Monday, January 31, 2005

The Strange and True Story of Your Life, Lousy Robot

Lousy Robot The Strange and True Story of Your Life

Lousy Robot is a band that sounds totally different than the way they look. Hearing them, you expect to see ocean-frizzed curly-haired surf punks or maybe ‘60s mods, but instead you get a bunch of good ol’ boys sounding all of nineteen. They play youthful pleasing pop perfect for a sunny afternoon bopping around the pool. It’s the opposite of emo; it’s the happy punk of the late ‘80s with depressing lyrics and fun melodies. “Train Wreck” takes you back to the dance clubs of England circa ’66. It’s got that Monkee-ish bounce to it that makes you wanna do the swim. They even take lyrics of totally awkward small talk and covert it into a song you can immediate sing along with. Recorded at Pleasantry Lane Studios here in Dallas by Salim Nourallah and produced by John Dulfilho, The Strange and True Story of Your Life is their debut album. It’s perfect that they are from along Route 66 because Lousy Robot combines that happy feeling from southern California and mixes it up with some old English beats and heads to the mall. If New Wave is back, this isn’t far behind. Maybe despite the Bush White House, we’re all feeling a bit happy again, just like we were in the days of Reagan. Fuck it, let’s just go dance! To quote Lousy Robot, “La, la! La, la, la, la, la!”

Originally written for

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Strange and True Story of Your Life, Lousy Robot

Lousy Robot The Strange and True Story of Your Life

Lousy Robot is a band that sounds totally different than the way they look. Hearing them, you expect to see ocean-frizzed curly-haired surf punks or maybe ‘60s mods, but instead you get a bunch of good ol’ boys sounding all of nineteen. They play youthful pleasing pop perfect for a sunny afternoon bopping around the pool. It’s the opposite of emo; it’s the happy punk of the late ‘80s with depressing lyrics and fun melodies. “Train Wreck” takes you back to the dance clubs of England circa ’66. It’s got that Monkee-ish bounce to it that makes you wanna do the swim. They even take lyrics of totally awkward small talk and covert it into a song you can immediate sing along with. Recorded at Pleasantry Lane Studios here in Dallas by Salim Nourallah and produced by John Dulfilho, The Strange and True Story of Your Life is their debut album. It’s perfect that they are from along Route 66 because Lousy Robot combines that happy feeling from southern California and mixes it up with some old English beats and heads to the mall. If New Wave is back, this isn’t far behind. Maybe despite the Bush White House, we’re all feeling a bit happy again, just like we were in the days of Reagan. Fuck it, let’s just go dance! To quote Lousy Robot, “La, la! La, la, la, la, la!”

Originally written for

Ones and Zeros, Dynah

Ones and Zeros, Dynah


Tall and thin, stringy, and lethally slack, Rion Basius possesses rock star bravado. He's Bowie, Jagger without the swagger, and Iggy Pop, a bit less strung out. He also does the most convincing cover of Pulp's “Common People.” You believe he's lived it, in the best fake British accent ever. But you don’t want to be the band that does this song, don’t listen to us. It's the greatest Brit-poser cover ever, yet Basius is the best in Texas to pull it off.
Ones and Zeros is full of cascading keyboard, layers of pop goodness, and Basius' attitude. He rails against labels and materialism and religion, but is determined to win popularity. He wants the trappings of stardom, to have the platform to rail against the mediocre. Yet, he's frustrated, he's misunderstood, at least, so he says. “What’s the use, where everyone determines where I stand?” he sings, “don’t know why I care.” It's hard being a Brit-pop alt-rocker in Texas, especially when he wants you to “lay me down, so what if I don’t pray?”
"Philosophy and a Kiss," defines Dynah in its title alone, but is also the standout song. Basius' philosophy may be a little petulant, a bit hard to swallow, but the music he writes around it is danceable, beautiful, and sexy. And it's just lovely pretend we're in Camden Market while hearing Dynah.

Originally written for

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Hourly Radio - Interview at Sons of Hermann Hall

Video interview by Torr Leonard (I think).

Interviewed by Kate Mackley

One amazing sell-out night at the Gypsy Tea Room isn’t enough to drive a band forward, but for The Hourly Radio it’s not a fluke. Balancing humility about their present and hubris for their potential, three of the guys chronicle their progress. They’re taking it one unexpected step at a time.

Despite the ‘pickers in every room’ at Sons of Hermann Hall on songwriters’ Thursday night, The Hourly Radio and DMG found a spot to share the development of this exciting new band. Aaron Closson, making a name for himself as a singer, and Ryan Short, the guitarist and impetus behind the group, drove the conversation, but drummer Adam Vanderkolk got props from his mates. Missing was bass player Tim Jansen, but we were told, “he doesn’t talk much anyway.” Closson, Short, and Vanderkolk clearly have aspirations for The Hourly Radio that extend beyond the Dallas music scene.

Dallas Music Guide: You guys definitely have everyone talking about you. When and how did you officially form?

Ryan Short: A year from October, so October 2003.

Aaron Closson: I answered an ad that Ryan had put out. He did the whole Observer ‘musician’s wanted’ pages where he listed a bunch of bands I was into, and I had never done anything like that before. I remember telling my mom I was trying for a band and she was really mad. But it ended up working really well. I played two songs and I was disappointed because in my mind, trying for a band would be this rigorous… but they were like, ‘Cool, that’s pretty good’ and I was like, ‘What! That’s it?’ Really disappointed.

RS: I was on the giving up stage because I would get the guys singing the most ridiculous things on the answering machine; heavy metal, Incubus, terrible people calling. So when Aaron came I was just like, ‘OK, cool.’

DMG: (to Adam) You’re the famous drummer from the Observer article!

Adam Vanderkolk: Apparently.

RS: (sarcastically) We’re very upset.

DMG: How did you get involved?

AV: Ryan called me and said that he had these couple of friends that had instruments and they had a place to practice, and I kept blowing him off. Then about a year later I ran into him a concert at the Curtain Club, and he was still looking for members for his band, and I agreed finally because he was back in Dallas. That’s how I joined.

DMG: A whole year later?

RS: Well, nothing ever happened. I just had a guitar and I was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna start a band’ and I just talked about it a lot. For about a year.

AV: and then…

RS: Adam and I went to high school together and I knew he played drums, so I called him and said, ‘I have this singer now.’

AC: When I started I couldn’t play with a drummer. I just couldn’t do it. We had never played at all. We had no idea what we were doing. Another drummer got us off the ground, but it never would have worked with him. Things just came together with Adam.

DMG: ‘The Hourly Radio’; where does the name come from?

RS: It came from a book, Brave New World, and I had always thought that would be a cool band name, long before I even knew how to play guitar. One day before we were going to play a show, we were writing down band names and we needed to pick one. Adam thought that one was cool.

AV: When I first practiced with them, they had a dry-erase board and it had five names and they were wanting to get rid of Hourly Radio and I really liked that one, and they were leaning toward ‘The Scallies’ I believe it was.

RS: Yeah, when we first started out we wrote rock songs. They weren’t bad, but they were rock songs.

AC: As far as the name, I like it and I don’t like it at the same time. But it’s what we did and our music is our music. From the very start, we were like, ‘Well it has radio in it, and that’s pretty generic, with Radiohead and so many bands have Radio.’ So we were aware of it, but we also didn’t care because we didn’t think anything would happen. I’m sure a lot of bands do that. They come up with a stupid name and then they… I like it, but I’m not crazy about it, but I’m not worried about it.

AV: Whatever, I don’t care.

DMG: Describe your sound for me.

AV: That is the worst question.

RS: I have the hardest time with that.

AC: At its very core it’s pop music. For a long time, I was afraid to call it pop because there’s some kind of pejorative, negative connotation and maybe it still is because of MTV’s existance. It’s still something we shy away from. But at the very root, I think the hardest thing to do is to make a three-and-a-half minute catchy song. If you can run up and down the guitar neck, you can drag out a song for six minutes. We do want to be memorable.

RS: And I hope we do it with atmosphere and texture, combining the sounds of our influences.

DMG: Who are your influences? What are the bands that drive you guys?

AV: I’m not allowed to talk about mine. (he laughs, and Ryan scoffs, but agrees.) I like bands that that have good drummers, so I listen to heavier stuff.

RS: (teasing) Rush.

AV: No, no Rush. I listen to bands, like Incubus that was mentioned earlier, that Ryan doesn’t like … (laughs)

RS: (faking anger) This interview is over.

AV: …that’s where I learned beats, so that’s what I listen to. A lot of the drummers in the bands that they listen to are flatline.

AC: That’s true. Nothing against Coldplay, but their drummer creates standard issue drumbeats. He doesn’t take a lot of chances, he lets Chris Martin handle it. Adam’s background is a huge contribution. It really does add. It’s a little more aggressive than other drummers would do. Some would hang back.

RS: Yeah, having a drummer that was into Coldplay and Keane and Travis wouldn’t add. It’s nice to have a singer who looks up to those guys, but a drummer… It actually helps having Adam be into the more aggressive stuff. As far as other influences, British music, obviously. I don’t know why it just seems that bands from there are better.

Ac: I remember looking at my CD collection early in high school and counting mentally the bands that were from England. The great majority were from Manchester. Small mining towns. Shitholes. They made the best music in the last twenty years. It’s not a coincidence; people of our education are pre-disposed.

DMG: Where is your education from?

AC: It’s still occurring actually, studying 19th century Russian literature with a minor in philosophy.

DMG: Whenever I see you, I get this “Holden Caulfield” thing from you.

AC: What does that mean?

DMG: Like you should be from back East, old school prep stuff; Catcher in the Rye.

AC: OK, good. Cheers!

DMG: Which is unusual here in Texas.

AC: I wasn’t born here, but I’m very proud to be here. My family’s from Chicago.

RS: I think if you can’t tell we’re from Texas, then we’re doing something right.

AC: Yeah. Mission accomplished.

DMG: You look different, you sound different. If I was to take anywhere, you guys seem like you should be from Boston. Not ready for New York City

RS: Not quite New York. Maybe Connecticut.

DMG: You guys just put out your debut EP, The Lure of the Underground. Tell me about that.

AV: I wasn’t really involved in a lot of it, I just laid down the tracks and then let these two basically run the show. They seemed to have good ideas, because it came out alright. I liked it.

RS: Adam hasn’t actually heard it yet.

