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Keep On Keepin' On 

Want your band to stay together? Learn these local acts' secrets to keeping the fire alive

click to enlarge It's not easy keeping a band together for 10-plus years, but local acts (from left) Lavoy, FAUS, The Cronkites and Whiskey Dick Mountain make it work.
  • It's not easy keeping a band together for 10-plus years, but local acts (from left) Lavoy, FAUS, The Cronkites and Whiskey Dick Mountain make it work.

Want your band to stay together? Learn these local acts' secrets to keeping the fire alive

Inevitably, every band comes to an end. Egos balloon or people get hitched and have kids, and the group breaks up. In Spokane and most other music communities, musicians are notorious for hopping around, playing in one group for a while only to leave and start another. Like other relationships, finding the perfect match often remains elusive.

But there are a handful of local bands from diverse genres that have made their musical relationship work. We asked bands that have been together 10 years or longer how they continue where many others have faltered. Here are their secrets for staying together.


Established: 2005

The secret: Like each other better than anyone else on the planet.

FAUS is a band that can't let go. Drummer Ezra Christopher tried living in Seattle for a bit and singer Alex Chaffin recently went to college in California. None of that lasted. The four-piece group want to be together making "power violence" music and having a hell of a time partying and playing video games together at the Coeur d'Alene house they all share.

"There's no one I like outside of this band," says Christopher, who helped form FAUS back in high school in Colville.

They've tried adding various fifth members to the group, but they never fit. Girlfriends tend to come and go, too. Along with guitarists Mike Angelini and Anthony Perez, the group says they don't fight as long as it's just them.

"The way we talk together is just different," Christopher says. "We're always making up words. A fifth member always ends up being the scapegoat for any problems we're having."

Currently, the group is writing new tracks and plans to release a new album by the end of the year. They also plan to write a novel together.


Established: 2006

The secret: Never give up on the dream.

When Lavoy first moved to Spokane from Alaska in 2013, the five-piece lived in the same house with their wives and children, practicing and creating indie-pop music every day. They released an EP and played dozens of shows. The goal was to make it big nationally from Spokane.

Nearly three years later, that's still the goal. They no longer live in that house in North Spokane — they all had to get jobs to support growing families — but they're as close as ever. Now spread out across town, they still manage to practice two to four times a week. They celebrate family birthdays and Thanksgiving. Otherwise, frontman Tyrell Tompkins says he starts to get lonely.

This is a band that's in touch with its feelings. They admit to crying a lot. They are deep communicators. That they're all married helps with that, they say.

"Although our families are supportive, we're completely united with this band," says drummer Kipp Riley. "Looking at the other guys, they completely understand what this means and are passionate about finding success in whatever form that is for us.

"You have to be a little bit crazy to keep trying to do this," he continues. "And we're OK with that.


Established: 1991

The secret: Always agree with Bob.

On stage, the Cronkites shouldn't even bother with set lists.

"We start with one sometimes, but it always goes by the wayside," says guitarist Chris Casserino.

After 20-plus years together, the rock band knows exactly the right way to feel out a show to make it the most thrilling. More than anything, the size and age and energy of the crowd determine the songs played. Voted an Inlander Best of the Inland Northwest winner in the cover band category three years in a row, the often-improvising four-piece continues to be a community favorite and is currently booked until August.

They say the secret to staying together so long is to not take anything too seriously. That they do get paid (cover bands usually make more money than original acts) doesn't hurt either. But the band's glue remains their elder statesman in his 60s, bassist/singer Bob Sletner.

"Whatever he says goes," drummer Pat Simmons says. "Honestly, if there are every any arguments, we just defer to Bob."

"That's because I'm always right," Sletner says.

"Yes, Bob," says Simmons.


Established: 2006

The secret: Drink a lot, then walk away when it's not enjoyable anymore.

Being in a band isn't like other relationships, says drummer Shawn Cox.

"You can't just say to your wife, 'I'll catch up with you in six months,'" he says.

But in order to make their band work, gospel rockers Whiskey Dick Mountain tend to go on hiatus... for as long as necessary.

Back in 2013, the band was playing too much. What was once a lively, revivalist four-piece — some shows would get so messy that beer would coat the walls, instruments, and everyone in the room — began to feel forced. They took a breather, with three of the four going on to create Primal Shakes, yet the word "over" was never used. Last year, the band performed for frontman Tim Lannigan's 40th birthday bash.

Now, they practice long into the night most Wednesdays at Lannigan's lower South Hill home. There's enough material for another album. They say they're still having a blast playing this music, for now.

"This band is special because it has this joke — we're blasphemous," explains Lannigan, also co-owner of Baby Bar. "Even though we're not that tight [musically] for a band that's been together for a decade, we have so much fun together. It feels good to get wild again." ♦


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