Chris Stamey, Rick Miller, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon, even the Sex Police reunited for a show this winter, giving John Plymale a chance to whip out some licks. But it’s not just old-school producers charging up their amps. Zeno Gill, who heads the artist cooperative/label Pox World Empire, is ready to release the debut full-length of his band, The Sames, a buzzing, churning rock quartet from Durham. Gill moved here from Brooklyn in the fall of ’99, and hooked up with Andy McGowan and his band The Sleepies. It’s there that he met The Sames guitarist Mark Lebetkin.
“We had a good time making noise in The Sleepies, so we decided to start our own band. I knew Mas [Masanao Sato] because his band Cody Cods had recorded with me. He was a guitar player and I had a feeling he’d be a good bass player too,” says Gill.
They recruited a drummer with a posting on alt.music.chapel-hill and recorded a self-titled EP a year later in 2002. The full-length took a little longer.
“We started working on it a couple years ago, and then we lost everything and had to start again. And once we started again, we went through it pretty quickly,” Gill says.
The 13-song You Are The Sames, which is being given away with admission to their CD release show, bristles with a choppy rhythms and chunky walls of guitar. The droning riffage recalls early ’90s shoegazers, but with a more openly pop ring.
Meanwhile, Gill is working to finish up albums by The Pleasant and Gerty for Pox, as well as a follow up to last year’s Pox compilation, Compulation. Expect these albums in the late summer/early fall.
Of course, not everyone can run their own studio. But that’s certainly the idea. Eyes to Space recorded two albums worth of material without being entirely satisfied, before laying down the money to do it right–themselves.
“We weren’t happy with the first recording because the quality wasn’t too great. We weren’t very experienced and made a lot of beginner mistakes,” says key-tarist Jay Cartwright. (He plays a converted keyboard/guitar mimicking the accordion he grew up playing.)
Though they had nothing but nice things to say about working with Jerry Kee at Duck Kee studios, Cartwright felt the sound still failed to adequately represent the band.
“When you’re on a budget and you’re being charged, you can’t experiment as much and get that perfect keyboard sound or guitar tone,” he says. “So I just decided we should give the home recording another shot. I did a lot of reading and research and worked with some engineers to learn to do it right.”
Producer Mark Williams (who has worked on several SCOTS albums) offered Cartwright the opportunity to help out, providing him an invaluable apprenticeship.
“It was going to involve a lot of different recording situations–horn players, backup singers, a full drum set, everything. And they didn’t have a budget for an engineer but Mark said it’d be OK if I helped out,” he says. “I spent seven 10- to 12-hour days working with him learning mic placement, watching his procedure and how he treated recording different instruments.”
He also met a different, younger Mark Williams, who was recording his old-school chum Nathan Asher and his band The Infantry. Cartwright was pulled in to play some organ.
“Mark said he was trying to unload his old Pro Tools rig. A light bulb went off because our guitar player already got a G4 in exchange for some media work that he’d done,” he says. “We realized this isn’t going to take too much money, and we can make this happen. So I did research about what year to buy and how to get the most bang for my buck.”
It’s been a year since he converted the house he shares with bassist/girlfriend Wendy Spitzer, but then as Cartwright says, “We describe ourselves as a band of nerds, and that’s what the process was–me sitting in the house tapping at a keyboard for a year while others were hanging out.”
The new self-titled album is available directly from the band, though Cartwright is looking to land a deal for their next album. Most of the band is classically trained, from Spitzer, who’s trained in the oboe, to classically trained guitarist Andy Spain and percussion performance major Dylan Thurston, but that doesn’t prevent them from rocking out.
“Beyond just trying to play as a tight band, we’re really just trying to make music that’s fun. We don’t want to play music where we’re showing off our chops. We’re still interested in writing and performing catchy songs and putting on a show an audience can dance to. If the audience listens closely maybe they’ll hear more of the work we’ve put into it and the sophistication, but that isn’t something we push up front,” he says.
The Sames play their CD release party with Erie Choir and Schooner at Duke Coffeehouse on Friday, April 22.
Eyes to Space play with Daniel (Go Machine) Hart’s new group, The Physics of Meaning, on May 4 at Temple Ball/De La Luz.