While most of those active in the local music scene are familiar with Eric Arndt, most aren't truly aware of all that he's been up to behind the scenes. Sure, he was the bassist for The Hero Factor and has subsequently been active in a number of other bands including Vandevander, Jesse Aycock, Pilgrim and a handful of others, but most people haven't yet heard the project that Arndt takes ownership of, The Refund Division.
Personally, I've kept an eye on the project since it initially appeared in its infant stages, following the slow but deliberate development as much as possible by watching for updates on the band's MySpace site and badgering Arndt for information on the sidelines. Even so, Arndt has consistently played his hand close to the vest and been very careful in what he shared.
My first chance to actually hear the band didn't even come via a snippet or post on the internet, but the band's initial appearance at SXSW in the spring of 2008. At that point, the band was essentially and iteration of Vandevander featuring Refund Division material and Arndt taking over vocal duties. Although the lineup was the same, the music itself took a decidedly different twist: less raw and visceral and a bit more layered introspective. What I heard that night, however, was still in the early stages of development. Once I heard what was close to a final product nearly a year ago, I was blown away.
Yes, this is the same man who layed down the bass groove for the danceable pop of Hero Factor, the snarling bite of Vandevander and currently holds down the backend of over a half dozen other bands. What Arndt has emerged with, however, has very little in common with any of his past exploits, however.
When I think of Arndt and all that he's been involved with, I expect an introspective guitar oriented record, especially when I know that he writes primarily on baritone and acoustic guitars. What he has emerged with, however, dashes those expectations and jumps way ahead of the curve. The five tracks that encompass his new releases, If and Only If, are indeed introspective and ethereal, but they the guitars take a back seat on this distinctly piano and keyboard driven set of songs.
When asked how that happened, Ardnt was incredibly open, admitting that it wasn't intentional. After writing the songs on baritone and acoustic guitars, he said, "When Nathan (Price) and I started demoing these out in my bedroom, we started out with bass, drums and guitar. Then we started adding keyboards to add some interesting sounds and just kept layering. We were having fun and not taking it too seriously..."
Once those songs started to develop and they took the demo tracks into Blackwatch Studios, however, they realized that they had something special. While some of those demo tracks were run thru pre-amps to thicken the sound up and add them into the final mixes, other parts were re-recorded with producer (and old Hero Factor compatriot) Chad Copelin giving them a pass. Although it wasn't his intention to write a keyboard driven album, Ardnt said, "It just happened naturally and developed that way."
The fact that tracks like "Officer Down" and "Freedom to Fail" take on an introspective tone and an almost British/Euro-pop feel isn't the only way in which Arndt is defying expectations, however. By running with an idea that he had while brainstorming with Nathan Brandt, the new Refund Division songs aren't being released on traditional CDs, but strictly digitally via vendors like iTunes or on a specially designed USB drive.
While the initial price of $25 may sound steep initially, Arndt's concept is to not only present the material that makes up If and Only If, but to include a stack of bonus materials on the 2gig USB drive and make it reloadable. Reloadable, you may ask?
While the card will initially be presented loaded with the new five-song EP, photos, lyrics, chord charts, a PDF booklet, music videos and even one of Arndt's short films, none of the material is locked down with copy protection, so the owner can transfer to whatever device he or she wishes.
In turn, the USB drive, which is shaped like a credit card and can be carried in your wallet can also be cleared and reloaded with new material. It's Arndt's intention that anyone who buys the flash drive bring it back to later shows as new music and videos are completed and get that material uploaded onto the device for free.
While the record labels are bickering over management rights and distribution issues, it's independent (and independently minded) artists like Arndt who may well be signaling the wises direction the industry may possibly go. I know that when I discussed the concept with a handful of people at different radio stations, they thought it was brilliant. Most stations are using digital files now anyway and the use of a USB to manage high resolution files eliminates much of the clutter and mess of a stack of CDs.
Arndt is set to release If and Only If this weekend as he rolls out the official Refund Division lineup for a release show at Tulsa Little Theater (located at 15th and Delaware) this Friday night, Dec. 3. Arndt will be fronting the band on vocals and baritone guitar, backed by Nathan Price on drums, Matt Fisher on guitar and Ben King on bass and keyboards, with all of them bringing the new material to life.
