Anyone familiar with local indie-rock iconoclasts Argyle know that their original material is famously difficult to slap an easy label onto.
Hell, if anything, that’s their trademark.
Known for intense, in-your-face live gigs, this two guitar, bass and drums quartet holds their own as far as energy, stamina, technical prowess and volume with any punk or metal band in town, yet they temper this predilection for mayhem with easygoing ska and dub rhythms, fluid bass lines and peculiar vocal harmonies.
Having eked out a substantial following over the past several years for both their increasingly accomplished and compositionally complex original material, they also keep up their chops (and the rent) by playing lower-key, cover-oriented gigs at a wide variety of area bars and restaurants.
Yet, with the release of a second full CD of their own tunes, they are edging closer than ever before to their stated goal of downplaying their cover gigs and hitting the road as a dedicated showcase act.
Tracked and mixed by engineers Kevin Rose, Miles Hendrix and Jason Anderson at midtown’s Elevated Basement Studios, the self-titled disc veers from the NOFX-style late-’90s pop-punk of “F?CKhead Inc.,” to the funky, 311-esque mosh vibe of “Apathalogical,” and the bawdy honky-tonk of “Alcohol U.” As with their first release, it’s (sonically) one of the most commercial-sounding albums ever released locally.
I spoke with the band in advance of this weekend’s CD release party and concert.
How recent are the songs on this CD?
Jason Sutton (guitar/vocals): Most are very new. I think “Apathalogical” was written two weeks beforehand, and “Moksha” maybe a month before. We just wanted to put the latest and best stuff on there.
How much effort goes into being Argyle?
Jason Sutton: Lots. Maybe too much! We make flyers, book shows, plan sets, etc... We’ll practice as a band anywhere from three to eight hours a week. I write pretty much everyday, for hours when I can.
Who handled the songwriting for this CD?
Jason Sutton: As on our first album, Jeremy (Riddle, guitars/vocals) or I wrote songs and taught them to the others. Then we made minor changes or improvements as a group. Lyrically, he and I are pretty much responsible for our own words.
I know you wanted to try and capture the feel of your live show on this disc. Did you?
Stephen Riddle (drums/vocals): I can’t wait till we sound like that every show. It’s all recorded live with only a few overdubs. We set up like it was a typical gig, but we didn’t have to sing while playing. That always gives you a little more energy to put towards your instrument.
When does Argyle have to decide if it’s a full-time pursuit, or merely a part-time job?
Robert Stephens: With a little help, this could go really far. It’s always been hard since we’re working class, check-to-check people. Right now, just getting the music out there is our number one priority.
Tell me a bit about the CD release party.
Robert Stephens: If you haven’t seen Argyle yet, this should be a good one to start with. The best part about our crowd is it’s diversity, which reflects us as a band and how different we are from each other.
This record showcases a harder side of the band. Are you surprised Argyle has not been embraced more by local extreme rock fans?
Jason Sutton: We’ve grown and gone through different stages, so it may take awhile for people to see that we’re into rock now a lot more than we ever were before. Eventually, I’m sure they’ll catch on.
You closed the recent Jesse Jordan Benefit at American Legion Post 135 in front of hundreds of fresh faces – many who were well into their 60s, and it seemed to go well.
Jason Sutton: That was a surprise, but also an important success because ninety percent of the crowd was comprised of not just musicians, but good ones.
Argyle plays an 18+ show 10 pm, Friday at Loco’s (downtown). CDs will be available.