Courtesy Image of Setback.
Word on the street is that the joy derived from making music in cooperation with others is difficult to rival. That and the truckloads of cash are just part of why being a rock star is one of the most widely schemed and least attainable fantasies conjured by the human race. However, one does not have to be on MTV or get an invite to the Playboy Mansion to feel like a music god. Bands comprised of everyday guys and gals with day jobs as mundane as yours form the backbone of musical communities the world over. Most will never hit it big, but that does not mean that they don’t work as hard or possess as much talent as those who do.
This month, I talked to members from three Sioux Falls bands that are at very different points on their collective journey. One band is fairly new, but what they lack in experience, they make up for in ambition and heart. Another has settled into a contented position within the scene, drawing on their mutual reverence for each other’s musicianship and character. The third has weathered a turbulent course to be where it stands, poised for self-resurrection and determined to be better than ever in its latest incarnation. Each group helps to make the Sioux Falls scene more vibrant and diverse, sharing in common their draw to the elation experienced when expressing themselves through song.
Setback, the Sioux Falls three-piece featuring Jared Bennett, Tony Ward and Noel McCormick, has over its tenure managed to live up to its name while simultaneously displaying a phoenix-like resilience. Not only has the band gone through line-up changes (formerly playing with four and five members), the surviving trio share a passion for reinvention and a distaste for creative limitation that spills over into their music. That includes what most bands consider standard operating procedure, deciding who plays what. While each member undoubtedly has their fallback instrument, all three can boast proficiency at guitar, bass and drums. Each member sings, and during a set or practice, the lineup switches instruments with fluidity, usually more than once.
The concept of limitless potential is what continues to fuel this project. By not shackling themselves to any particular instrument, they open themselves to an array of musical expression as well as an abundance of stylistic possibilities. “We never say, ‘We can’t play that because we’re not that type of band.’ We never do that,” said Bennett.
Of course, the ability to musically multitask was not breathed into Setback by any divine force—they have had to work at it ever since making the decision to forge ahead as a three-piece. Eager to prove they are back in fighting form, the band is in the wrap-up stages of their second effort as a three-piece. The album will be unveiled October 3rd at their CD release show at Knights of Columbus Hall in Sioux Falls. Although Setback has played periodically around town in the recent past, they view this as a coming-out of sorts.
Bennett said, “The last two years have really been about reestablishing the band, getting our feet back on the ground and getting to the point where the product itself is viable and desirable.”
After the Knights of Columbus show, Setback is hitting the road to promote the new album. The October tour will be another first for this incarnation of the band, taking them as far as Missouri. Setback has approached touring with what has become their characteristic mad-scientists-locked-in-their-lab outward caution. Limited local circles have gotten to experience the breadth of the band’s recent work, but taking their sound to audiences at large has been something that Setback has been hesitant about.
Bennett said, “We’ve played shows out of town, but we have not been able to tour extensively. We don’t want to go out and tour with a half-assed product; you want to have a good presentation. When you have three guys who all the sudden have to learn to play drums as good as somebody in a band who’s actually going out there and touring, you’re gonna get judged on it if you absolutely suck.”
When asked about memorable shows that the band has played, Bennett asserts that their best performances have been in front of minimal audiences: “I remember a couple years back, we played a show on Halloween and we played for the bartender, the server and a couple of odd friends who just happened to be in town. That was probably the best show we ever played. It was at Phil’s Pub. We had lights choreographed and everything was spot on. Everything was perfect and all of two people saw it.”
After an existence dotted with as much tumult and uphill battles as Setback has endured, lesser bands would have thrown in the towel, but Bennett, Ward and McCormick are ready to show the world they’re better than ever. The binding element for these musicians, who refuse to be confined by genre or instrumental identity, is the mutual liberty that they have afforded one another to express themselves sonically.
Bennett enjoys having an unrestricted creative outlet: “I’m very lucky to be able to sit down and make that happen—to create those emotions that eventually become memories for other people down the road.”
