Any preconceived notions you might have about The Red Alert can officially be set aside. Young, kitschy, absorbed by their influences? Those might have applied before, but the band has emerged fully realized with the release of Audible Frequencies.
No longer just a White Stripes tribute band (directly or indirectly), the group shows incredible growth in musicianship and songwriting while displaying a new maturity in its sound and style.
Now that's not to mislead you. Yes, the original duo is now older--but far from old. Guitarist/vocalist Hank Hanewinkle III has just broken from his teenage years and is toiling away at both work and music, part of which has undoubtedly added to his maturity.
Younger sister Kristy is now 14 and a high school freshman, so worldly concerns aren't overbearing on these two. On the other hand, it's no longer a duo of cute youngsters charming the audience. In fact, the group is no longer a duo. Officially augmented by bassist Philip Hanewinkle (their uncle), who stepped in as the group emerged as The Red Alert as opposed to The Red Stripes, the trio has developed a strong chemistry during the past three years.
That maturity is obvious, not just in the Hanewinkles' ages but also in their music. Yes, impressions of Jack White still abound (from White Stripes to Raconteurs and all his other stops in between), but the group has expanded its palette. By admission, Hank stated that he's been largely influenced by bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Elvis Costello and The Kills; beyond that, hints of Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Garbage and Butch Vig also simmer below the surface.
From the very beginning of the new disc, it's obvious something has changed. When "A Dream Inside" hits, it hits big: swirling effects, churning guitars and a huge, thundering bass line. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the kids have left the garage (although the garage rock might not leave them, at least not completely). For the most part, the whole album is big, loud and raucous--all in a snarling, joyous way.
By admission, this disc has been a long time coming. According to Hank, the group started writing in late 2007 and entered the studio for its first sessions in early 2008. Working largely around father and producer Hank (Hanewinkle II) Charles' available time, progress was slow and sporadic at first, but as October arrived, found itself making major progress in the studio, wrapping up the majority of the work in the first half of this year.
With the final touches finished in early September, the band has emerged with Audible Frequencies, and it's been well worth the wait. The group has made huge leaps in its songwriting. "I'll still write a song and present it to the band," said the younger of the two Hanks, "but a lot of the time, it's really a group effort."
"The music really came together differently than it did on the first one.
Because the first time, the songs were already written and they were so heavily influenced by The White Stripes. This time, the songs came from Hank and Kristy and I just jamming," said Philip.
Even when addressing the band wearing its influences on its sleeve, Hank is very open. "Dad will say that the first Red Alert album wasn't so influenced by the White Stripes, but I think it was totally influenced by them. Even when we were writing and recording, we were still playing as The Red Stripes.
"Looking back, though, I think it makes the transition flow well, though, from where we were to where we are now," Hank said.
Although it's been a lengthy wait since the band's last disc, the six song Extended Play disc, which was recorded in November of 2006 and released in March 2007, it's not like the band members haven't stayed busy.
Aside from the extended recording sessions, Hank III has continued to hone his musical skills. He's playing in both No Ghosts and Fiawna Forte's band with Phil, filling in on drums in Callupsie (after Liz Wattoff broke her hand) and more recently filling the drum slot in a recently reformed And There Stand Empires. Ultimately, Hank and Phil agree that it helped not only build Hank's playing chops, but ultimately affected the band's sound and songwriting.
"When I started playing with No Ghosts, I started using more delay pedals," Hank said. "I integrated using more effects as we wrote this album, and it helped me come up with some different sounds. Had I not, I don't think these would have been the same songs."
The only instances where Hank III and the band's matured songwriting skills are not directly reflected on the new disc are in the four tracks which Kristy sings, all of which were written by Hank Charles. "I tried to write a couple of songs for her to sing, but the lyrics were kind of obscure. She actually wrote the vocal melodies for them," he said.
Ultimately, however, they decided to forgo those tunes as he revealed they weren't really capable of writing songs that a 14-year-old girl would be able to relate to.
As a result, the band dipped into Hank Charles' catalogue of songs, picking a handful that proved a more appropriate fit for Kristy's vocals.
"It just makes more sense to go with a more straight forward approach, with a more classic sound and structure," Philip explained. "Until she's ready to blow us away with some songs that's she's writing and not shared with us yet, it just makes sense to go with a more universal approach."
