March 23, 2009

1090 Club: The HCTF questionnaire

1090 Club
photo: Casey Rifle

Indie inventors 1090 Club from Billings, Montana, are gearing up for the March 24th release of their new album Natural Selection. The album will be launched at a free hometown show, an in-store at Ernie November. All four band members kindly answered a few questions via email.

Choosing a band name with number in it, is a fine way to get near the top of the list of any alphabetically ordered list. But there's more to it, I guess. Can you explain?
Sean Lynch: "1090 Club is kind of name that has just stuck with us. Our very first drummer came up with it about 6 years ago, and we've had it ever since. It's another term for a mullet, but that doesn't necessarily translate with our music, so we downplay that a bit. The being at the top of the list just happened to work out in our favor. The iPod wasn't really a force when we came up with it."
Mike Galt: "You know, we didn't really realize that until later. But now iTunes has reversed their alphabetizing so it falls last. The name really comes from a hairstyle that we have all lived through, but seems to be multiplying here in Montana, the mullet. It is 10% in the front, 90% in the back. It started as a bit of a joke name, but then things got rolling and we had a lot of notoriety with that name so we really couldn't change it. We like it though. It ends up taking on a lot of different meanings as well. We start to notice that there are many things with the same 1090 in them. Road signs and stuff like that.
Megan Dibble: Our name is a synonym for the mullet haircut (10% front, 90% back). I wasn't around when the band was named but I'm sure there was some dorky back-story to it. "
Steve Serfazo: "Mullet."

Being based in Billings, Montana, puts you outside the mainstream. Is there a music scene? And how did you meet?
Sean: "There is a very small scene here, but mostly metal bands. Indie bands are hard to come by. Mike and I have known each other since we were kids. I played in a really popular band around here called "sprurge" in my youth. Steve played around here in some popular bands after I had moved to Portland, OR. When I moved back, I opened a café and Megan ended up working there (as well as Steve, and Mike at various times). I started the band as a pet project for a local comp we were doing and it just took off from there. "
Mike: "Yes, there is a music scene, but like our population, it is small. While there isn't tons of indie rock, we do have a lot of punk and dirt-core type stuff, along with too many jam bands. In fact, more cover bands get work in our town than touring bands. People would rather hear that stuff over and over again. The shows are always strange because you could have us playing with a metal band, playing with a nickleback-ish band. It sucks sometimes.
We all met through music. Sean and I had been friends for a while and were messing around with a song for an upcoming comp. Megan started working at Sean's restaurant and we all started jamming together. We thought, violin? That'd be crazy. So we tried it and it worked so well. We went through a few line- up changes, but the three of us stayed constant. We all knew Steve from the music scene and from different circles of friends. He was playing in a series metal band, but we thought he'd be into trying some music with us. We all jammed one time and it was set. His hard ass style fits so well. He beats the shit out of the drums."
Megan: "I met everyone basically because of the music scene. About seven years ago, the summer I finished high school, I started hanging out at the restaurant that Sean owned where a lot of the local shows were held. I eventually got a job as a waitress there, and around the same time Sean and Mike, who were working on a song for a local compilation, asked if I would like to try playing some violin with them. I agreed, and now here we are. Montana does have a pretty descent music scene. There aren't a whole lot of people, but everyone is pretty supportive of one-another and shows are a really big deal, especially the ones with touring bands because bands don't travel here as frequently as they do other more populated places. "
Steve: "I was the last member added. My previous band had played a few shows with 1090 around town, and I had played drums on a 1090 song called "little know fact" for a split cd with The Brother Egg. And a couple months later they asked me to join."

The compositions are quite complex - like meeting each other half way from the rock and classical music world. Is that why the piano and drums take care of the bottom end?
Sean: "That, and we had so many troubles with bass players we decided to go without. Was the best decision we made. Mike: In a way yes, but really the sound evolved out of necessity. We dropped having a bass player and we needed to re-arrange the sound a little. I started writing piano parts that would be more like two separate parts, or instruments. I try to keep a simple bass feel, as if it is not the low scale of the piano, but an actual bass part. But then the high end stuff tries to stay very piano-like. I love some classical music, but I don't write with it in mind. I have only played piano since I've been in the band, so I am a little inexperienced and still learning. But I believe I come at writing on piano from a very different mind set than some, so bizarre things come out. I've been a drummer for 27 years so our drummer and I really connect and lock in during live shows. Plus we write really well together. Hearts is a product of Steve and I and our strange brains."
Megan: "All of us basically play lead instruments and sing lead vocals so there is a lot going on. We've just chosen not to have a bass player so the piano and drums have to make up for the low end mainly because the violin and guitar aren't able to. We all individually have somewhat different taste in music which I think shows in some of our writing as well."
Steve: "The reason we don't have a bass player is we went through four or five of them in a few months. We played a show without one and it was the best we'd ever played."

