Lab Partners - Interview:
Dayton City Paper (July 28, 2005)

Soundboard - Lab Partners
By Paul Barbatano

I've always had an issue with speakerphones. I'm not entirely certain where it comes from, but I've decided that speakerphones are too mysterious and lonely for me.

I've always thought Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King could write a damned good story about a speakerphone conversation because one's voice always sounds so disembodied and remote. You also have no idea whom you're really enunciating to on the other side and the conversation quickly turns odd and somewhat surreal, for me at least.

Upon calling the Lab Partners last week, I was officially greeted by guitarist/vocalist Mike Smith, who asked if the interview could be done on speakerphone so the whole band could chime in when appropriate. I immediately had visions of disordered chaos and cacophony, band members begging for breathing room to spout off diatribes, but I agreed. As it turned out, Smith led the discussion with the others occasionally providing orderly support, so my fears were unfounded.

The Dayton quartet has recently released their second LP, Wicked Branches (Reverb), and the album once again finds the band mining the psychedelic roots of the 1960s invasion; bands such as the Beatles and the Who, as well as more current acts such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.

"We started out like so many others, recording things on 4-track and then adding and subtracting," Smith said. "I had originally been in another band called Honeyburn with a friend of mine and Lab Partners kind of grew out of that. We'd always have people coming down to work on various things and add different things, and that's how the band name was born. Matt Schultz (Enon) came and saw us play one night and admitted that we had the talent but needed drums. He quickly learned all the songs and the band once again evolved with Matt behind the drum kit. We've had several member changes over the years but the core group has basically been the same."

Smith admitted that the band has been heavily influenced by the British bands they currently sound like but that they still have a somewhat specific writing process for songs.

"I've always used the same process I have for years," Smith said. "I usually write a whole song, or a few chords of a song and the whole band decides what we each like or don't like. We've been playing the same type of music for quite a while now so there definitely is a particular sound we look for in the songs. We've never had a big concept to the songs but rather just come up with whatever and see what we like. One thing you'll never hear us play, however, is heavy metal."

Wicked Branches re-affirms the band's toehold on their own brand of psychedelic mastery and is highlighted by Smith's luscious guitar fills, Schultz's [sic: Todd Carll] skittering drums, and Amy Smith's (Mike's wife) cascading keyboard runs. Wicked will remind listeners of past greats while providing a glimpse of how the past can be re-shaped into something new and exciting. The band is also very excited to tour this summer and have planned a fairly busy voyage across the Midwest for the remainder of July and a good deal of August.

"We'd love to tour more," Smith said. "There's always this balance between our jobs and our lives at home but touring is always left as an option. We try and tour whenever we have free time saved up or over the weekend, but there never seems (to be) enough time for everything we want to do. We always have to carefully balance everything."

Lab Partners are due to play the Lite Brite Festival this weekend at the Southgate House, which is also set to feature Scout Niblett and VHS or Beta, as well as two new documentaries concerning The Afghan Whigs and Beulah.

"We're very excited to play this weekend and we're excited for where the band is headed," Smith said. "The music is continuing to grow and evolve and we're finally writing new songs because we've been playing the songs off Wicked Branches for nearly a year now. We're very excited for the future."

Upcoming local shows for Lab Partners include Elbos, 200 S. Jefferson Street, on Friday, July 29, and Southgate House, 24 E. Third Street in Newport, Kentucky, on Saturday, July 30, as part of the Lite Brite Film and Music Festival. For more information, call (937) 461-elbo and (859) 431-2201, respectively.