AV: I don’t have a copy of it.

RS: $5. (laughs) Someone heard our music, a demo we had made on our own, and thought it was really cool, liked it and wanted to hear what we sounded like with a proper CD, so paid for Taylor Tasch, who’s a local engineer/guitar player with a studio, to record us. We recorded eight songs quickly. There was no producing, it was just engineering; ‘this is how we play the song live, so this is how we play it on our record.’ Adam played the drums and we layed everything on top of it and it sat there for a couple of months. We’re not signed to a lable, we weren’t paying for it, so we didn’t have the right to say, ‘let’s finish this record’; it was all an experiement to see what we could do. It finally got mixed two weeks before it came out, which was January 8th.

AC: Yeah, it got mixed, we put it out, played a CD release.

DMG: Yeah, and played quite a CD release show! (with Deathray Davies, Pilotdrift, and Black Tie Dynasty at the Gypsy Tea Room on 1/8/05)

RS: We knew that if we did it, we didn’t want it to be a normal show. Up to this point, being a new band, we played a lot of the random club calls because they’ve got a hole in their schedule and you play with bands you’ve never heard of that sound nothing like you. Since we book our own shows, we’re learning as we go. You learn quickly that you have to put the bill together yourself for it to be good. We stick with bands that we really like. Deathray had been around forever. Black Tie (Dynasty) we’ve been playing with a lot. Pilotdrift, we didn’t really know them, but we had just seen them and were blown away by their whole sound, called them all and they were down.

DMG: You just called them?

RS: Yeah, we emailed them and said ‘We’re doing our CD release…’

AV: ‘You want to be on?’

RS: Obviously, we did Deathray first, and once they were in, everybody else was going to be in, and yeah… the Tea Room was packed, sold out.

AV: We were lucky to get such a good bill put together for a show like that, having those bands available, and helping us. We were nervous before the show, ‘what if nobody comes, that would be embarrassing’ and it was the opposite.

RS: It really floored all of us, seeing all those people there.

AC: That Pilotdrift opened for us, I was really flattered. They have no business opening before us.

AV: I really appreciate that.

RS: I think a lot of bands get caught up in the ‘why would we play first?’ and when bands do that… This city has a ton of bands that should play a third or fourth slot. If you want to have a good show, someone’s going to have to open. It was really really cool of them; for Black Tie to play before us, and Pilotdrift to play before us because they don’t need to do that.

AC: No egos were involved at all. In the long run, it helps everyone out.

RS: It was a cool night, though.

DMG: Were you originally at Trees?

AC: Um, kinda. Online it said Trees at one point, and they had talked to us about doing a show, but we weren’t available for that date, and then we started talking about the CD release, so in our heads we were thinking Trees, still. It’s never that it was at Trees and then it got moved because they didn’t think it was going to sell out. We were like, well, Gypsy’ll feel more crowded anyway, because we didn’t know. We probably could have filled up Trees because people were getting turned away.

RS: My mom actually got turned away.

AC: They finally let her in. She was like, “It’s my son! My son’s gonna play.”’

DMG: Aaron, are you really a perfectionist?

AC: Am I a perfectionist, live? Playing a show, yeah. (Adam chuckles) Adam’s laughing out loud. Let him answer that question.

AV: It’s a funny question. I’m waiting for you to give your answer.

AC: But you’re seen me come off shows and be pissed.

AV: Aaron’s never had a good show, according to him. Yes, he’s a bit of a perfectionist all around, I think. Not just with music.

DMG: I have to say, I’ve never see a typed set list before, from anyone.

RS: We usually don’t have them! It’s usually a napkin this big (spreads fingers just a little bit apart), but this was like ‘We can’t fuck this up!’ It was pretty much for this show. I was at work, thinking about what else we could be forgetting, so…

AC: I can’t even remember the show because I was thinking so hard. It’s something we’ll never attain. I don’t know that we’ll ever be that band that plays sod-on perfect, perfect sets. I don’t think musically we’re loose. If anything’s wrong, it’s gonna be me. And the way I want to compensate for that is that I want to be as genuine as possible and convey that I’m sincere about what we’re doing.

DMG: Were you vocally trained?

AC: No, I never really sang until I went to Ryan’s apartment. The opportunity was gonna pass and I didn’t know if I could do it, I just wanted to see.

RS: When we first met, I was working for a company that had a studio and would produce background music for BMW and commercials and they were looking for a male singer and I said I was working with Aaron in a band. He comes in to do it and my boss asked the same question; ‘Are you trained? Do you sing with a choir or a church or something?’ and Aaron said, ‘No, I’ve never sang before in my life.’ He was just like, ‘It’s quite ambitious just to show up at a recording session as a singer getting paid however much an hour and you’ve never sang before!’

AC: I said ‘I hope I’m not wasting your time, but sorry, give it a go.’

RS: (imitating Aaron) ‘I think I can sing.’ (laughing) But he could, so he pulled it off. And he pulled it off here.

DMG: What’s next for you guys?

RS: I don’t know. Seriously, when I put the ads in the paper and started this band, everything was such like, the next step and that’s all we cared about. I was like, ‘I just want to write a song.’ If we could just play through that song without stopping, that’s all I want to do. And then it was, if we could just record a song, and have it on CD so we could hear it years later, that’s all we were going to do. And then what if we play a show? And then what if we can play Trees? And then… we’re never really thinking except past the next step. I never would have, a year ago….

