POSTED ON JUNE 16, 2010:
Soundtracks of Life
Vandevander and Damen Banks each roll out a personal creation for the Tulsa scene
Back for More. For the first time in more than six months, Vandevander takes the stage for a live performance of their final chapter of their trilogy of CDs, The Great State of Redemption.
FILE PHOTO/JEREMY CHARLES
Often, the reason we really connect with music or a specific artist is because we can personally identify with the song -- be it the lyrics or the music itself. Perhaps it's because music is the purest form of self-expression or because it's such a visceral form of communication. Whatever the case, it's a medium that knows no boundaries for an emotional connection.
Amongst all of the other shows this week, we've got a couple of CD releases that embody that emotional connection in different ways. While Vandevander wraps its EP trilogy by literally speaking directly to (and from) the heart, a producer/artist lets his music do the talking, and both send their message just as eloquently.
End of an Era
When Matt Fisher handed me an initial copy of Vandevander's The Great State of Emotion nearly three years ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks. A harrowing trip into heartbreak and psyche, it corresponded with personal upheaval in my own life, making it that much more powerful. Conceived as part one of a trilogy, however, it was only the beginning of a look into the personal psyche and cycle of grief.
What I didn't understand at the time, and perhaps Fisher didn't either at the time, was just how the trilogy would play out. Yes, he had a concept and framework already worked up in his head, but the songs themselves had not yet formed or come out.
In part two, The Great State of Denial, it was appropriately different. Instead of just letting loose with raw emotion, it also had a swagger, a confidence and an anger, all of which would correspond with the next stages of the cycle of grief.
Now, with the arrival of the trilogy's resolution, The Great State of Redemption, Vandevander wraps up the cycle with a set of songs that are no less emotional but come with of sense of peace and yes -- redemption.
The most impressive part of this trilogy has been how honest and raw the songs have been; something that can be attributed to the fact that Fisher said that the entire process has been completely autobiographical.
That personal introspection and emotion has translated to music and lyrics with great impact.
"It's a weird position to be a songwriter, because normally you think 'Does anyone even know what I'm talking about?'" Fisher said. "But with this, I listen back to it, and it's so literal, there's no question"
This time around, instead of recording with Costa, either at home (as Vandevander did with the first EP) or at Ergopop Studios, Fisher went to Norman to record with his former band mate in The Hero Factor, Chad Copelin.
Although there's not a huge difference in sound or vibe, there is a certain ease with which the record flows, which is partially due to the subject matter. It might also be attributed to Fisher's comfort level working with an old friend.
In the latest EP, two tracks in particular stand out for Fisher. Not so surprisingly, they are the two songs that truly jump off the disc, "To the Fool, the Thief" and "Burning For Love."
Of "To the Fool..." Fisher said: "I knew it would be fun to record because it had this really great guitar riff. I felt really pressure to make the vocal delivery happen, though, because the music was so strong with this three-piece rock band vibe, and it all happened so fast. I knew I had to really deliver on the vocals to make it work."
Fisher's vocals hit the mark perfectly, coming straight from the heart and gut without pushing or sounding like he's trying too hard.
"Personally, it's one of the most empowering songs for me because it's so literal; there's no metaphorical language."
Perhaps the most hard-hitting and impactful song on the disc, however, is the one that wraps up not only the third EP, but the trilogy as a whole, "Burning for Love."
It's a perfect conclusion for a multitude of reasons: from the gritty, greasy, hard rocking groove that embodies what the trilogy has become to the raw, unbridled vocal delivery and pure emotion that comes through.
"Vocally, it's one of my favorite performances," he said, "and I definitely like where it falls in the track list -- and I think the last line of the song is a perfect conclusion..."
That line summarizes the entire process, as Fisher sings: "Oh baby when the sun is shining/oh with that look in your eyes/it's easy to take the fall knowing Jesus gave it all to be in love with you ..."
Now that it's finished, Fisher is ready to unleash it all in one night, presenting a release party at The Colony Saturday night, June 19. Cover is only $5, and doors open at 9pm with Vandevander taking the stage shortly after 10pm, delivering the entire trilogy from start to finish, plus a few added, tasty morsels just for fun.
This is the first time the band has played publicly since last November, making it a great night to come out and see Fisher and his band mates Nathan Price and Eric Arndt (on drums and bass, respectively) tear it up once again.
The $5 cover includes a digital copy of the entire trilogy, so it's a can't miss evening.
Earlier in the year, Urban Tulsa featured producer Damen Banks on the cover (Check out "A Resonance Man" at urbantulsa.com), giving a little insight to one of Tulsa's hottest young R&B producers. What we didn't get into in depth was the fact that he'd also been working on his own CD dubbed The Score.
Banks slipped me a copy of the finished product last week, and it's a sprawling, 20 track opus that spans nearly an hour and 20 minutes and incorporates symphonic, world beat, hip hop, R&B, jazz and pop music influences. Most impressive is the fact that it's solely Banks' baby, as he created all the beats, played all the instruments and performed all of the vocal, with the exception of one featured guest.
Even at 20 tracks, the disc plays like 30, as Banks said that the first and last tracks each play out in five distinct parts. Still, this is paired down from the nearly 37 tracks he originally had in hand.
Although The Score is hard to describe, Banks said that the main theme and inspiration for him was simply the instrumentation process. While working on a soundtrack for a video which needed a Middle-Eastern appeal, Banks purchased a kit for his keyboards that opened up a new realm of sounds and unlocked his creativity.
A mix of Banks' beats, world-beat instrumentation and samples (including a Michael Jackson sample of "I Can Turn You On") make the disc one of the most ambitious R&B and hip-hop discs to come out of Tulsa's local music scene for quite some time.
If you'd like to check it out, Banks holds a CD release party outside his studio at Seventh and Denver Friday, June 18. The party starts at 8pm and runs until midnight with a free show, free food (while it lasts) and a cash bar.
DJ Merrick will be spinning tracks during the evening and the 918 Movement dance crew will be on hand and performing as well. Banks won't actually be performing, but his tracks will be played throughout the evening, including seven videos which he's put together synched with his featured tracks.
It's a crazy weekend that's packed with CD releases and high profile shows. Even so, there are still a number of other shows to pick, so you'll need to choose wisely.
Thursday evening, June 17, sees Bob's (Cain's Ballroom's side stage) open the week with one of the best touring shows of the week. Ian Moore has always been a Tulsa favorite, and he's always shown us a lot of love as well. With influences that range from Stevie Ray Vaughan to The Beatles, he's an eclectic artist that can never be pinned in a corner. His latest project is a power trio dubbed Ian Moore and the Lossy Coils. With an impending new CD on the way, Moore and crew return to Tulsa to throw down the best night of music to open your weekend. Doors open at 7pm and Phil Zoellner opens at 8pm. Best of all, tickets are only $13.
Friday night is an incredibly busy evening with not only the aforementioned Damen Banks CD release at Swahill Studios (417 W. Seventh St.), but the release party for Kawnar's BE DIFFRNT at Bob's. It's a free show and will reveal Kawnar's pop side and a whole different creative outlet for him. It's also a free show, so arrive early as it should be packed. For more information, check out C.M. Rodriguez's preview on page 43.
The rest of Friday night is rounded out with Panda Resistance and Dead Sea Choir at The Colony, Split Lip Rayfield with Electric Rag Band at Mercury Lounge, Emery with Queens Club, Sent by Ravens and Kiro at The Marquee and Travis Linville's Electric Duo at Arnie's.
Saturday night's big local show is the aforementioned Vandevander release party at The Colony, but if you're wanting something even bigger, you can check out Drive By Truckers with Mayola opening at Cain's Ballroom on June 19, then stop by The Colony to finish out your night with the Trilogy.
First Lady Assasins also holds the CD release party for its latest punk explosion at The Marquee on Saturday with The Thrill That Kills, Summer of Titan and The Televised opening the show.
If you're looking for something more gritty on Saturday night, you can check out Steve Pryor at Arnie's, Back Porch Mary at Mercury Lounge or Randy Crouch at Eclipse.
The rest of the week is pretty relaxed, including the week's big BOK show, Michael Bublé on Tuesday night, June 22. If you want a great mid-week party, however, you can't miss Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at Bob's on Tuesday night with Brandon Clark Band opening.
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