One of the best West Coast music festivals going, Summer Meltdown, takes place August 10-12 in Darrington, WA at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater (one of the coolest, best kept secrets in outdoor venues). The intimate gathering is hosted and curated by Seattle’s The True Spokes, the new incarnation of longtime Pacific Northwest cult jammers Flowmotion. For the next week DI will be sharing a number of questionnaires with the band in celebration of this year’s Meltdown and the Spokes’ kickin’ 2012 self-titled debut album.
Fundamentals – it’s what separates the pretenders from the real deal, and as the 21st century trucks along it’s an element in rock that’s becoming less and less prominent as professional songwriting teams, PR firms, and the other machinery of the music industry move further into a product-minded approach. But, it’s the bands that have the key fundamentals down cold – quality songwriting, unshakable musicianship, entertaining and emotion packed live prowess, pleasing voices and non-Pro-Tools assisted harmonies, a way with melody, lyrics with universal reach – that last. These are the bands we’ll still be talking about when the Hot 100 has long forgotten the likes of The Fray, James Blunt, et al. Fundamentals are why the Doobie Brothers, Journey, Styx and other classic rock acts endure. Put bluntly, they made better music than what’s coming out today and without perhaps being conscious of it, audiences are still drawn to quality and substance even as they’re force fed pretty slops by VH1, MTV and their mainstream peers.
Fundamentals are why Seattle’s The True Spokes should be regarded as torchbearers for quality melodic rock. For all its subtle touches, their music is so, so easy to like, so ready to jump into one’s lap and wiggle enthusiastically that it’s hard to imagine folks not diggin’ it if they only encounter it in the first place. Singles-waiting-to-happen dot their 2012 studio debut, cuts like “Back Porch” and “Saving Face” ready and able to hold their own next to the nigh-endless repetition of familiar hits from the Doobies, Petty, et al. on FM and satellite radio. In ways, it’s easy to miss just how good these guys are because what they do flows so well, so smoothly, so infectiously rightly. This music just feels natural as fuck, like one has wandered into a meadow where the trees play music and the grass sings backup to some of the catchiest numbers you’ve heard in ages. The album goes a fair distance in capturing the mojo inside this talented quintet, who are aided in their mission by one of the best allies a band can have, The Mother Hips’ Tim Bluhm, who co-produced the album, which was cut at Bluhm’s S.F. studio Mission Bells. It’s to be hoped – devoutly so – that talent, big hearts and compassionate, well built rock like The True Spokes proffer will find the wide, smiling audience they deserve eventually. In the meantime, one has no doubt that these boys will keep at it. Music is in their bones and it’s gotta come out anyway it can.
Here’s what Scott Goodwin (drums), R.L. Heyer (guitar, vocals) and Bob Rees (keys, percussion) had to say to our inquiries.
- 1. Great music rarely happens without…
- Scott: Many hours of shedding or rehearsing, and players that are super stoked to be playing.
Bob: musicians actually listening to each other.
- 2. The first album I bought was…
- Scott: J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame (1981). My brother and I bought it on cassette and played the crap out of it. We weren’t aloud to listen to the last tune (“Piss on the Wall”), but we still did.
R.L.: Van Halen’s 1984
Bob: Quiet Riot’s Mental Health
- 3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
- Scott: The Kinks’ Arthur or the Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1969). I can’t believe how much of my life went on never knowing this album existed. Everything for me lately is pre-Arthur or post-Arthur. There is an undeniable charm to that late 60s/early 70s era of The Kinks for me. Arthur, Lola and Village Green all knock me around, but Arthur takes the cake.
R.L.: Blitzen Trapper’s American Goldwing
Bob: The Beach Boys’s Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”
- 4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
- Scott: A musician! True, I mean sure I wanted to be a fireman or a baseball player, but those dreams went up in flames when I realized how great music was.
R.L.: A Rock Star/ Running Back/ Shortstop
- 5. My favorite sort of gig is…
- Scott: The second gig of a three night stand. No setup, soundcheck, or load out!
R.L.: A packed room. Big or small, just full of people enjoying music.
Bob: One where the audience seems to really be in tune with what you’re artistically putting out into the world at that moment. It’s not related to any specific thing like the size of the crowd or place. It’s more of a magical combination of things that you can’t really anticipate.
- 6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
- Scott: I love The Mother Hips in a pretty obsessive way.
R.L.: I want to start my own country.
Bob: Debilitating shyness often gets the best of me.
- 7. I love the sound of…
- Scott: Breakdowns in the middle of songs that beg for drum beats to kick back in.
R.L.: A fat snare drum. Three part harmonies. Tubes being pushed to their limits. A Hammond B3.
Bob: My kids laughing, Milt Jackson on the record player, and something good sizzling on the stove. It’s a good combination.
- 8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
- Scott: Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut or Dark Side. I mean it’s not super realistic, but we can all dream right?
R.L.: The Beatles’ Revolver
Bob: Something really honest like Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or Neil Young’s Comes A Time.
- 9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
- Scott: Pulled pork sandwiches and curry over rice up in Rossland, BC. That was a pretty sweet combo, eh?
R.L.: Crepes at my sister’s house.
Bob: Renata’s Creperie in Arcata, CA (might have had something to do with driving all night from Portland, OR!)
- 10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
- Scott: I guess Seattle. Everyone is SUPERcool in Seattle.
Bob: Canada and Alaska (no pun intended)
- 11. The worst habit I’ve picked up being on the road all the time is…
- Scott: Late night beers and food. That stuff’’ll drag you down after even just a few nights.
R.L.: Singing songs with lyrics involving road signs.
Bob: Biting my nails while I drive.
- 12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
- Scott: Led Zeppelin, because it’s not so depressing. I’m not listening to Zeppelin a lot but when it comes on it’s party time. Radiohead is witty, intricate music, but it’s more of a slow build than a switch flipper.
R.L.: Toss up here. It’s hard to deny Zeppelin’s awesomeness, but I’ve also heard Zeppelin since I was born. Radiohead is like a modern-day Floyd to me sometimes, and Thom Yorke’s voice is far less annoying to me than Robert Plant’s.
Bob: Radiohead because of the instrumentation and experimental nature of the music.
- 13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
- Scott: The dude that jumped onstage at a family festival in Mukiltio. He tried to knife Josh [Clauson, guitar & vocals] while we performed “Better Luck Next Time.” Mental problems caused him to think that Josh was singing specifically about him and his girlfriend, which I don’t think he even had. That shit was fucking crazy!
R.L.: A flash flood/lightning storm in Texas that ruined our tent and nearly washed us into the river. We barely made it to the car in time, but I was still able to save my guitar (only to have it stolen later) and my wife’s iPod.
Bob: Our lead singer being attacked on stage by a psychotic knife wielding man who later said from jail he didn’t like the song we were playing.