by Jeff Milo
That's a new concert-documentary series hosted by the Lager House and its second installment is scheduled for next week: August 14th.
"Yeah, I don't really know anything about it yet," says Steve McCauley, singer/guitarist of The Walking Beat, one of the bands slated to perform this Tuesday. "We'll see. I mean..., I'm always up for the weirder shows. In fact, I'm kinda all about the weird-shows right now. It's gonna be recorded, too, so that's cool."
Weird or not, McCauley thinks this Wiggle thing definitely sounds like a cool idea.
Said-idea was born from a loose collective spanning a slew of singers, songwriters, composers, producers and various mover/shaker-types like Jesse Shepherd-Bates, Topher Horn, Adam Lee Padden, Patrick Davy, Will Shattuck, Max Bauhof, Sarena Ridley...and probably more-than-a-few-more.
But, more on that later.
First, there's this new song by McCauley's still-new band:
This still-new band debuted at the Metro Times Blowout of 2012, opening things up at the Magic Stick Kick-off Party. That was back "when it was barely-even born yet," recalls McCauley, the crux of the Walking Beat having been the fleshing out of leftover, more struttin'/pop-minded material the Woodbridge-set scribe had made in the waning days of his last major project, Scarlet Oaks.
"Barely born then, and then un-born...," he says. Soon after that debut, McCauley lost initial bassist and keyboardist, quite-soon, actually.
His drummer, Danny Kanka (also Steve's roommate) stuck through with him, along with former Scarlet-Oaks-satellite Joe Lavis (on bass). Kanka's good friend/collaborator Jon Berz (of Songs From The Moon) joined on keys (an integral element to this sound, as far as McCauley was concerned). And then singer Stefanie Selvaggio got to talking music with McCauley one day and he was moved to recruit her as harmonious collaborator in the lead-vocals department.
Took a while to get their footing, but the Walking Beat are on their way, so far so good...
McCauley had the same kinds of false-starts, member-swaps, recording-delays with Scarlet Oaks from 07-11.
He'd sometimes speak of an epic -forthcoming- album for S.O., maybe even a double-album, if any kind of complete-statement, beyond just the pair of E.P.'s that they released. Alas, that album wound up being only a personal pie in his Scarlet-tinged sky. Not to mention that most wanted to call it an Americana-band, focusing in on there wispy, autumnal-twangs and strummy-toe-tapping style, but it wasn't really ever a "folksy" band.
Finally, the Oaks came down. I joke with McCauley that he's cursed, maybe.
"I think it is," he chuckles. "It's hard though. But, every musician has their own idea of what they want to do musically and it's just hard to keep people; there's very few bands these days that aren't like that..."
That McCauley is up for the weird show is telling; he's also up for expanding the Walking Beat's sound, heretofore gauged as late-50's/early-60's throwback style to a shuffling, sunny, simple-strummin' pop/rock, into equally weird-er territory. Not that he's gonna make Dark Side of the Moon, but, hey, now that he's got a set quintet and a set-recording space, anything's possible.
After a recent show at Small's, Kanka commented to Steve on his guitar playing, quipping that it sounded "like 'Punk Rock Girl' by the Dead Milkmen."
"'Really?'"" Steve responded, half baffled, half impressed, fully aware that he was consciously reaching for a rawer sound. "Okay! Let's just do that. A noisier guitar. Simpler-maybe, but, just not tons of stuff going on, we don't need that in a song. It's nicer, in a band, to have that bare sound and let the piano be more up front and have more rhythm."
I comment on the jauntiness of "Nighttime Sky."
"Yeah," he nods, "but it's still got a rawness to it. Just one guitar, the whole track, it made sense, it doesn't have to be all layered."
But he still feels he could stretch out into newer, different, weirder territories. "Other songs, like 'Long Beaten Love,' -that could have been a Scarlet Oaks song, a little more rockin' I guess, but...I really do want to mix it up on the record..." (That's a "forthcoming" record; they'll have a single out in early October). "Changing the musicians has made a big difference in that, finding new people to add different ideas, try different sounds."
"Just trying to keep it interesting, for the music and for ourselves..."
And so we have the Wiggle & Jam It Series -
Aug 14th is the 2nd circulation of "Round 1."
The idea for this came from the meeting of minds inside the HQ of producer/composer Topher Horn, who not only plays in a group called Nam Kook & the Typhoon but also records a slew of other burgeoning indie-rock/folk/experimental projects inside his studio -Room 103 - (with Max Bauhof). The minds that met also included singer/songwriters Jesse Shepherd-Bates and Sarena Ridley (of Body Holographic).
The idea for "Wiggle and Jam It" is to bring together a line up of 3 bands -> have Horn record their live set ->and provide them with the mixes of their performance (to use however they chose).
Bates/Horn, or whoever's around(?) will then pick their favorite live song from each band's set and put together a 9-song Volume to showcase the SE-Michigan music scene in its purest form. Wiggle Comp's will be offered for free in the Lager House Record Shop.
"Having a sort of hub in which to house all of these projects has really allowed for the collaborations more than anything in the past," said Horn. "We're all friends that like each other's work and constantly end up in the same working environment. I'm lucky to have such an incredible group of people to work with and have around."
Horn started music-life on piano but his world expanded when he shifted to the drums. "I really got into production and recording in middle school when I was playing with a number of friends and I felt compelled to document what we did to cassette tape. "
"I think of myself as a composer first and a recording engineer second. I got into recording so that I could document and share my own music..."
Similar idea here, with Wiggle & Jam It.
Or as Bates emphasized - community instead of scene. "It takes a village," he said. We'll see...