Ultimately, the long wait and extended writing period proved to be rewarding for both the band and listeners. "I think the songs sound the way they do because we took our time and didn't set any deadlines," Hank said. "I'm really happy with how it sounds and happy with it as a whole."
The CD release party for Audible Frequencies will be held Fri., Oct. 2, at The Marquee with Crocodile, from Oklahoma City, opening the show. During the show, The Four Fiddlers of the Apocalypse (Karen Naifeh-Harmon, Tony Clyde, Kathy Rad and Jody Naifeh), will be appearing as special guests during the band's set to augment the arrangements.
"They played on the album and added so much to 'By the Pale Moonlight'" and 'And I Fell,'" Hank shared. "It's just a blast to hear what they did because our dad did the arrangements and Karen transcribed them for the group."
Even though The Four Fiddlers could have understandably passed on performing with the band this weekend (it's Karen's mom and viola player Jody Naifeh's birthdays), the quartet will be appearing anyway, as per Jody's preference. Undoubtedly it will add to an already special night.
If you haven't heard The Red Alert within the last year, you will surely be surprised. This will be something of a coming out party for the band as it opens the next chapter of its story, so you won't want to miss it. Tickets are only $5, and the show is scheduled to start at 8pm.
If you've been missing GHOSTS lately (And let's face it, who hasn't?), the hauntings are set to resume in downtown Tulsa beginning this weekend. After a change in membership, a degree of personal upheaval and a mini tour earlier in the year that took the band west to California and back, the band picks up where it left off this weekend with the release of Karmageddon, its 20th release.
Make sure and be there when the chaos resumes Sat., Oct. 3, at Soundpony. Not only will the band be playing its new tunes and selling its new CD, it will also be making available a very limited edition boxed set of all 20 CD's worth of material.
Fair Weather Music
As if there's not enough going on already, The Tulsa State Fair kicks off this week as well. Of course, along with it comes a string of free concerts on the Oklahoma Stage, just outside the Expo Pavilion. This year's lineup includes, in order: Candy Coburn, Emerson Drive, Everclear, Leroy VanDyke's Country Gold Tour, Mercy Me, Keith Anderson and Charlie Daniels Band on Thursday, October 1 thru Wednesday, October 7, respectively. Just think: corn dog, cotton candy, funnel cakes and free music. What a deal...
Even amidst all these cool shows, we've got more going on in Tulsa this week, including the biggest concert of the month to help kick things off. Before you head out the door, we've got the highlights to help get you pointed in the right direction.
Thursday nights have become a prime night to get out and kick off your weekend early. Of course, you've got your common standbys and always safe bets with Cairde na Gael at Arnie's, Dr Squealsgood at Rehab and Dustin and Jessie's Higher Education at Eclipse to kick things off on October 1. If you're looking for a truly great show, however, you'll want to stop in at Cain's Ballroom for the return of DFest alumnus and headliner Citizen Cope. Just make sure to arrive early, as I'm betting this one will sell out again, as it did last year.
Friday, October 2, is obviously a night of celebration for The Red Alert. If you're looking for something different, however, Alex and the Anders will be throwing their own raucous party at Mercury Lounge and Vandevander will be rattling the windows at Soundpony with Wink Burcham and the Division.
The real highlight of the week, however, will be Dave Matthews Band at BOK Center with no less than Willie Nelson and Family "opening" the show. Can you say "Double Headliner"? Can you say cool? Can you say "Oh man, it's sold out, I'm gonna have to scalp?" I knew you could...
Saturday night, October 3, has its cool shows as well, even if all else falls to the shadow of the GrooGrux King. Aside from the aforementioned paranormal happenings at Soundpony, Mountain Sprout will be at Mercury Lounge, Jesse Aycock plays Arnie's and Indigenous is slated to play Flytrap Music Hall on Saturday. Of course, if you're up for a road trip, Kings of Leon will be headlining at the newly renovated Ford Center in OKC, as well.
Sunday night sees The Decemberists finally make it to Tulsa in a show that has flown under the radar for too long. Laura Veirs and the Hall of Flames opens at 8pm. Meanwhile, it's Ptiaradactyl vs. Panda Resistance at Soundpony, just down the sidewalk.
Finally, the week wraps up on Main Street with the Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse taking over the Ballroom on Monday, October 5 and Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights headlining Bob's with The Effects on Wednesday, October 7. Tyler just finished recording a new disc for a major label, to be released in early 2010, so catch him now in the small room.
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