If rock & roll is the fountain of youth, I believe that in punk rock, it flows eternal. As proof, I'll refer to Stephen Egerton. He might (allegedly) be 45 and "grown up" with a wife and family, but he's still got the enthusiasm and spark in his eye of a twenty something, which is even more amazing when you realize he started playing professionally more than 20 years ago. Start talking about music, and he becomes even more animated than normal. And if you discuss the new solo(ish) CD he's about to release, he really comes alive.
Solo-ish? Yes, you heard right. The man who's become one of Tulsa's best producers and mixing engineers is cashing in on his years writing and playing with seminal pop-punk bands The Descendants and All and to finally release his own CD, The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton.
Membership has its privileges. So does owning and running a recording studio. One of those privileges includes the ability to record your own songs on your own timetable. As a member of seminal punk bands The Descendants and All, Egerton has been playing and writing for years but never embarked on a solo project.
As an owner of Tulsa's Armstrong Studios, he finally took advantage of the tools at hand and started recording the songs he'd been quietly writing and demo-ing during the past three years in early 2009.
By writing all the music, playing all of the instruments and recording it all himself, the resulting disc became a true one-man show, with one exception ...
"Upon the discovery that lyrics weren't going to just pop up -- and the discovery that I still have a shitty voice," Egerton said with a laugh. "I followed my wife's suggestion and called up a few friends for some help."
After a few well placed calls, all the pieces started falling into place. With one exception ("She's Got Everything," which he wrote in complete for his wife), Egerton would send out the music and his friends would finish the song with lyrics and vocals.
Of course, anyone can enlist a few friends to step in, but not many people have a circle of friends as colorful as Stephen Egerton. A quick scan of the roster of guests includes a few of the obvious and usual suspects such as Milo Aukerman of The Descendants and Chad Price and Scott Reynolds of All.
Look a little further, though, and Egerton's punk credibility comes into play as names like Mike Herrera (MxPx), John Speck (The Fags), John Snodgrass (Drag the River) and Joey Cape (Lagwagon) show up. A few lesser known voices are included, such as Tulsa's own John Moreland and Jesse Cole of Le Fang, but the stakes are progressively raised when Bill McShane (Ultimate Fakebook), Chris DeMakes (Less Than Jake), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) and Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) each step up to contribute to the disc.
Given a list of contributors that broad (and I didn't even get to list each of them), the results could be a virtual train wreck. Instead, however, Egerton has emerged with an amazingly coherent disc that plays off of his punk rock past, yet brings it all up to date.
At first listen, it all actually sounds incredibly commercial, but after a quick spin through the Descendants and All catalogues for a quick refresher, it becomes apparent just how much Egerton's previous bands were likely the uncredited triggers behind many of the pop-punk bands that have dominated radio airwaves over the past decade or more.
The inclusion of Less Than Jake's Chris DeMakes on "Print on Paper" is just a hint and if you don't hear The Descendants' impact on bands such as Green Day in "Never Again," you simply haven't been listening.
While the most obvious choice to send to radio is "Our Last Song," which premiered exclusively on the Alternative Press website and features Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, that doesn't mean it's necessarily the best song of the bunch. In fact, Egerton's writing is at its best when he exercises what he's been practicing for years: tight riffs and big hooks.
Take a quick listen to "Funny Face," "She's Got Everything" or "Sunny Disposition" and try not to smile, much less start bouncing in place. If you ask me, 45 is a lie: Egerton might have matured in writing tighter songs, but there's still the joy, angst and energy of an early twenty something that's just starting to wake up to the world in these songs.
Of course, not all is as easy as it sounds. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Although most of the contributors admittedly turned their songs around with lyrics and fresh vocal in short time, Egerton often had to go in and rerecord the music to accommodate for key changes, which added to the extended recording process. As an active producer that wasn't the biggest challenge, however.
According to Egerton, a self-professed perfectionist, mixing the disc was the real challenge. Instead of stepping in with an objective ear, his investment was obviously more personal this time.
"In all sincerity, I can tell you that mixing your own record is an interesting task," he said. "I spent a couple of months working on it and eventually had to take my hands off and turn it in."
The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton saw its official release this week on independent label Paper + Plastick, which was founded by Vinnie Fiorello (who also had a hand in founding Fueled By Ramen and is a member of Less Than Jake) and is already creating a buzz amongst the alt and punk rock communities. The process wouldn't seem complete without a release party and an excuse to play the songs live, however, and that's exactly what we'll get this weekend with shows at The Conservatory in OKC on Friday and Crystal Pistol on Saturday, May 15.
Even though the likelihood of getting all 15 guests to show up for an evening is next to impossible, Egerton was able to convince a few of his buddies to show up this weekend to make the entire even something special.
You can expect to hear the vast majority of the album covered this weekend as John Morleand, Jesse Cole, Chris DeMakes, John Snodgrass, Chad Price, Scott Reynolds and John Speck all come together to be a part of the festivities. Rumor has it that Descendants drummer Bill Stevenson might even make an appearance, in which case you can also expect to hear a few essential Descendants and All tunes before each show is over.
More than anything, however, this weekend is an excuse for Egerton to get together with a group of friends and throw a party. The fact that they've got a disc full of killer new tunes to play is a bonus to the fans.
Cover for Saturday night's show at Crystal Pistol is only $10 and the doors open at 8pm, after which John Moreland Band will kick things off around 8:30pm, followed by Drag the River, Scott Reynolds and the Steaming Beast, Slorder (Egerton's instrumental band) and The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton.
That means Egerton will actually be performing three sets throughout the evening (drums with John Moreland, guitar with Slorder and his "solo" set), for those of you who are keeping track.
This will be a great show, regardless of whether you're a fan of punk rock. For all the punk fans out there, however, the inclusion of Drag the River and Scott Reynolds and the Steaming Beast only adds to the excitement, and I'm not sure there's a more appropriate Tulsa venue for a show like this than Crystal Pistol.
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