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Local Band Deals with Its Apt Name PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 16 April 2002 18:00
It’s something that happens to bands of all types, from fictional (Spinal Tap) to big (the unnamed band combining former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell with the instrumental power of Rage Against the Machine): A major player (Nigel or Cornell) quits at an inopportune time (in the middle of a big tour or before the debut album is even released), leaving everybody in a lurch.

In the case of the local metal four-piece Friction, lead singer Ryan Schmidt quit two weeks ago, just as the band was preparing to release its self-titled disc. As guitarist Jeremy Draper tells it, Schmidt “expected more from other members of the group” than they could give with full-time jobs. Schmidt concurred with that assessment.

The band is soldiering on, though. For its CD-release party this weekend at Lumpy’s, Friction will be sporting a new vocalist. “I’m going to be doing the singing, or attempting it, anyway,” Draper said.

It will be Draper’s second gig in front of the microphone, and he admits it won’t be the full Friction experience. At his singing debut, “I was really scared,” he said, because he’d never sung in front of a crowd before and never played guitar while singing. (The dual duty takes its toll, Draper said; the band had to drop a few songs because he couldn’t both sing and play on them.)

The CD-release party will also be an opportunity for the band to solicit singer candidates. Draper said that he hopes to have a permanent replacement for Schmidt by the Pigstock festival at the Pig Pen over the Memorial Day weekend.

The band as recorded on the 11-track Friction showed promise, a melding of metal and emo recalling the dark dirges of Alice in Chains or slower tracks by The Deftones.

But the record has its limitations. Friction shows a mastery of the basics and strong competency, but it doesn’t rise above that level frequently enough. And the recording – which Draper admits was done on a new machine, and “we were the guinea pigs” – is regularly a few notches below professional quality, with the guitar sound particularly thin. While lo-fi has its charms, here it merely buries the sound.

Those flaws can’t mask the good things about the band, though.

Guitarist Draper isn’t confined to metal riffs – showcasing funk on “Friends,” for example – and uses his effects well. The brief, surprisingly straightforward solo on “Kiss the Sky” is a model of economy and effectiveness.

Chris Tyler, meanwhile, provides an active bass that’s a lot more interesting than you’ll typically find in metal – reminiscent, a touch, of Les Claypool – and he actually takes lead duties on “Sacrificial,” which indulges some smartly unusual instrumentation and rhythms.

Schmidt’s voice is nothing if not versatile, starting the album in a Layne Staley whine, screaming a good chunk of the time, and actually revealing singing talent on the standout “Kiss the Sky,” which shows a future for Friction outside of metal.

Of course, that’s now a future without Schmidt, and like many bands before it, it remains to be seen whether Friction will persevere.

Friction will be holding a CD-release party on Saturday, April 20, at Lumpy’s in Davenport, starting at 9 p.m. Sharing the bill will be Retrograde, Makeshift, and Fabrication. Cover is $5. Copies of Friction will be available for $7.

To listen to a section of “Kiss the Sky” from Friction’s self-titled debut, click here.


Rearview Mirror, All Lights Off

Hailing from Cresco in the northeastern corner of Iowa, this youthful foursome (still in or just out of their teenage years) was signed by legendary producer Steve Lillywhite. The band’s Lillywhite-produced record, All Lights Off, is due in stores June 4, and it’s an assured, polished work that might just make a splash on the national music scene.

Trouble is, it might be too polished and good. The band feels a bit like a throwback to the days when nobody seemed to mind how much record labels and producers shaped the kids from Hanson and Silverchair. Audiences seem to accept – or even like – their pop pre-fabricated, but when it comes to rock music, they want some authenticity with the angst.

Lillywhite, who’s produced a variety of acts from U2 to early Genesis to the Dave Matthews Band, chose Rearview Mirror as the first band on his new Gobstobber label. The group – brothers Adam (vocals) and Jason (bass) Ptacek, drummer T.J. Kammer, and guitarist Matt Olson – writes catchy songs that range from alternative ballads to straight-ahead metal, but mostly they stick to the emotion-filled, arena-rock song of the sort Eddie Vedder and company do so well. (The band’s name comes from a Pearl Jam song, not coincidentally.)

The record is fine for what it is, but the group bears watching primarily to see what happens when the publicity effort reaches its peak over the next few months. Will audiences and the music industry spit out these young Iowans, or will they hit it big? Stay tuned.

Rearview Mirror hasn’t played much in Iowa but has done a few shows at the Pig Pen in Clinton. The band’s Web site is (http://www.rvmonline.com).
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