AV: When I met up with Ryan at Curtain Club, after he finished school, we talked about it and the whole time it was ‘I don’t want to do it unless it’s just a hobby.’ Ryan was, ‘oh yeah, it can’t be anything other than that because I’ve got a job…’ We both had jobs and everything just escalates. You get a piece of something good and whatever you set your goal out to be is like a ladder and you keep going up.

RS: I don’t know what the next step is, really.

AV: Our next step now is that we want to play SxSW because that’s next month. That’s literally as far as we go. Do we have any song that we wrote that we think is the greatest song ever? So we want to record that next. And that’s how we continue, I guess.

AC: I’m excited about the notion of our abilities, our talents, catching up to our songwriting capabilities, really our taste. If I was to name one thing that would set us apart from every other band in this state would be our taste. I think that taste matters way more than your ability to play scales, like we were talking about earlier. We’re not trained musicians, we don’t know what we are doing, but more importantly we do know good from bad. Musically, we know what we want to hear, we know what we are not hearing, so I think that’s what matters. If we can keep a clear vision of what we want to hear and what we want to do musically, our talent will catch up with that. We’ll become better guitar players, we’ll become better vocalists, and that’s what I’m excited about.

AV: When you’re allowed to not know what you’re doing, and when you are really and truly allowed to do that, you make a lot better music. Even U2, their first album, they weren’t that good of players and they didn’t have a producer come in and totally change everything. They were allowed to just go in there and work it out like a band works it out. And they made awesome records. Now they are brilliant musicians, they’ve played forever.

RS: But they weren’t at the time. A lot of people look back and see those first records as some of the best stuff. I think that is our benefit. We don’t know what we’re doing.

AV: If you learn other peoples’ music, which learning music, that’s all it is, reading music, then all you’re gonna do is do what they do.

AC: It keeps us being na├»ve and new at our instruments and our art, it keeps us song-centered rather than instrument-centered. There are a lot of bands you go see and it’s like, ‘insert guitar solo’ and it’s like a two minute run up and down the neck. We don’t have the luxury of doing that. Literally. There has to be something there that we find catchy or melodic outside of a contrived guitar solo, so I do look at it as a benefit that we can’t fall back on our instruments. We have to write good songs.

DMG: What are your favorite songs?

AV: The new one you haven’t heard yet.

RS: I think every time we write a song, we get real excited. You know, ‘This is it. This is the song.’ Then we play it for a couple of shows and we’re like (sounding bored) …whatever…

AC: I think the newer songs will be our most recognizable and commercial. They’re our most catchy mainstream pop songs, but they’ll always be songs that mean a lot to me and maybe that has something to do with the fact that I write lyrics. Probably “Lost + Found” and “First Love is Forever” are the two that mean the most to me.

DMG: What do you consider your philosophy as a band, why are you doing all this? You know, the classier version of “Sex, Drugs, or Rock-n-Roll.”

AC: Absolutely not.

AV: One, it’s fun. We enjoy it.

RS: I’d say our philosophy and why we are doing it are pretty different, for each person.

AC: That’s an individual question. I wouldn’t say it’s fun.

RS: Our philosophy and focusing on how we write is serious as far as what we think is good. Philosophy towards the band is very serious. But why we’re doing it and why we started doing it is very not serious. But we’re not going to get up there and screw around; when we write songs we’re dead serious. I would disassociate those two questions.

AV: I think all of us like the challenge too. We get frustrated because we always want to beat what we’ve done already. Just get better as musicians and that type of thing.

DMG: What is the new song?

RS: We played it at the CD release; “Closer.”

AC: On tape it’s going to be good, but live we can’t really nail it yet.

AV: Yeah, we don’t really practice our new songs before we go ahead and play ‘em live. (laughs) Which I don’t know is the smartest thing.

RS: Yeah, once we can play it all the way through, we’re like ‘let’s go ahead and do it.’

DMG: Do you have plans of moving on; New York, LA?

AC: I don’t see an opportunity existing outside of Dallas that makes Dallas unacceptable. There are a lot of positive things happening.

AV: It wouldn’t make any sense to leave now.

AC: The few bands we played with at the show are standing out, are standing apart, and I think for a reason.

RS: If we move on, and by move on I mean move up, we might start touring and be out and about but we’re still from Dallas. I don’t think we’ll do a Secret Machines ‘we gotta go here to be discovered’. I don’t think Austin gives you any better chance. We drive three hours and play there, I don’t think we need to move to Austin. If we played our show in New York, no one would care. I don’t think a lot is going on in Dallas, musically interesting, but I definitely think more is than was a year ago. There’s a very obvious class of older bands fading out, and a class of newer bands coming in and those bands have similar influences, stuff that’s relevant nationally and internationally, so I think that’s a positive, a lot less from bar band type music.

AV: Authentic music for the thinkers.

AC: For us this band is a special thing and it works because of who we are with. I’m not interested in being a professional local musician.

RS: As long as all these clubs can stay open, people are exposed to a lot better music now than they were six years ago. A lot cooler music, and that helps.

DMG: Well, I’m trying. Thanks.

