by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hen the members of For Years Blue took the RAWK Final Four crown in 2004 as high school freshmen, they got to record a debut album. Now, having won Seattle's Sound Off, they're getting a lot more. In keeping with its status as the Northwest's largest battle of the bands, the prizes are serious. In addition to more studio time and industry consultations, For Years Blue have earned a spot at Bumbershoot. Begun in '71, it's the among the oldest surviving music and arts festivals in America. With some 2,500 artists and more than 150,000 in attendance, it's certainly one of the biggest.
The success comes at a good time, says singer and guitarist Erik White. "We've been finding our sound for a year," he says, "we're liking what we've become." He decries their debut album as "an Incubus rip-off." Given the direction they've gone since, confidently experimenting with distorted strings and prog flourishes while keeping song lengths compact and accessible, those three words are a withering critique. The gulf between their old sound and new is so great in the minds of band members that they told Bumbershoot, in an interview, that they're thinking of changing names to reflect the disconnect.
The point at which they'll use the studio time, then, remains murky. The songs that won them the Sound Off! title were the result of a year's evolution in sound. There seems to be little enthusiasm for using the studio time to record such transitional work. White is clearly more excited with taking the sound and creating from there. "We're ready to start writing," he told me, rattling off a list of instruments they plan on using to compose their new album -- violins, banjos, drums, synths -- he states the obvious, "We have a pretty diverse sound."
Once they decide to record, they'll have two days of studio time at Sound House to work on whatever they want, and another day alone with producer Glenn Lorbecki to work on one song of the band's choosing. Though Lorbecki has produced or recorded the likes of PJ Harvey, the Violent Femmes, the White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White doesn't seem unduly impressed. "We're basically going to have him do our single," White says. He then adds, with the measured tone of an industry veteran, "His credentials are pretty good."
With wins at RAWK, Sound Off! and a date at Bumbershoot, so are theirs.