So no more bass players then?
Sean: "We had a bass player for years, and are much happier without. No offense to any bass players out there…we just are not in the market for one right now."
Mike: "We actually have had a few bass players. Some were wonderful and helped out a lot and added a lot to our sound, but most were a pain in the ass. We kept finding very dramatic bass players. It was tough to keep them. Touring usually shook them loose, pushed them over the edge. We actual had one bass player that didn't want to play a show because they were tired from work that day. That night we played as a three piece as figured out that we could do it alone. We have thought of adding a bass, but for right now we are doing fine without it."
Megan: "We've actually tried several different bass players but none of them quite seemed to fit into what we were trying to do. We had a really great show one night that the bass player at the time decided not to play, and we've been a four-piece ever since."
Steve: "As the drummer I would never be apposed to it. However more than four band members is excessive."

There is bit of Irishness and Scottishness in a lot of the songs of Natural Selection, a Celtic folk vibe mashed with rock. Where does that come from?
Sean: "Wow, I've never heard it described that way. All of us were classically trained in music, depending on instrument. Maybe there? Hard to say… We all listen to an insane amount of different music, and sometimes the small things can rub off. I wouldn't call myself a fan of Scottish/Irish music, and I don't really have any in my collection. You've stumped me on my own band... haha..."
Mike: "Really? Maybe its my love of ¾ or 3/3 time signatures, or in my blood. I am Scottish, my middle name is Kinloch. I never really thought of the album having that sound though. But I do love sea shanty music, and oom-pa type stuff. Total sucker for it. So I guess it comes out through what I write."
Megan: "I don't think we intentionally try to make it sound that way, but violin is associated with that type of music quite frequently so I guess that might be why it sounds that way."
Steve: "I'm not sure. I think the violin is going to your head."

You collaborated with Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Minus the Bear) on this album. He is a man known for an "in your face" sound. Being versed in grunge he knows all about the quiet-loud-quiet-loud guitar(s), bass and drums set-up. How did the recording of the strings and piano go?
Sean: "The piano was tracked with a full grand piano all live with the drums at Avast! Studio (recording facility in Seattle - HW). He put up a couple of SM57s, covered the piano in blankets to get rid of any bleed, and that was about it. The violin was tracked in Steve's home studio in his living room. It's a cool old house with wood walls and sounds great. He used a Chameleon Labs tube condenser on it."
Mike: "Really well. He had us set up like a rock band. Not a piano band, so the feel was really about kicking ass all around. He was so open to ideas and trying things that we really had a good time finding the right sounds. We used a full grand piano for the parts and that was amazing. The violin was recorded in his front room, it is airy, but has that sharpness of being rocking right in your face. He was really excited to record the violin."
Megan: "We treat the violin and piano in much the same way as the drums and guitar. They're all basically lead instruments. Steve was really good for us because he uses dynamics very well. We all play and sing almost all of the time so the change in volume and effects that he helped us create make the music more interesting."
Steve: "Steve is an amazing person to work with. And I don't what else to say because my kids are running around and screaming."

Natural Selection is a short album, running a little over half an hour. Albums tend to get shorter these days, almost a return to vinyl days. Got any thoughts on that?
Sean: "I personally think people have abused the "LP" format with cd's. With a 40 min run time, a vinyl record has the perfect amount of time for an artist to get their point across. Anymore, I think albums are full of a bunch of filler, just for the sake of having a "long Play" cd. Music tends to be sacrificed…"
Mike: "We tried to write a longer record, but it's just what came out. I wonder if its people's short attention span that seems to be growing even shorter as time goes by. Everything is streamlined and quick nowadays. Maybe that's the way music is going, sound bites of sound bites. Pretty soon we'll all just have intros. 20 seconds of what the song could be. Albums will be 10 minutes of snippets."
Megan: "We definitely tried to make it a bit longer, but honestly I would rather listen to a record that flowed well, and had lots of interesting points with short songs than listen to one that has lots of "filler" songs to add time. Its quality vs. quantity."
Mike: "I think that's awesome. It seems albums had gotten too long for me."

Anything else? Fire at will ...
. Sean: "You rock… Thanks Hans!!"
Mike: "We love playing together and find that no matter where we travel, Montana is the best place there is. Thanks for your time as well."
Steve: "Wish I had more time to answer your questions."

Pre-order Natural Selection. The album is released on SideCho Records.

MP3: 1090 Club - ITSON

Live dates:
  • 03/24 Ernie November (free in-store), Billings, MT
  • 04/17 The Badlander (w/ Secret Powers and Volumen), Missoula, MT
  • 04/22 The Aquarium (w/ Murder By Death), Fargo, ND


HCTF review of Natural Selection.

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