RS: Thanks for taking the time.

The Hourly Radio play regularly on the club scene in the DFW metroplex and will be in Austin during SxSW at Hot Shots on March 19th. RIYL: U2, New Order, Radiohead, The Promise Ring, Jarvis Cocker, The Cure, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Britpop, Incubus (but just the drumming).

© Dallas Music Guide 2005

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Meeting on a Train, Red Monroe

Red Monroe: Meeting on a Train, 3Concentric

The problem with writing about music is that condensed to words, it’s just stupid. Ever read lyric sheets? Thank God for the guitar. Songs tell stories, but the instruments fill in the gaps in meaning. That is what Red Monroe is all about. The depth and breadth that you don’t grasp from the first listen, but are apparent after the third, fifth, and fifteenth hearing separate true art from yesterday’s pop hit. And when you find there’s still more to discover on the fiftieth time through your iPod, you know you’ve found something special.
“Althea” defines what it means to be Red Monroe. Built with background noise from the kitchen, people moving around, and powerful lyrics, this could have been the money song on Meeting on a Train. That is, if the band had decided to use that other version: the studio-produced one with orchestral instruments and a big sound. Instead, they unceremoniously ‘dumped it in the river’ in favor of the track recorded on their porch in one perfect take. They chose the song to stand on its own; simply Eric Steele’s tonal vocals and folk-rock guitar.
Meeting on a Train begins with thirty seconds of scratchy noise before Andrew Snow’s guitar line of “To Be Your God” kicks in, then near monotone vocals and only after the verse do Matt Moffitt’s ominous spacey keyboards enter, pumping the blood of the tune. Steele finds beauty even in dark, violent impulses; the something wild. “Lorelei” could have come off U2’s Joshua Tree. Classically trained, schizophrenic Steele channels Bono with high notes nearly beyond his range and certainly beyond the Irishman’s. “She Waits on a Tidal Wave” is in the same vein. This is the pop anthem, within everyman’s grasp and my personal favorite; Neal Wadley’s bass line gets me all worked up. Da da da da, dum dum dum dum dum – it’s ludicrous to write that out- just go hear it. Remember: you’re in Dallas; you can go hear these guys. Vocal chameleon Steele stretches on every song; on jazzy, apocalyptic “Green Light” he does his best Jim Morrison. “Our Love” was recorded complete with clinking beer glasses, crowd cheers, and countrified hoots for this boot-stomping, hand-clapping bar song. Lyrics such as ‘cupcakes in your hair’ lift up Snow’s crisp, clear guitar and the inventive drumming of Jeff Gilroy.
Do you get the idea that this CD is all over the board? Country, jazz, and rock are infected with intricate experimentalism. Red Monroe isn’t your average band and Meeting on a Train isn’t an average album. This is a music-head’s band, rooted in folk and rock, rising with a good dose of innovation. They are either perfecting the next evolution of rock or are five guys way off in their own heads; the next Pink Floyd, Phish, or even Velvet Underground. This debut release goes a long way to getting them there.

© 2005 Dallas Music Guide

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Interview with Pilotdrift (their first ever ? interview!)

Pilotdrift’s music is epic rock for adventurers, but the guys from Texarkana who compose it are humble and passionate about their art. DMG entered their world to find what drives them to create lush musical landscapes.

It’s New Year’s Eve in Dallas and an auspicious ending to 2004 for the Texarkana band. Pilotdrift has just finished playing an instore gig at Good Records, crammed into the back of the shop with more instruments than band members. Their set not only filled the store to overflowing –by the staff’s estimate, the biggest turnout Good has had yet for an instore event- but Tim DeLaughter also came to hear the music his employees were so excited about. This is a multi-instrumental band, and everyone does everything, sometimes. When I list what they play, that’s what they play most of the time. The enigmatic Micah Dorsey and approachable Kelly Carr are the singer and songwriter team of the group, both contributing equally to the catalog. Skater-boy keyboardist Eric Russell and Jay Budzilowski on guitar are fine with kicking back and letting the others work hard for the press. Ebullient John David Blagg, with a voice as bass as his instrument, and serious Ben Rice, the drummer, help Carr and Dorsey get it right during our interview. Their slow-talking East Texas twangs are a surprising contrast to their far-from-the-hinterlands style. Pilotdrift’s cinematic sound is much bigger than any space it’s in. Someday, these guys will be scoring movies; sweeping dramas about desolate lands and men on a quest. Scratchy records, music boxes, jazz, and circus sounds all come together in the art rock of these versatile artists. Pilotdrift as a band is quiet and shy in the laser attention of a press interview; they barely speak above mumbles, but are happy for the chance to talk about what drives them.

