licensed to become a clinical psychologist and buried himself in work. At the age of 32, he suffered a stroke.

Death, birth, and the creative process

“There’s something really life affirming about having your mortality shoved in your face,” Yemin said. 

During his recovery, he took a step back and reevaluated what was most important to him: “The thing I hadn’t been paying attention to was creativity, art.”

The experience inspired him to form Paint It Black. The group’s first album, CVA — aka cerebrovascular accident — was released 20 years ago.

After that, PIB released five projects from 2005 to 2013, then went on hiatus.

Paint It Black at Underground Arts on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The new release took roughly a half decade to create, Yemin said. Demos had started in 2018. In January of last year, Yemin traveled out to California to press it forward.

“I can’t really expect them to shift into high gear if I’m not willing to show up,” Yemin said. “So I flew out for like three days. We just locked into [drummer] Jared’s rehearsal studio and ordered burritos and coffee for 72 hours.”

The track “City Of The Dead” explores the grief Yemin has experienced since the passing of his father, and specifically addresses the task of finishing the record.

“It was about pulling substance from the void… It’s about what drives us to create and, in some ways, it’s about getting around the bend,” he explained.

Famine is out now via Revelation Records. PIB is playing two shows at First Unitarian Church on Nov. 4 (sold out) and Nov. 5. Advance tickets are $25. The supporting acts are The Messthetics, Spaced, and Raskol.

Of note, Yemin is also in a band called Open City, which released an album back in October called Hands In The Honey Jar.

Cory Sharber is a general assignment reporter at WHYY. Prior to his stint in Philadelphia, he spent four years between WVXU in Cincinnati and WKMS in Murray, Kentucky. He’s picked up accolades at the...