by Mike Corrigan
Bands get together for all kinds of reasons. The thrill of self-expression is high on the list, of course, but that isn't the whole story, not by a long shot. There is fun to be had and members of the opposite sex to impress. And marks in the world to be made. But to get people outside of your community of friends to sit up and take notice of what you're doing requires an extraordinary level of drive and confidence -- or at least the perception of confidence. There are hordes of talented bands out there who may never go anywhere in the music business simply because they approach their craft too casually. And that's fine. But if you crave recognition, there is only one way to get it. You have to go out and earn it.
Spokane band Coretta Scott has only been around since January, but it's already generating a lot of buzz, not only on the local scene but also throughout the Pacific Northwest (they play at the Big Easy this Friday night). How did these guys do that? Well, they wanted it. Badly. So badly they were willing to do just about whatever it took to get it.
"Our band is pretty intense," says guitarist Preston Thomason. "After only being together for a little while, we went on a month-long tour, which is pretty hardcore for a lot of bands. Especially being unsigned with no tour support or anything."
The tour was successful but exacted a heavy price. The band's original drummer, Aaron Posey, quit due to family obligations.
"He was nice enough to stick it out until we got back," explains Thomason. "But he's married and was just thinking like he couldn't be a kid anymore."
Coretta Scott -- Thomason, guitarist Shayne Swenson, bassist Benjamin Emery and vocalist Seth Woodward -- deal in big, heaping slabs of roaring rhythm and blistering lead guitar; thick bottom end, intricate, staggered drumming and urgent vocals that veer in tone from pleading to accusatory. Nouveau metallic touchstones are here as well: the pumping and grinding, the hell-bent energy, the horrific screaming and that jet-black fashion palette. The band is currently working with sticks-man Christian Hendricks (formerly of Mourning After, currently of Riverside) while the search goes on for a new full-time drummer.
And these guys are certainly not just sitting on their collective hinders, waiting for the world to come to them. Coretta Scott first put a dent in the local live music scene with a couple of shows in April. Then it was on to weekend out-of-town gigs with like-minded locals, Mourning After.
"I love Spokane," says Thomason. "But the reason we played out so much so early was because I wanted to make sure I had something good to show all my friends."
Through connections made at home and on the road, Coretta Scott began working it hard.
"I know a lot of people because I let bands stay at my house. So that helped. And also, just sheer persistence. Honestly, you should see my phone bills from February to May. I started booking the tour in February after we'd only been a band for about two or three weeks."
The work and determination paid off -- with shows throughout the region, a management deal with Portland-based Left of the Dial and now label interest. The band also has a five-song EP out (recorded by local wiz, Lee Stoker) with a full-length in the works.
The current EP showcases the band's talents and, to it's immediate credit, sounds less like it came from Spokane and more like it could have come from virtually any sector in modern rock.
"We wanted to make sure people knew we were good musicians," says Thomason. "That's why we throw in guitar solos and stuff like that. But we don't wanna be one of those bands that gets caught up in any fad. I mean, we want to sound modern enough that people will like it, but we don't wanna sound like everyone else. We're just like, you know, if it's good enough, hopefully people will find it."
And Coretta Scott makes it easy for you to do just that -- by taking it's show on the road. Yet despite the successes the band has experienced so far, Thomason remains grounded with reality firmly in check. After all, this business chews up and spits out far more bands than it rewards.
"You can be the biggest band in Spokane, and I can guarantee you, for the most part, no one in Seattle or Portland has ever heard of you," he says. "They don't care. You have to go to them."
It can be tough to realize that the only path to success might just be relentless touring. And even if a band is cool with the sacrifices and the risks, how many bosses and significant others are willing to sign on?
"The band actually made a decent amount of money," says Thomason of the band's last tour. "But personally, we were all screwed financially. We lost a month's worth of wages and there was no more coming in. We're all just now getting back to somewhat normal."
"It's very easy to just hang out in town," he adds. "But I know we have to do this. And I guess so far, it's worked."
Bye Bye to Jeremy -- Drummer Ben Bradley has some good news and some bad news to report. The good news is that his band, Chinese Sky Candy, is throwing a CD release party this Friday night at the B-Side to formally announce the release of the band's long awaited debut album. Ready for the bad news? Good, because here it comes: guitarist, vocalist and synth-player Jeremy Hughes is leaving the band (and Spokane) in August to further his music education. But then, that's not necessarily so bad.
"We've known that this was kind of coming for awhile," says Bradley. "The thing is, he already took a year deferment after being accepted [to a master's program at a Bay Area college] to stick around, partly just to take a year off school and partly to see if this band would do anything. And we've done what we could. We had a pretty good year, played some cool shows and got a lot of great write-ups and recognition."
That recognition came as a natural result of the band's sound, one that's distinctive on the local scene. Chinese Sky Candy (Joe Kelleher on vocals and guitar, Jeremy Hughes on guitar, vocals and synthesizers, Luis Hernandez on bass and synthesizer and Bradley on drums) emits bracing ear candy made up of atmospheric washes, twisted, melodic guitar lines and time signatures that shift from primitive to complex.
And now, they've managed to squeeze out a record.
"Finally. Finally. Finally we got the f--ing record out that we've been working on for about a year," sighs Bradley. "And we're pretty happy with it."
The band utilized the services of Black Coffee Recording, a parent company of the Shop coffeehouse, where Bradley puts in 40 hours a week as a barista.
"It was the absolute best experience," he says, "and not only because I work for these guys at the Shop do I say that. But they're all great. Bob in particular is brilliant at what he does and especially so because you wouldn't know it, necessarily, by the way he comes off. He's such an affable, low-key, humble guy that he doesn't display exactly how much he really knows. He really listens to the music and feels what people are going for and makes an honest attempt to appraise what people mean to accomplish and where it's coming from. Too many engineers and producers are cocky [and] don't wanna hear what you want."
So it goes. When one chapter ends, another begins. And as Chinese Sky Candy goes forward, it goes with a shiny new album to document the time this incarnation of the band was all together in one place, at one time.
"Jeremy leaving is definitely going to permanently alter the band," says Bradley. "A lot about us is going to change. But the other three of us intend to still play together, maybe hook up with somebody else, maybe not. We're not sure what's going to happen, but we're going do whatever we can to roll with it. We're definitely not going to be able to play these songs, though. It's going to be different."
Don't Leave Yet! -- Hey, what's your hurry? Before you leave this page for the crossword puzzle, consider these fresh and tasty bits of chewy kibble.
First there's that one guy, That1Guy, who will once again be dropping in on Mootsy's Thursday night, July 22. (Hey, that's tonight!) He's Mike Silverman and he does a one-man, funked-up, psycho-primitive futurist song spectacle (with this hand-made "magic pipe" thingie) so odd it must be seen to be believed. Truly. Show at 9:30. Cover: $5.
Then we have the Lido Venice, a punk band from Boston, Mass., 02134, who will be performing a free, all-acoustic show (so it is billed) at the Spike coffeehouse on Friday night, July 23, at 8 pm. Cover is on a sliding scale ($3-$5 suggested).
Publication date: 07/22/04