The members of The Lion Oh My potentially killed dozens of brain cells last winter. Not due to booze or drugs, but the kerosene heater the band used to warm the abandoned church basement they practiced in.
"We wondered why we got so many headaches," says guitarist Chris Renz. "We're not completely convinced we didn't get CO2 poisoning."
In a way, the band's music could be accused of having seasonal affective disorder. Their "old" self-titled album, as the band members refer to their debut December release, was written in that cold basement. But The Cold War, the new EP to be released at a party at the Bing Crosby Theater on Friday, was spawned over the summer.
"The old album had a different energy," Renz explains. "It was a lot darker."
Things are sunnier now — they rent Noise Frog Studios, which made things simpler for recording purposes, as all of their equipment was on the premises. Here, they practice for two to three hours a few times a week, perfecting their swirling, ambient rock sound.
"There's no way we could get through our day jobs if we didn't have this," says lead singer David Arnold, who started TLOM two years ago. "My fiancée can always tell when I haven't had band practice in a while because I get irritable."
Admittedly, these guys can't get enough of each other.
"We get the 'Oh, are you guys all gay together?' thing," says Renz, who is married.
"We're all just best friends, we just have great chemistry," Arnold continues.
It's a glorious Sunday afternoon, and the two are holed up at their cozy studio (a far cry from their first practice space) to talk about the new disc they created with drummer Sam Stoner and bassist Andy Bartholomew.
Writing often happens organically when Stoner goes out for a cigarette break. Renz will be working on some melody, Bartholomew will be tinkering, and then Stoner will know it's right. He comes in, sits down at his drums and a song is born.
"Whatever happens, Sam can't stop smoking; we won't let him," Renz says.
It's after the melody is complete that Arnold goes to work on his lyrics, sometimes rewriting them up to 10 times before he brings them to the group.
"I love David's songwriting," Renz says, beaming in Arnold's direction. "It's ambiguous and poetic — something I don't hear everywhere else."
"I call Chris the riff factory," Arnold says, returning a compliment. "He just brings everything to the table that we need."
Arnold describes the new work as a major step forward; where with the first CD they were figuring out their sound as a group, this time around it was a refinement. He calls the end product progressive rock, a sound much fuller than one might expect from three instrumentalists and a singer.
Take a listen to the disc, and it's easy to pick out influences. Renz's classical guitar background stands out with its virtuosic nature, while the title track talks of Arnold's opinion of the current state of government affairs.
TLOM's plans are to stretch, to play in Seattle and Portland. But in Spokane, they're already making waves. Just two weeks ago they opened for the Plain White T's at the Knitting Factory; in August they were selected as finalists for a contest touting a chance to record a track with Linkin Park.
"Out of thousands of band submissions, our band was top 10," Arnold says. "To have a band that's been so successful over the years select us, yeah, it felt good."
TLOM's release party, which they're calling The End of The World Show, will feature two sets from the act — one acoustic, the other plugged-in — as well as a Halloween costume contest and raffle.
"Halloween is our favorite holiday," Arnold says. "We love to dress up. We thought about dressing up as each other and playing each other's instruments on stage."
"But people probably wouldn't get it," Renz says, rolling with the joke. ♦
— The Lion Oh My EP release party feat. Death By Pirates, LaVoy, Summer In Siberia, 5 Times Over • Fri, Oct. 18 at 7 pm • Bing Crosby Theater • $10 • All-ages • ticketswest.com