When speaking with lead singer and guitarist Gooding about his band of the same name, he'll tell you "We know what the band is: It's Midwestern, American rock 'n' roll from the plains."
Being from Kansas, the term "widescreen rock" may also come up, reflective of the openness of the plains and being able to see the horizon in all directions. Sonically, that's how Gooding approaches his music as well.
There's always been something larger than life about the band's songs. Even when singing about smaller subjects, the sound is broad and expansive, almost cinematic in scope. But then, this band has never done anything on a small scale.
Well, before it was common, Gooding created his own label, S3, to release his music independently. He also established his own publishing and licensing company, K2, so he could control all of the aspects of his music and career. The band was establishing itself across the Midwest with relentless touring and a pair of stellar albums, Angel/Devil and Tiny Heart Attacks in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and had become a local favorite when the band refocused and lost momentum.
"At the end of the day, I take responsibility for that," Gooding said.
Feeling like he was creating a level of confusion by releasing his instrumental solo albums and more rock oriented band material under the same moniker, the band took on a new title, Angel Devil, building upon the success and exposure of the recent records.
About the same time, the Gooding relocated to Los Angeles, to work on soundtrack recordings -- his "day job," if you will -- to help fund what he was doing with the band. Even though, the band may have gone through a silent period it's not like Gooding wasn't busy. He's written music for commercials for Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler, landed songs on the DVD releases of movies like Walk the Line and Iron Man 2, done work for A&E and even contributed to the rebranding of PBS.
Even so, that was the job that paid the bills, in order that he could carry on with the band. After releasing and EP and the full-length CD, Redlands, but struggling to regain momentum, Gooding was convinced to return the group to its original moniker.
"Word was getting out, but people didn't realize it was us," he said. "People had always told me Gooding sounds more like a band name anyway and Jesse (Rich) and Billy (Driver) didn't care, they knew it was a band and never had an issue that my name was on it. I finally said why fight it. I just had to get over my thing about the band being named Gooding."
With the 2010 release of The Return, the band came back to the Gooding name as well as a more refined vision that's more indicative of the band's live sound and set out on a marathon tour to reestablish itself. With the "50 in 5" tour, the band set out to play all 50 states within a five month span. The group actually played 48 states (Hawaii and Alaska are yet to be marked off the list) and 107 shows over a six-month period, filming the progression and creating short films for each state to post online.
To date, the band has finished and posted 27 of the films and has 21 left to finish editing and release. The group also played 14 military bases including Fort Meade and a show at Walter Reed hospital and was invited to the White House, just one more feather in the band's cap and a testament to the hard work it puts in.
Heading into 2011, the band has just finished recording The Sky Eats the Land, which is planned for a summer release. A preview of the material reveals the band truly hitting its stride. The lyrics are more direct while the music opens up the room, yet doesn't get in the way.
"With this record, I was stripping things back, trying to get pull back the instrumentals and get back to the truth of the lyrics," Gooding said. "I think, as I strip away the layers, the songs get more honest."
From a listener's perspective, that's a fair assessment. The lyrics for The Sky Eats the Land jump forward and become more vivid, taking on an almost U2 grandeur and cinematic quality. Instead of feeling cluttered and busy, there is an air and openness that appropriately reflects the band's background from the Kansas plains, as well as the expansiveness and vividness that the album title suggests.
"The Return was a transition for us, sound wise," Gooding said. "Live, it works great, but I feel like I dragged a little too much from the commercial licensing work I was doing into it. This time I stripped it back more and used less electronic effects and I think the new record is a better representation of our live sound."
Perhaps that's accurate, but The Return wasn't a misstep by any means. It definitely was a transition disc and a reintroduction of the Gooding brand as a band name, but it was far from overproduced or electronic sounding. Instead, I found it to be a logical transition, scaling back from the more layered and busy arrangements of Angel Devil. It was a step back toward the more direct delivery that will knock people over when they hear The Sky Eats the Land.
Now the band is returning to the road, continuing the work that began last year in reestablishing itself with fans via the live show. Although Tulsa has remained on the band's itinerary when touring, over the past five years, audiences have dwindled, partly because they didn't realize the band was still together and touring under the Angel Devil moniker.
Armed with another album of some of the band's best work to date, Gooding not only returns to Tulsa this weekend, but returns to the room where it originally won over Tulsa and has played some of its best local shows. No longer Boston's, the new stage and sound system at The Treehouse, 1738 S. Boston Ave., promises this Saturday night's show will make for a triumphant return to form and Tulsa's consciousness.
"This is our 'Motherland tour' in Oklahoma and Kansas. Everyone there has always treated us really well and the I-35 people have always supported us and held us together," Gooding said. "We may live in L.A. now, but we're still Kansas boys."
That's apparent when speaking with Gooding, whose sincerity and charm haven't been spoiled by the West Coast. It's also obvious in the imagery of the band's new material and panoramic sound of the band's "widescreen rock."
If you're not familiar with Gooding, this Saturday night's show is a great opportunity get become acquainted. If you've just lost touch over the past few years, it's an even better time to reconnect at what promises to be one of the band's best local shows over the past few years. Admission is only $5 at the door and Tony Romanello & the Black Jackets will open the show at 10pm.
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