We’re finally sitting in the band room of Trees, waiting during the time between load-in and soundcheck, wondering about the cushy foam furniture (is this hygienic?) and checking where Carr scratched their name in the wall at the last show (it’s still there, by the mirror). The guys are coming down from the artistic high of the instore performance, but recoup rapidly for the night’s New Year’s Eve show with North Texas compadres, Radiant* and Eisley. They seem a bit subdued in contrast to the expansiveness of their music. I’m about to enter the hive mind of six guys completing each other’s sentences. We’re admiring the new recorder I just scored for Christmas…

Dallas Music Guide: It’s an iTalk; this is new technology for me. It’s a voice recorder for the iPod.
Kelly Carr: I don’t have an iPod, but when I do get one, my big thing is artwork. I have to know what the music looks like. There’s a new iPod with album artwork that you can have.
DMG: Yeah, that’s cool because what a band does visually, that makes such a difference.
KC: It does. Yeah, yeah. You don’t know what kind of landscape the music’s in.
DMG: Can you start by describing your sound for me?
KC: You want to know what we think it is?
DMG: Yeah.
KC: I guess cinematic rock.
Ben Rice: Orchestral. Maybe.
John David Blagg: A lot of people would describe it as art rock.
KC: Art rock, yeah. I always feel weird describing it as ‘art rock’ because it’s like I’m saying ‘I’m very artistic.’
Micah Dorsey: (sarcastically) Yeah, like nobody else is artistic.
KC: Experimental. We do make a point to make every song a completely different world. Though it’s hard. There is a common denominator, I suppose. It’s hard to tell exactly what that is. I guess the easiest way to say it is if you like these kind of bands… If you like Flaming Lips, Polyphonic Spree, Radiohead, you’ll like this. Not to put us up with them or anything.
BR: Musically, we’re a multi-genre mix.
KC: In closing, cinematic rock, I guess. It does seem like our music we do make a point to make it seem like it plays a movie in your head for each song. It’s very visual. I like that.
DMG: At the Good Records’ instore, I was standing next to Tim DeLaughter during the show and as soon as you guys finished playing, he turned to Rubberman and said, ‘That was awesome.’
JD: Did he really?
BR: I was really surprised at the compliment. That someone of that caliber, to look up to musically, gives a genuine compliment. (sighs)
KC: (looking at hands) That’s the first time, I’ve ever… you know. I’ve seen a couple people I actually met; Royston Langdon from Spacehogs. I’m a huge fan of his. But that was really cool. Especially for him to hear our music. That was a weird twist.
BR: To get a chance to play for (Tim DeLaughter), that’s the exact opposite.
JD: It’s so weird, I haven’t really thought about that yet.
DMG: Who are your biggest influences?
BR: We kind of said, I guess. Flaming Lips, Beatles, Air, Radiohead.
MD: Elbow.
BR: U2 for me, but that doesn’t go for everyone else.
DMG: Are we split on the U2 camp?
BR: Well, not split. I’m just a die-hard fan, some are mediocre fans. My whole thing is that I’m a big fan of Joshua Tree and those are the best. And just Bono as who he is.
KC: I guess Bono’s just someone to look up to.
MD: As far as just in life and in music. Air, Sparkle Horse, there’s a lot.
JDB: Phish.
BR: Not for everyone.
KC: I’m not a Phish person, but my favorite song actually is a Phish song; ‘Ester.’
BR: I don’t think you’ll hear any Phish in our music, but we’re fans of them.
KC: But I’m also a big fan of score writing. Thomas Newman, huge fan, Danny Elfman, of course, and also regular classical; Stravinsky, Gershwin, I guess all kinds of stuff.
MD: One more: Goldfrapp. (everyone laughs)

