by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
By the way, when Bare Wires frontman Matthew Melton was asked how he knew Chris Aponick, this is what he said: “Isn’t he in Digital Leather?”
Column 265: Safety Violation
Bare Wires talks garage…
Thank Chris Aponick for the following snapshot of rock band Bare Wires. Chris is a fellow music writer at The Reader who contributed to The City Weekly in the past and also sells CDs at Homer’s in the Old Market.
He’s a garage band freak — I’m not talking about the Mac software, but the “music genre” that became popular in the indie world three or four years ago and whose essence continues to linger. It was Aponick who booked Bare Wires at the Barley Street Tavern this Sunday night, which, of course, made him ineligible to write about them (It’s that whole journalistic impartiality/ethics bug-a-boo that we pride ourselves on at The Reader). So he hounded me.
From Oakland by way of Memphis, the band’s frontman Matthew Melton called Sunday from Brooklyn, where the band had the day off from their tour. It also happened to be Easter.
“There are funny tourists everywhere,” he said as he and the band strolled through the bowels of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Melton said Bare Wires includes members Fletcher Johnson and drummer Nathan Price. “We all met in the Bay Area, in Oakland, where there’s a cool garage thing going on with a lot of bands.”
Those involved in the “garage thing” include Ty Segall, Greg Ashley Band, Nobunny and my favorite, Thee Oh Sees, whose frontman, John Dwyer, is putting out the next Bare Wires album on his Castle Face label. “It’s great to be a part of it,” Melton said. “It’s a bunch of bands recording on tape, making demos and releasing vinyl.”
Bare Wires’ music has been called “Soft Punk” and “Smooth Punk” for reasons I don’t understand. It’s not soft or smooth at all. Instead, the band fuses the sloppy, amateurish qualities of garage with surf, glam and ’60s psychedelic. “We didn’t call ourselves ‘soft punk,’ someone else did,” Melton said, though the band now uses the term in its publicity materials. “I thought it was funny.”
But in the end, he still prefers “garage” — a generic term that describes not only the music’s simplistic genius, but a subculture similar to indie except that the characters involved seem angrier and slightly less fashion-conscious. “It’s sincere, it’s simple,” Melton said. “You’re making songs, you’re performing from your heart, there’s something about it that makes for good pop songs. It’s a crude, raw, minimal thing. The people that go to these types of shows love the music of it more than the style or the scene of it.”
Melton was friends with one of the genre’s heroes — Jay Reatard, a rock musician, singer and songwriter whose music has influenced a lot of garage bands. Reatard’s death Jan. 13 of this year shook the rock world. Garage band temple Beerland in Austin hosted a Reatard tribute night during this year’s South by Southwest Festival.
Melton said he hung out with Reatard growing up in Memphis. “We lived in the same neighborhood and did nothing things together, like explore abandoned buildings,” Melton said. “He recorded my first band’s stuff. The one thing that stands out is he was really hard working. He really put the work into his efforts, and his energy was as much an influence as the music itself.”
Melton said at the time he didn’t have the means to go to Reatard’s funeral, so he remembered him in his own way. “He would have wanted me to be in my room cranking out a record,” Melton said. “He believed that you only got so much time, so do as much cool stuff as you can.”
I told Melton I couldn’t understand why he moved away from Memphis, which is garage-rock ground zero. “I’d been in Memphis my whole life and my family didn’t do anything or go anywhere,” he explained. “They still live in the same house in West Memphis built in 1958. I had to see the world myself; I had to get out. There was so much happening in the Bay Area, and the Oakland garage rock explosion was a cool part of it.”
But Memphis, it seems, is calling him back. “When we played there again recently, I started looking for a house where I could move my recording studio.”
Melton said Sunday’s Barley St. show, which also features Cheap Smokes and Saudi Arabia (formerly The Dinks), would be his first time in Omaha (“I love the Box Elders,” he added), but then admitted, “Actually, I played in Omaha with my first band. We drove across the country and did a show at O’Leaver’s on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember we traded some LSD to some guy for a delay pedal. It was fun.” I bet it was.
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The video of Cursive’s cover of Starship’s “We Built This City” is online (here), and making its way through the blog-o-sphere. My question: Where is Ted Stevens?
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area.
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