By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
"I'm doing this one for Boston!" shouts Emilio Hernandez, singer and guitarist for Nothing Still, bowling ball hoisted skyward like the severed head of a vanquished enemy. "More Than a Feeling" has come over the jukebox at Saratoga Lanes, Maplewood’s classic bowling alley, and both Nothing Still and their foes in the first-ever Bowling for Press competition, The Floating City, are singing along. Apparently there isn’t more than that feeling and doing anything for a classic-rock band is ill-advised, as Hernandez proceeds to knock down exactly one pin in two frames.
What the hell is Bowling for Press? There are tons of bands in town who want into the paper, and a lot of them are surely deserving, but how do we decide who gets coverage? We could do the usual, sit at the bar and see who buys us the most drinks, but the fine folks in our R&D department (one angry wino and a sock puppet) decided after a Big Lebowski and white Russian bender to just let bands compete in the surest sport to test worthiness short of Thunderdome death matches or lawn darts: bowling. Two bands enter, one band gets the rest of this article.
Both Nothing Still, a "synth alternative" band, and The Floating City, purveyors of moody mid-tempo epics, regularly pack venues like Mississippi Nights, but what remained to be seen was how hard they were willing to fight to get press. After a succession of bad dances, juvenile humor, limp-wristed throws and fancy-lad poses it became apparent that neither band was much for bowling. With scores on both sides ranging from the 50s to the 150s, it was decided that the best way to make the competition fair was to randomly select one name from each side and compare those scores. Drawn first was Hernandez, with a score of 84, and a tense moment followed. Would Nothing Still get the article? Would Boston save the band? Apparently not, as Floating City singer Gareth Schumacher was then drawn, and his score of 102 knocked the opposition out of the running. So without any further ado, here's all about...
The Floating City
As amorphous as their name, The Floating City is all about moving around and changing as the muse strikes them. Formed under a different name around the turn of the millennium by a bunch of lifelong friends, the City has slowly siphoned members through to get to its most recent four piece lineup, consisting of Schumacher (guitar/piano/ vocals), Dan Meehan (guitar/bass),Will Brown (bass/guitar), and Mic Boshans (drums/backup vocals). Their sound is best described now as mood rock, swirling guitar and piano meeting pounding rhythm with a very sensitive twist. Currently hard at work on the follow-up to 2003's King Bear Frightened ChildEP, the band has tried to make their sound a bit more concise, with fewer meandering parts, and meatier compositions. They hope to have their record out by the end of the year, and are playing a few gigs in the meantime to keep in practice. -- Erik Alan Carlson
There are still a handful of months left in 2004, but don't be surprised if this year's best pop song by a St. Louis artist is "Long Division," the opening track on Bagheera's debut album Twelves.An irresistible nugget of romantic perseverance, "Long Division" is an update of the Smiths' "Hand In Glove," with boy-girl vocals taking the place of Morrissey's asexual swoon. The rest of Twelves is solid and impressive, but you'll wear out your CD player's button on "Long Division."
Bagheera is the new project for husband-wife duo Ted Moll and Heather Dallape; the two were formerly in the now-defunct Climber, and Moll still plays drums for the tireless ska outfit MU330 (a band still going strong in its tenth year). Together, the couple writes songs about love, loss, science fiction and old Pac-Man machines, playing a style of tightly melodic indie rock with the couple's simple, effective vocal harmonies. With a style reminiscent of Velocity Girl and Mates of State, Moll and Dallape are on their way to becoming St. Louis' power (pop) couple.
The Riverfront Times: How did Bagheera get started?
Ted Moll: I had been trying to write songs for a long time, and in 1999 I got a four-track, kind of on a whim, and started trying to write songs. With MU330, playing the drums was my thing. With this, I was trying to play guitar and sing, so it was just something totally different. That's where it started, and from there it got into home studio-/computer-based recording.
Just projects to fool around with the studio and see how stuff works?
Ted Moll: It was just experiments with, "What happens if we do this," or "I wonder how this would sound." There wasn't any thought of "Let's start a new band" or anything; it was just something we did together in the apartment late at night.
Heather Dallape: It was totally just for our own pleasure really, and then we made CDs for our friends. And then Mike Park from Asian Man approached at Plea For Peace [a yearly tour in which MU3330 participated] a couple of years ago and said that he would release it if we re-recorded everything. So then there was the daunting task of trying to recreate what we did at three in the morning, just messing around, trying to figure out everything that we did. We actually saved a lot of those tracks and used them on the album. A lot of the recordings on the album are actually five years old.
Ted, how is this a different outlet for you from what you've been doing in the past, playing drums for MU330?
Ted Moll: Playing live and playing with MU330, it's all about the energy and all about the interaction with the crowd. It's a more communal type of aspect. With Bagheera, it's much more personal. Because of the way it started, it wasn't meant for anyone to listen to but us; it was just something that we did. It was a private thing we had and we shared it with some friends and it expanded from that. This is a lot different. With Bagheera, it's definitely more on the intimacy of listening to stuff. It's meant to be listened to with headphones. There's no real conflict [between MU330 and Bagheera] in that sense, because they are two totally different ways that I appreciate music.
How does the songwriting process work? Do you have different concerns as songwriters?
Heather Dallape: It's changing now. Most of the songs I was writing were going to Climber, so most of the songs on the first album were all Ted, and then I'd come in and write for some of them and I wrote basslines on all of them, or I'd come and mess with what he'd already done. Whereas now, we're actually sitting down together and writing a song.
Ted Moll: Now we are starting from scratch together, and I'm actually a lot more excited about the newer stuff. It meshes the best aspects of both of our songwriting [styles]. — Christian Schaeffer