DMG: You incorporate a lot of stuff that’s unconventional in your music. Some of your songs sound like music boxes, or you sound like circus music. Where does that come from? Can you tell me a little about that?
MD: I think it would come from the cinematic elements of just trying to capture pictures or atmosphere in your head.
BR: Musical landscapes.
MD: A dynamic like a progression, like if you were watching it as if it were a movie. Kindof hard to explain. Just going for that cinematic element again.
KC: I think you might be referring to ‘Elefant Island’ which has to do with the true story of the antarctic explorers with Shackleton, who got stranded and they were on the brink of insanity. I was just using that as a musical tool to capture that sort of insanity, the confusion of feelings.
DMG: Usually you don’t think ‘arctic explorers’ - ‘circus music.’
KC: It’s just the whole idea of things not making sense any more.
BR: Which is what happened to them.
DMG: What are your own personal favorite songs?
KC: Well, there’s a certain feeling that because there are two singers, if you name your own that’s… (laughs)
MD: Well, no, I could name the favorite ones of mine; you could name your favorite ones.
KC: My favorite song on the album is probably ‘Traitor’s Brain.’
MD: I would probably say, I think, ‘Traitor’s Brain’ actually.
KC: I think that’s a good indication of what we may do in the future, on a bigger scale.
DMG: Tell me about recording this album. Face any big challenges?
BR: We have the advantage of recording on our own gear and having our own time so we’re not pressed for paying by the hour to anybody. It’s under our own construction. That’s a big advantage.
MD: A lot of the songs were recorded right before we were even a band.
BR: Like half were.
MD: Several of mine were. Kelly had some that were recorded before we formed the band and then after we formed the band, we re-recorded some of them. A lot of mine, like ‘Winter,’ that song has been recorded for three years now. Three or four years, same as ‘Picturesque.’
KC: Towards the end of recording, we got more experimental. My mom’s a choir teacher. She teaches a kid’s choir. So they got to use them. Record them for the last song, ‘So Long.’ That was fun, just to work with other people.
MD: But it was over a huge period of time that we recorded.
KC: That’s how we like doing it. Right now we’re recording….
MD: We’ve already started recording other stuff. We haven’t ever just sat down and said, ‘OK, we’re ready to spend all our time just working on recording this.’ We just do it as we go. Work it in, work on a song at a time.
DMG: Have you been out touring?
BR: We’ve just played mainly Dallas and Little Rock, we’re gonna be playing Houston, Tyler. We have a big fan base in Tyler.
Eric Russell (who just returned from set-up, with Jay Budzilowski): Our very first show was last December. We’ve only been doing it just about a year now. Just trying to get going.
MD: I would say mostly East Texas. We’ve done Little Rock.
KC: More a 400-mile radius of our hometown (Texarkana).
BR: That’s definitely what we want to do, you know. That’s what all of us want to do; we want to tour.
JDB: We all have jobs where we’re able to… when opportunity arises, when the tour happens, that we’re able to leave. Everything’s set for us to be able to do that.
DMG: What are your day jobs?
JDB: I weld.
KC: I drive a delivery truck for a hardware company.
JB: I’m a TV producer. (John David sniggers) Why are you sneering, dude? Is that not a proper title? That’s my title. I produce videos.
JDB: It just sounds like those rap kids. (imitating rapper) ‘I’m a Producer.’
MD: I’m a painter. I do other stuff, but a house painter.
ER: Picasso!
MD: (laughing) Not like an art painter.
BR: I work in a recording studio in town.
ER: I’m a sound technician for a church.
KC: He’s a professional E-Bayer.
ER: Chopping wood, sometimes, whatever I can do.
JDB: He doesn’t want to strip his shirt off.
DMG: (to Russell) So every band has that one cute guy that’s always put out front. Is that you?
ER: I don’t think so.
DMG: You look like you’re having fun on the maracas.
ER: I have fun, definitely.
KC: (deadpan) It’s easy to be confident on the maracas. (everyone laughs)
ER: Thank you, very much.
DMG: When you look at the bands out there, who do you want to be touring with, pairing yourself up with?
KC: Polyphonic Spree. (everyone laughs)
MD: Honestly, that’s what I was going to say. It’s very similar, what they do.
KC: That’s not going by actually seeing (Tim DeLaughter) tonight.
BR: What they do is so big and orchestral, it’s the same vein of what we want to do, but it’s different approaches to music.
MD: I mean, heck, we wouldn’t love touring with Radiohead. (everyone laughs)
KC: (sarcastically) Heck. That’s shooting for the top right there.
ER: Air, Flaming Lips, any takers.
MD: A lot of the bands we list as our influences.
DMG: How about anybody local, that you could actually tour with?
JDB: Midlake is one of our favorites.
MD: We’re real good friends with Midlake. That would be the top choice. Eisley also. I’m trying to find what local means. There’s nothing in town where we live. I guess Dallas.
DMG: How about Austin?
BR: We are supposed to be playing SxSW. That’s going to be our debut. We’re working with different management people, discussing different things. All I can say is that if these deals work out, we’ll be doing showcases with them at SxSW.
DMG: You guys are not signed, right?
KC: No.
DMG: And you self-produced this album?
MD: Yes.
DMG: It sounds like you have a lot of experience producing and recording.
JDB: It’s a hobby, really.
MD: We learn as we go. I mean, I think that we all have good ears and we’re confident in that.
BR: We know what sounds good.
KC: We just spend so much time and we’re able to be tedious.
MD: Right, exactly. Because we’re not in a hurry, we just take it one song at a time. We have the chance to really take our time with it and be real tedious.
BR: Like ‘Walter Champion;’ me and Kelly were recording like hundreds of hours, not necessarily like re-recording it because we couldn’t play a part right, but just thinking. For him thinking and me trying to record it.
DMG: ‘Walter Sham-pe-own’ as opposed to ‘Walter Champ-yon’? Where does that come from?
KC: It’s a name I made up. I always thought that it would be cool to …
ER: It’s French!
KC: I don’t know, I’m not saying that Walter Champion in the story is me or anything, but it’s fun saying it. ‘Walter Cham-pi-on’ (imitating a French accent); I love saying it. It’s not a real name.
MD: And if you used ‘Champ-ion,’ it just wouldn’t fit in the song.
JDB: Sounds like a boxer song.
KC: I also like it because there’s a little bit of irony in the fact that his last name is champion and he’s somewhat…
