The free-form duo Protect-U is part of a small electronic-music community in the nation's capital. It sprouts from unlikely but fertile ground: punk and hardcore, which inform the darker tendencies that turn up on Protect-U's recent debut album, Free USA.
It was an album that almost didn't happen: While members Aaron Leitko and Mike Petillo toured Europe in 2012, their gear and train tickets were stolen from a Paris venue. Friends and supporters launched a crowd-funding campaign to help recoup the pair's losses. The effort raised nearly $6,000, enough to bring the band back home and pay for new equipment. Without the outpouring of support, Protect-U may have never twiddled another knob.
This past spring, Protect-U brought that knob-twiddling to WAMU's studio, where Leitko and Petillo performed work that's gnarled and tinged with industrial bleakness. It was a first for the station's hallowed Bluegrass Studio, which normally hosts some of the world's best-known roots-music acts.