God how I hate the term supergroup. And I'm sure the guys in & & SEAWOLF & & are themselves cringing right now as they read this. But I would apply that rightfully maligned term to this band for one reason. Seawolf is made up of local veteran players, players who were the driving force in each of their previous respective bands, and they've created something that very few so-called supergroups ever accomplish -- that is, something greater, more engaging than the sum of its parts.
E. G. Bailey (guitar) was a member of the pioneering avant-rock band, Cattle Prod. Jon Swanstrom (also on guitar) has been one of the most visible and prolific members of the local punk scene as a co-founder of both TFL and the Flies. Bassist Tim Absalonson was instrumental in crafting the early Makers' sound, and drummer Gus Trapp spent years holding down the backbeat for the Fumes.
The guys have spent most of the last year playing shows around town and honing their already formidable performance skills. Seawolf's live gigs are typified by high-energy, skintight playing and lots o' volume. But the band has been backing away from the local limelight recently, instead spending time in the studio, recording tracks for a demo and planning for bigger and better things.
"It's kind of a weird, EP thing that we're using for booking out-of-town shows and to shop out to labels," says Bailey of the eight-song collection, Jet Sounds. "We're not sure if we're going to sell it or not at this point."
Without giving too much away (at this point), I'm happy to report that Jet Sounds is a meaty sonic stew, packed with big, aggressive guitars interspersed with otherworldly electronic sounds and great vocal harmonies. Though overwhelmingly "rocking," the group hasn't forgotten the importance of subtlety and dynamics. It sure doesn't sound like it came from Spokane -- a comment Bailey takes as a compliment.
"We recorded it all ourselves, and then we took it to Bop Tech and he [Pat Par] did the mix down on it. He really did wonders for it. I was kind of embarrassed because, you know, we did the drums with two or three mics and really didn't know what we were doing."
The band has secured the talents of local musician, scenester and promoting machine, Cyre Par to help kick Seawolf up to the next level.
"Cyre's been putting together promo kits and sending them off to some of the clubs on the coast and shipping a few off to labels like Sub Pop and Merge and Matador, trying to see if we get any bites out there."
It's all about spreading the Seawolf message beyond the Spokane city limits.
"Even though local shows are good practice and a lot of fun, with no local indie station and no labels in town, it doesn't really do you much good," explains Bailey. "That's not to dis on the local support, because it's great. And you can find an audience here. But for us to try to win over the town in general, we'd have to start playing Limp Bizkit kind of music, and I don't think that's gonna happen."
It's no secret that the lack of real, indie-friendly radio in Spokane assures that all but the most trendy must look elsewhere (read: outside Spokane) for any kind of meaningful presence on the airwaves.
"It's a missing link in terms of providing a carrot for bands to want to go for it. I don't think that anybody expects to get signed or to make a ton of money, but just to be able to drive around town and hear your songs and your friend's songs on the radio is really fun. Living in Seattle, I'd constantly turn on KCMU, and they'd always have some of the worst local music on there as possible, but they were just all about playing it. When I say 'worst,' that means it just wasn't for me. There was some really phenomenal stuff on there, too. There was something for everybody."
Despite the self-imposed limit on local shows, the group will be highly visible the next couple of months, beginning this Friday night with a gig at the Fort Spokane Brewery following an opening slot on the UK Subs show at Ichabod's earlier that night.
"I think we're kind of past the point of playing in one place a lot because you're nervous to take it out into the U.S. and wondering if it's good enough. You play so many shows and you rehearse so much, eventually, you feel like, well, if we're not good enough by now, then we need to put our nerves in a suitcase and forget about it."
& & & lt;i & Seawolf plays at the Fort Spokane Brewery on Friday, Oct. 6, at 10 pm. Cover: $4. Call: 838-3809. They will also open for the UK Subs at Ichabod's North the same night. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & London calling & & & &
Though Londoners, the UK SUBS were originally contemporaries of the Sex Pistols and the Clash; their sound had much more in common with the blue-collar proto punk of early '70s American bands like the MC5. Smart songwriting, singer Charlie Harper's distinctive howl and guitarist Nicky Garratt's hellacious guitar wall of sound helped the group establish an identity. Relentless touring and a tenacious "never say die" attitude has kept the Subs (in one form or another) marching on, racking up close to 20 albums and hundreds of thousands of miles on their many, many treks across the world. They bring their well-traveled, high-energy rock and rage show to Ichabod's North on Friday.
Unlike a lot of bands that die off, then stagger back to life when the royalty checks stop coming, the UK Subs have never officially called it quits. Since forming, the band has hit fans with an album of new material, on average, every two years. Twenty years down the road, Harper (the only original member to have weathered all the lineup fluctuations) is still leading the group into something like 200 gigs a year. Garratt is firmly back in the role of head guitar slinger and the bass is being handled by longtimer Alvin Gibbs. As of press time, the skins were being pounded by Dave Ayes (the group has seen at least as many drummers come and go as Spinal Tap).
And as a quick look at the track listings from their last studio effort (1997's Riot) reveals, the band hasn't let up much on their social consciousness and righteous fury. The titles themselves -- "Rebel Radio," "Power Corrupts," "Paradise Burning," "Human Rights" and "Music For The Deaf" prove that in the Sub's world, there are still a few evils out there for music to help combat.
The UK Subs do the old school punk rock right. A prophetic quote from Harper in 1977 seems to have been adopted as the template for the band's success, modest though it might be: "I'll still be playing down the local pub once or twice a week in 20 years time if I'm still here. And that'll be good enough for me."
Well, as evidenced by its extensive touring schedule, the demand for the UK Sub's brand of punk certainly isn't limited to the group's hometown pubs. And after all this time, they're still out there earning fans the old fashioned way, one gig at a time.
& & & lt;i & UK Subs play with Seawolf at Ichabod's North on Friday, Oct. 6, at 9:30 pm. Tickets: $5. Call: 328-5720. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &