Thursday, May 31, 2012

In The Spotlight--Take One Car

Take One Car return to the Galaxy Sunday June 3rd
Photo by Jared Bowers

Hailing from Upstate New York, Take One Car is a high energy band that in many ways defies description, other than to say that they're stunningly good.  Mixing elements of Indie Rock, Post Rock, and Post Hardcore, the band absolutely blew us away on their first visit back in March, and when they asked to come back we couldn't say yes fast enough.  They were good enough not only to return to the Galaxy, but to take some time out of their busy schedule to chat with us.

The life of an unsigned band is nothing if not busy.  They probably encapsulate what almost every band deals with in a brief description of what they go through on a regular basis. "Our band is definitely not our main paying job. Some of us have full-time jobs as well. I won't get into the details of those, but we have to pay the bills when we're home. It's incredibly hard to balance being in a band with work and a personal life. I have not even come close to mastering it and I think as a consequence, a lot of the people I love get the short-end of the stick. I know in my case, I work all day, come home quickly, drive 30 minutes to practice, practice for 3 to 4 hours, drive back home, answer emails, update websites, work on new merch designs, eat...and then its 1:30 in the morning, my house is silent and dark, and I have missed out on even spending five minutes with my family. Being in a full-time band can be invasive, but requires that work to stay afloat."

All the practice and time spent working on their craft shows, both in the recorded output and in the live performance.  Getting out on the road to showcase the result of that work however is yet another challenge.  "Putting this tour together was a lot of work. It basically involved Pete and I, networking and emailing hundreds of venues for weeks. Unfortunately, only about 1% of those venues got back to us."  From there the news does get better though, as the band goes on to describe. "That is where the networking really helped. We have a lot of friends on the route we're taking this time. Many of them have really stepped up by putting shows together. That's one of the really amazing things about being in a band. When you're touring it's about so much more than just your band. It's about this silent little community that the rest of the world can't see."

Jared and I have discussed many times recently that we're today hosting the bands that will be big on the national scene tomorrow, and Take One Car is certainly one of those that we can see making that next step. Though as with most of the bands we've spent time with, their definition of "making it" is quite different from what the average music fan might perceive.  "I think our mutual goal in this group is to be a successful band. That does not mean fame or wealth, but rather us being able to continue doing this in a comfortable fashion. I often find myself calling this band my second job, and it's not because I don't love doing it. It's because in order to continue doing it, somethings have to get done, and some of those things aren't a lot of fun."

Self promotion is a necessary evil to open doors, and the ears and wallets of fans, and the group tries to thread the needle with their efforts.  "We really work hard to keep everyone up to date on everything we're doing, but try to do so in the least 'spammy' way possible. I don't want someone cramming their music down my throat, so I make sure to avoid those methods of promotion. Maybe our band won't reach as many fans, or won't wind up on some A&R rep's desk, but I didn't start this band for that reason. I am a lot happier if someone finds our band on their own. A subtle and tactful approach is the way to go."

Once on the road, the band says that, "Shows aren't what they used to be."  They think it reflects something more than just the music scene though.  "I really think it is the state of the scene in general. America is suffering on many fronts and one of them is music.  I'm not sure if over-documentation of bands on the internet spoiled the magic, if everyone went broke, or if the scene became too saturated with awful music. I do know that I've watched too many North-Eastern venues fall into ruins, heard too many bands trying to fit the "success'' formula, and watched too many great bands play to empty rooms. It’s a scary trend and I’m not sure what’s gonna’ fix it."

One thing that we think will move the scene forward is bands like this, and the attitude they bring.  You can almost feel the energy coming at you when listening to Take One Car's songs, and when asked to talk about their influences energy was a focal point of the discussion.  "What our influences are is always a hard question to answer. All of us have pretty different tastes in music. There is some overlap, but it is really tough to pinpoint a single or even several bands that have influenced our band on a whole. I often find myself mentioning bands like At The Drive-In or Bear vs Shark as an influence, but it's more about their energy. Those bands made electric music. Even their most down tempo and subtle songs, were charged. It's very easy to fall under the spell of those songs. They've  really taught me to get lost in the moment, and become whatever your song is about," they said.

