PAT HAMILTON HAS REASON to be excited.
After all, he’s spent close to a decade slugging it out, playing aggressively non-commercial original music in two related bands, with little to show for that effort in terms of popular acceptance or notoriety.
However, with the impending release of his current outfit’s ballsy new full-length debut, it seems increasingly inevitable that some sort of widespread recognition for those efforts is inevitable. This is especially apt, as in many respects, the CD, Songs from the Super-Sargasso Sea, by Sinister Moustache, could just as easily be viewed as a sort of posthumous tribute of sorts to Hamilton’s last group, Gravy.
“Some of the songs go way back,” explains Hamilton. “They were initially written as Gravy songs.”
However, when a shift in personnel and conceptual outlook necessitated a name change a year and half ago, the new group (which includes guitarist/keyboardist Stephen Lester, drummer/percussionist Jason Christensen and bassist Erick Eckmann) —whose manic, mostly-instrumental metal fusion bears no shortage of similarities to that of Gravy— found itself with a surfeit of great, pre-existing tunes which had yet to be professionally recorded.
“Basically, these songs were in a kind of limbo,” offers Hamilton. “We really wanted to get them down for posterity. Towards the end, Gravy had sort of transformed into what’s now called Sinister Moustache. So, we still play some of that material.”
“It’s a kind of a weird situation, with us changing names. These are the new band’s arrangements of those songs. Some parts have been drastically changed over time.”
Tracked in a whirlwind two-day session at Columbia, S.C.’s Jam Room studio in March of 2007, the album should have those who hear it championing the mostly-instrumental quartet as one of the tightest and most well-rehearsed rock-based bands this area has ever birthed. Unpredictable and combative, the music on this disc seems to intentionally defy easy categorization. Yet some touchstones are immediately evident: surf guitar king Dick Dale, Warner Bros. cartoon music composer Carl Stalling, the complex and technically challenging electric guitar mazes of Frank Zappa, and the nightmarish electronic and synth-based mood music of both Claudio Simonetti and The Residents.
One may also hear echoes of two previous local acts as well: GAM and Tesseract. In fact, at brief moments on this disc, Sinister Moustache seems to be almost channelling the freak-show Cuisinart prog of early GAM — right down to their stop-on-a-dime tempo and theatrical changes.
Hamilton said that despite the recording engineer’s unfamiliarity with their eclectic approach, he seemed to innately grasp what they were going for.
“We love the record. I guess (engineer) Jay Matheson was just in synch with us, and came up with the right sounds. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
“He seemed pleasantly surprised, which was nice! (laughs) If you’ve never heard us, you’re definitely not gonna expect the kind of stuff we play, but he really dug it.”
Hamilton says the biggest difference between the group’s previous and current incarnations has to do with musical focus.
“Gravy was all over the place. We got compared to Mr. Bungle alot, probably because of our early, absurdist stuff, and the bizarre juxtapositions in our songs. The new group is a much more lean and direct version of what we did before.”
Apparently, along with this sharper musical focus and honing of their songwriting skills, comes a newfound desire to incorporate vocals into their material as well. Hamilton says he never felt entirely comfortable being viewed as an all-instrumental band, and points out that they have used vocals sparingly in the past. However, Sinister Moustache’s new material (some of which will make its live debut at this CD release show) places a stronger emphasis on lyrics than his projects ever have before.
“I guess it is time to expand our palette a little,” admits Hamilton. “It behooves a band to change a bit over time. Unless you’re AC/DC! (laughs) I’ve always felt we had a little trouble connecting with audiences because we’re primarily instrumental. Vocals bring a more human element into the music, and that just makes it easier for folks to relate to.”
While the group plans to maintain ownership and control of its own music and not seek out an established label, they are looking for the right distributor who can help get their CDs to adventurous listeners predisposed to their approach.
They’re also planning to tour more throughout the Southeast — something they’ve rarely done in the past.
“It’s kinda weird,” muses Hamilton. “Now we have a full CD of songs we basically wrote as Gravy — but at the same time, we’re trying to leave Gravy behind. I guess it’s kinda like closure for that group and a fresh start for this one. With the death of one band, the birth of another.”
Sinister Moustache play The Jinx Saturday. Songs From The Super-Sargasso Sea will be available. Capillary Action opens at 10:45 pm. More info at:
The skinny on Sinister Moustache:
Formed as Gravy in mid-2000
Played first show as Sinister Moustache on June 16, 2006
Most memorable gig to date: Atlanta’s Cotton Club in 2001
Rehearsal schedule: twice a week (six new songs written in the past eight months)
Members are all in their 30s and self-taught (“We’re officially an old band — and completely unprofessional,” says Hamilton.)
One composer all members admire: Herbie Hancock
The most sinister style of moustache? “I think the pizza delivery/pedophile type is kinda creepy,” says Hamilton.
Dream gig for the group, according to Hamilton? “Maybe opening for Hannah Montana.”