Partners - Interview:
Soundboard - Lab
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.