Like most bands of the indie-rock persuasion, the members of Western Civ tend to balk at efforts to define the band's sound. "Can I just tell you what it isn't?" asks guitarist/singer Rich Henderson. And it's not that he hasn't had time to mull it over-- Henderson and his longtime pals belong squarely in the catagory of musical "lifers". "I don't think I could do anything else," Henderson says, his generally-easygoing features taking on a steely edge as he makes the admission.
Despite Henderson's characteristic reticence, a few adjectives spring readily to mind when listening to the Chapel Hill, NC-based outfit's upcoming release, the Mitch Easter-produced Shower The People You Love With Gold: terms like "textured" and "intricate" might seem at odds with "infectious" and "raucous", yet any listener who's ever worn an ironic thrift-store sweater would be compelled to admit that, yes, they all apply.
The new release, due on the 24th of February, is the third from the group, whose core lineup of Henderson, Jason Briggs, and Bryan Cabler remains unchanged. The trio is frequently augmented both on stage and in the studio by cohorts Jason Hall, Kemper McDowell, and Ken Larson).
Western Civ descended on Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium Studios in May 2008 to lay the tracks for Shower, which was recorded in eight days and mixed in five. "We're ecstatic at the outcome of the new record," gushes drummer Cabler, whose enthusaism often serves as the precise opposite of Henderson's restraint. "Working with Mitch was easily the most amazing experience of my...can I call this a 'career'? Maybe I should say 'my musical life'."
Henderson, Briggs, and Cabler were all members of the same small-town Alabama high school class, and have been making music together with virtually no interruption for well over a decade. Nonetheless, they only began to concentrate on public performances and recording in 2005, when they released the self-recorded EP Regent Kingfish Slumberpad. "We decided to let the rest of the world in on what we'd been doing for fun in a practice room for ages," says bassist Briggs.
Slumberpad was followed, in rapid succession, by the band's first taste of touring; by its first receipt of flattering critical praise; its relocation, en masse, to Chapel Hill; and the well-received follow-up LP, 2007's Remington Steele Magnolia.
Magnolia, in turn, garnered impressive radio play and justified further touring before the group turned its attention to the studio again-- this time with Mitch Easter at the controls -- to begin tracking Shower The People You Love With Gold, a ten-track affair loaded with exuberant melodies, guitars that alternately buzz, shimmer, and wail, quirky lyrical conventions, thunderous rhythm-section heroics, and Mitch Easter's renowned mixing-desk brilliance.
As the album, which was tracked on 24-track Studer analog tape machine, began to take shape, Easter's studio toybox was plundered by the band-- in addition to typical rock instruments, a 1980's Casio keyboard, a vintage Leslie cabinet, and a child's bull roar toy were employed in the pursuit of sonic diversity. And that's to say nothing of the bright-orange metal folding chair which was rechristined an instrument, miked up, and played con brio by Cabler with a drum stick.
Western Civ will be touring extensively in 2009 in support of the new release, which will be available on CdBaby.com, itunes.com, digstation.com and can be ordered by your local record shop through Super D Distribution.