BR: … of a nobody.
KC: Yeah. I think I got the last name from one of the guys from Coldplay; Will Champion.
DMG: What’s next for you guys?
ER: (deadpan) We've got a show at Trees. Tonight.
MD: The main objective is that we want to play as much as possible.
BR: Exposure.
KC: That’s really really hard because we don’t know how, necessarily. To be able to get people to know -who would want to see our kind of music- how they would know to come see us.
MD: There’s the obvious thing of going around to post flyers.
KC: But we’re out of town.
MD: It’s kind of like where can we even post them? There are only so many places. There’s definitely something obviously deeper than that.
KC: It’s playing with bands that people like.
BR: This is a business of connections, like anything is. We’ve been real fortunate to make good friends and that’s helped us along the way as we’ve tried our own efforts. We definitely don’t take that for granted.
DMG: Personally… You talked about that you do things for your church, what’s your philosophy as people? Are you Christians?
JDB: Yes. Devout Christians.
KC: And a liiiiiitle hint of Hinduism. (holds fingers inches apart)
(Ben grimaces, everyone laughs.)
MD: Aw come on, Ben!
KC: I was gonna say a little sprinkle. But how’s that possible? A little Hindu…
BR: That’s not fair.
DMG: But you play very mainstream music, you don’t play Christian….
KC: No, we’re not.
JDB: We are Christian people, not in a Christian band. Not singing Christian music.
MD: It’s not worship music in the sense that we’re not saying ‘Oh God, we love you.’ But we all feel that in what we are doing we are worshiping God, that we’re using our talents he give us to praise him.
KC: The big thing is that there just needs to be a positive influence on people, and there’s so much negative, especially in music. You hope that you leave a positive impression.
BR: It’s building relationships with people along the way. Sharing music with them; that’s really our influence.
JDB: Music that’s not degrading.
JB: It’s really all about relationships, who you meet and the effect that you have on people.
DMG: So you guys fit great with Radiant* then.
(All agreeing) Yeah yeah.
MD: And Eisley as well. They’re the same way; they pretty much have the same outlook as we do in our musical career, as far as their beliefs and stuff.
KC: Bono is a good example of …
BR: That’s why I feel that he’s a role model in a sense to me -not just to me, to everybody- just ‘cause of the positive influence that he’s shared with the whole world. The impact they’ve had over everybody. It’s just a tangible thing and that’s what I want to do with our life, that’s what all of us want to do with our lives. Through music. Just through being who you’ve been created to be. There’s nothing supernatural or super-special; just using the talent that we have, to create influence and build relationships with people that we meet along the way.
DMG: But some of your songs are very dark.
MD: (dismissively) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It just goes back to the… we just consider it an art.
KC: It is art.
MD: We’re trying to create atmospheres and feels, and when we say positive, we mostly mean how we …
ER: relate to people that we meet.
MD: Our music isn’t necessarily negative.
KC: It’s about negativity on some points. About negative things. The thing about us is that it gives us …
BR: Keeping it real!
JDB: It touches that dark side that everyone has and it brings you back out of it.
KC: I think there should be an honesty of even someone who’s a follower of Jesus that there’s things you just don’t understand that you struggle with and you’re honest. I’ll write songs that… I don’t know, sometimes I just struggle with things that I don’t understand about God. It’s not a preaching thing, it’s just more …
JDB: an outlook.
KC: These are things that everybody thinks about.
MD: ‘Traitor’s Brain’ is about a guy that murders a family. It doesn’t even really… That’s all it’s about, basically. It’s not like I’m trying to be dark or anything. It just so happens that the music that I wrote … I actually wrote the music first and then wrote lyrics and I just wrote whatever went with the music.
KC: As far as actual message, of any sort that would be spiritual, on the album there might be like, two? really.
ER: And mostly indirect.
KC: The other songs are just about other things.
MD: About life.
DMG: So you guys must be looking forward to your first video. I can only imagine what a Pilotdrift video would look like. That would be so cool. You’ve got such cool cover art; expand that out to four or five minutes.
KC: Oh, yeah.
MD: I haven’t even thought that far ahead, but I mean, you saying that, yeah. Definitely.
KC: He did the cover art (pointing to Micah). He’s Mr. Artiste.
MD: (modestly) Yeah, I did.
JB: He’s the painter.
BR: Maybe we should do that on the next one, just have you paint it.
JDB: He can do corners pretty good. He doesn’t even tape corners when he paints. Seriously.
KC: (faking surprise) He doesn’t tape corners?
ER: I don’t tape corners either, that’s cool.
KC: (opening his hands out to Micah) But, Micah-
ER: (sheepishly) Um, OK. I just wanted a little glory.
KC: I’ve had a video idea for quite some time.
MD: We’ve been talking to someone who’s gonna do it.
JDB: We do actually have videos we made that go with our live shows when we’re headlining.
KC: Yeah, we made about eight.
MD: There’s no video of the band or anything we shot personally, it’s mostly atmospheric images and clips of other films we use.
KC: It wouldn’t be a music video or anything.
BR: They just fit with the music.
MD: Like for ‘Winter’ we have clips from 'It’s a Wonderful Life.' It’s a winter collage.
BR: Don’t say that. It’s against the law.
KC: We’re not breaking the law. Don’t tell people that!
MD: I don’t know if it is or not.
BR: It is! You can’t show it because you’re showing….
MD: Let’s just stop. Anyway, we got videos…
ER: Something to help pull you into that atmosphere. Just a little addition.
KC: It gets a little hard to set up, so we haven’t set up the TVs in a while.
MD: It’s not to the point of Midlake, where that’s almost the focus of the song is watching the video. It’s not like that. A little extra thing that we do. It’s a lot of work. We have enough stuff to tote, really.
KC: Are we answering these questions way too much?
DMG: No, no, not at all.
MD: What if we destroyed that? (pointing to the recorder)
ER: No, she’ still got notes…

Pilotdrift returns to Good Records for the store’s birthday bash on February 19th. You can find them on MySpace, but don’t miss their website; you’ll want to get out some antique National Geographics and go off with the explorers. Rumor has it they’re confirmed at SxSW as well.

© 2005 Dallas Music Guide