Check out Setback and their new album October 3rd at the Sioux Falls Knights of Columbus Hall or visit www.myspace.com/s3tback.
IN SEARCH OF ATLANTIS
Although July 4th marked just one year of existence for the band, In Search of Atlantis has already done much to present itself as a contender in the ring of Midwestern independent music. Guitar players Collin Pearson and Brent Plooster, bass player Tyler Jung, drummer Trevor Ferguson and singer John Olivier have just completed a six-song EP set to be released in mid-September. The EP is a follow-up to a three song demo the group recorded at the Scotland, S.D. studio of Jeremy Shafer.
“He does really great work,” said Pearson.
The band returned to Scotland to record their latest effort, but taking advantage of the current capabilities available to fire-bellied DIY musicians, they completed the vocal tracks in Pearson’s basement. Finishing up the recording at home gave In Search of Atlantis something that a strictly studio setup could not afford them— time for experimentation and time for as much personal satisfaction as a group can feel toward a collective creative endeavor.
“We can take more time with melodies and harmonies and things like that. Just trying to get the band more involved, not just John singing. There’s gonna be more screaming on it, and I do the screaming tracks. Trevor is gonna do some singing and Tyler and Brent are going to be involved in some of the harmonies,” said Pearson.
The band hopes the self-funded EP will help draw the attention of smaller indie labels, allowing them to record and tour more extensively in the future. While the band harbors no delusions of grandeur, they hope to become successful enough to ease the struggle necessary to keep the band afloat.
According to Pearson, “We all know we’re not going to be rich. We’re not going to make millions of dollars playing our music, so it all comes back to being happy.”
A big issue for In Search of Atlantis is keeping mindful not to succumb to the negativity that hangs so heavily within, and is projected by, many bands. The band Set Your Goals is a big influence on Pearson, who admires their positivity and tries to emulate it within his own work.
He said, “There’s a song called ‘Echoes’ by Set Your Goals that was an inspiration to me personally. I was going through a rough patch, really down and out, and I heard that song. It kind of changed my whole perspective.”
As homage to the song that knocked his bad mood on its bum, Pearson ventured to Crazy Dave at Affinity Body Art and had the lyrics, “I will be stronger,” tattooed on his arm.
“Basically just meaning anything sh—- or anything going on in life, you kind of have to take what’s going on in stride, no matter how hard it is. At the end of the day, it’s better to be alive and know that you can overcome anything. There’s so much more out there than being mopey.”
The band is quick to count the blessings it has received in its short life. Not only have they had the opportunity to record twice, they have had the chance to venture beyond the comfortable nucleus of the Sioux Falls scene, playing in Minneapolis and Fargo on multiple occasions. The members of In Search of Atlantis plan on forging ahead, continuing to record and hopefully tour, but they maintain they are in it mostly for the sheer joy of making music together.
“When we play shows, whether it’s to one drunk guy in Sioux Center, Iowa or it’s to a hundred and fifty kids in The Cities or Fargo or here in Sioux Falls, we enjoy it. We just have fun and we don’t think of anything else when we’re playing music. That’s what we all strive for—to have that feeling on a regular basis.”
In Search of Atlantis plans to play in Sioux Falls and other Midwestern cities throughout the fall. For more information, check them out at www.myspace.com/insearchofatlantis.
Roman Ships’ Josh Boyd, Eli DeGroff and Pat Nelson have all been around the block more than once in the Sioux Falls music scene. Deeply connected by over a decade of friendship and having played together in previous bands, this trio has reached a point of musical maturity and cohesion few groups could ever hope to attain. After returning from a ten-day tour of the Midwest to support their recently released EP, the band is energized and more committed than ever. Tour tends to be a make-it-or-break-it experience for groups.
“We never had any arguments. When I’ve toured with other bands in the past, you end up coming back hating each other or breaking up or doing something stupid. At the end of this tour it was like, ‘I could really go out for another two weeks with you guys,’” said Boyd.
For more of this story, pick up a copy of 605 Magazine!