They described their own songwriting process as at times "chaotic" and "frightening", but the end result is never anything short of powerful.  "Every time we start writing new material, I get really overwhelmed. A song usually begins with one of us bringing a riff or chord progression we like to practice. If everyone else digs it, we start jamming on it, and from there it either goes someplace or gets scrapped. At times I wish it was a more refined process, but I think it lends to some of the variety in our music. That little bit of chaos has kept us out of a rut so far."

You can experience the power and craftsmanship of  Take One Car Sunday, along with Oh Condor, Riley, and Cowgirl.  Showtime is 7pm, all ages, and it's just $5.00. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In The Spotlight--The Van Allen Belt

Pittsburgh's The Van Allen Belt coming to the Galaxy June 2nd
The Van Allen Belt is at once new and original, while using sounds and styles that would have fit solidly in the late 60's or early 70's.  Blending samples, effects, and harmonies into a swirling, almost cinematic sound, The Van Allen Belt is like few other bands that have come to the Galaxy.

Originally formed as a studio only project by B.K. Ferris and vocalist Tamar Kamin, the group has developed into a regularly touring live force that has played Cincinnati's Mid-Point Music Festival among other events, and often mixes incredible visual art from Ohio State's Peter Luckner into their show.  While the group's sound will certainly evoke a feeling of being fresh but still familiar, they weren't aiming for a certain style.  Ferris said that, "I'd say there are tons of homages to what I enjoy, but I was never out to directly copy a style.  And I find I can't if I try."

He has found other artists, "both audio and visual" inspirational, though his primary influence is "real life".  "In The Van Allen Belt the music is always written before the words, and then I wait for that moment when I have something to say," he told us. "I try not to force it."

The group has been performing live for nearly five years, and Kamin said that, "Our decision to work on touring The Van Allen Belt more is based on where we are as a band right now."  She adds, "performing artists need audience to support their work.  The more places you go the more people you meet. The more good relationships you make the more people will like you, as a band or otherwise."

Working, like the Galaxy, as a totally DIY venture is both a dream, and a struggle for the group.  "Having a business where we can record, produce, publish, license, and perform in the black is realistically what we're working on," says Kamin.  She began to view the band as a second full time job in 2009, "and began seeing it as a business."  Working to break old routines and maintain a positive attitude have been the biggest struggles the group, and most DIY efforts, have faced.  When asked about the group's long term goals, Ferris replied, "I'd say in a word: Europe."

All of the group members have jobs outside the group to varying degrees, from part time office work, to bassist Tom Altes' work as a surgical tech.  Topping off everything else, the group stays active in the community, working for "various charitable organizations", as well as volunteering at festivals and galleries where they can.  Kamin sums it up nicely, telling us, "We don't sleep much."  Which is clearly the ethos of any solid DIY effort.

Being on the road has many challenges, but the band seems to still love it.  "I think it's great to see new cities and to visit ones we've played before," says Kamin.  She cites having a good show and meeting new people who like what they do as the high points, and the general "grumpiness" caused by the lack of food and restrooms as particular challenges.  Ferris points to "promoters out there who are looking to make money off of the entertainment rather than the audience," as a big point of frustration.  He tries to keep his expectations of new venues neutral, "as many of my favorite shows were in the oddest places."

Like many artists we've talked with, the group is generally pleased with the state of the music industry for unsigned indie artists.  "There are great things happening everywhere now.  We're all so in tune with the internet that local scenes have far less influence on music."  He concludes by telling us that "Weird is getting a lot of mainstream attention again," which gives hope to every artist out there creating their own vibrant slice of music.

You can see The Van Allen Belt this Saturday June 2nd along with Zach Starkie from Somebody's Something, and hopefully one more group to be added this week.  Showtime is 7pm, and the event is all ages and just $5.00.  Thanks to the band for taking some time to talk with us, and we'll see you at the show!