The band will perform all of the material from If and Only If as well as a few other tunes and the evening will be rounded out with a screening of Arndt's short film, Friends Are Fun, which he filmed in the summer of 2007. Admission is $7 at the door for each of two release shows, the first at 7:30pm and the second at 10pm. The USB drive can be pre-ordered at refunddivision.goodsie.com or by following the link form refunddivision.com and anyone who orders in advance will not only have the pre-loaded card waiting for them at the show, but will be on the guest list for the launch party and be a guest at the Red Bull sponsored VIP pre-party with cocktails and free beer it lasts.
Not only will you get all of the new Refund Division material, but Arndt will also be including a sampler of music from friends and peers such as Boy Modern and Ol' Savior, to give fans a taste of even more cool, Oklahoma based music that is either already out there or on its way in the future.
Armed with a batch of songs that defy expectations, a whole new model of distributing music and a launch party that incorporates Ardnt's passion for film and art in general, the Refund Division release is creating a new set of rules for how we can and should approach new music. Now, hopefully, some of the more forward-thinking concepts will catch on.
It's the first weekend of December and anyone who is active in the dance, DJ and club scene should know what that means: it's time again for the annual Red party.
Now in its sixth year, promoter Chris Sker brings the party back yet again to celebrate the season in a little classier manner than most dance parties. After relocating to Lola's on a Sunday evening last year with highly favorable results, the party is back this Sunday evening, Dec. 5, at an all new location, settling in at Enso.
The party starts at 7pm and last until Midnight with only a $5 cover. This year the evening will begin with DJ Jezi, spinning Latin dance music to mix things up and get the dance floor moving before guest DJ SarahTonin (brought in from Dallas) completes the evening with a mix of smooth house music to finish out on a high note.
Anyone who is familiar with the annual Red Party know that this isn't just a rowdy, throw down of a dance party, but something a little classier, although not pretentious. While the evening's theme revolves around the color red and red attire is encouraged, it's not necessary. There will be a "little red dress" contest for the ladies again this year, however, with a $50 prize awarded to the bearer of the best dress.
More than a dance party, however, this is an evening to get out, enjoy the music, socialize and have a good time. Sker promises the music will be inspiring, but not overbearing, so you can enjoy the dance floor or simply relax and mingle with friends. If you want to know more about this year's party, which is sponsored by Big Daddy's Glass Company, you can find all the details at tulsaredparty.com.
As the holiday season hits full roar, we know you'll also be looking for some relief -- a place to get away from the stress and cut loose. Just as the season gets crazier, so does Tulsa's concert calendar. Instead of stressing over it, though, let us give you a few pointers to help you cut loose and enjoy...
On Thursday, Dec. 2, the weekend kicks off early and you've got quite the variety to choose from. While the kids will likely flock to The Marquee for a show with Hannah Montana co-star Emily Osment, the older crowd will likely settle in at Arnie's for a pint with Cairde na Gael. If you're looking for something more in the middle, check out Desi and Cody at the Green Onion on Thursday evening or get rowdy with Cletus Got Shot at Soundpony.
Friday night is packed with shows of all sizes, with perhaps the biggest being the return of country legend Willie Nelson to Spirit Bank events center with Kevin Fowler opening the show on Dec. 3. Meanwhile, Scott Stapp makes an appearance with his solo band at The Joint (Hard Rock Casino) before Saliva follows up at Hard Rock's Friction later that evening.
If new music is what you want, you not only have the aforementioned Refund Division show to look forward to, but also the CD release party for Infamous at Cain's Ballroom with Josh Sallee, Game Warden, C-Rob and Slimy Goody and the Silent Assassins. Also -- don't forget that Mercury Lounge is rocking once again and this Friday night, Two Tons of Steel is in the house.
Saturday night's lineup for Dec. 4 is nearly as hectic as Foreigner rock's The Joint, RadioRadio settles in at Hunt Club, and Dead Kenny G's return to town for a show that, as of press time, was still planned to proceed at Eclipse. Perhaps the best bet flying under the radar, however, is Love Ghost at Fassler Hall on Saturday night: a great band in a great room with great sound, is a can't miss.
Sunday, Dec. 5, sees Motive For Movement performs a free online concert at artburnsred.com at 3pm, in an effort to continue to make a stir for art and indie-music in Tulsa. Meanwhile, Chase Coy headlines a show at the Marquee and Brian Regan brings his stand-up routine to Mabee Center for Sunday night's highlights.
Finally, the best show of the week may be arriving at the most unlikely of locations: Osage Events Center hosts and acoustic night of Shinedown with opener Will Hoge, who just may steal the show. Tickets are still available for $35
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