In this weekly column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in the Blank.
When guitarist Brandon Lee started This City Of Takers in Summer 2009, the concept was simple: Each album would follow a narrative. Both releases to date, Going Along With The Delusions Will Not Be Helpful (2010) and The Felt (2011) invoke the sounds of folk cranked to max volume with audible influence from the lighter side of '90s grunge.
See also: Fill in the Blank Interview Series
This City Of Takers keeps good company. Frank Black (The Pixies), Joe Lally (Fugazi) and Tim Kasher (Cursive) are among the many Lee and his band have opened for. The group wears that influence on its sleeve unashamedly, grinding out distinct songs with gravel-throated singing from the gut. With two layers of guitar and a back line of hefty bass and drums, This City Of Takers plays with depth, lending an unbridled rip to a set that begs to be heard - background bar rock be damned.
While one of St. Louis' most underrated bands, This City Of Takers continues head-first into the future. Lee and his band mates enter Firebrand Studios next month to hammer out a brand new full length record. This new release is set to highlight the band's recent shift to more punk aesthetic mixed with classic rock.
"I really feel like right now the sky's the limit in this city, we really want to be a part of that. I remember when I first started playing shows it seemed like there were only two venues you could play in St. Louis, now there's about a dozen great venues and new ones opening constantly. It's a really exciting time to be here," Lee says, driven by the rapid rise of local music.
Lee and the rest of his crew met with us to talk about their work as a band, and of course, post-show food in St. Louis. Click through as This City Of Takers fills in the blank. Brandon Lee (guitar, vocals)
I play music because... it's what all my heroes did. It's how I met all of my friends. It's how I see all of my friends. It's what I talk about with all my friends. I just couldn't imagine not doing it. Plus, a lot of people have spent a lot of time, effort, and money making sure I can play music. I guess in the back of my mind I've always thought if I stopped playing I would have been kind of spitting in their faces.
I have learned the most from... I would have been just another dumb kid with a guitar in his closet that he never learned how to play had it not been for a guy named Alan Caine and my Uncle Ron. Both of them really took a vested interest in me learning and would make me feel like a jerk if I didn't practice. Guilt is an incredible fuel.
Once I started playing in bands, they had no problem telling me if my band sucked. I can really appreciate that. If someone you're close with asks you honestly about their band, and their band sucks - you should tell them so. Outside of that, I think growing up watching bands like MU330 taught me that you could take your music seriously and still have a blast on stage. They might as well have been Led Zeppelin to me, I still get nervous when I see members of that band around town. I want TCOT to release something on Asian Man Records so bad! Right now, I'm listening to a lot of... according to Spotify, I've been listening to a lot of the Bronx, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Tim Timebomb and Osker. The best post-show food in St. Louis is... Strange Donuts, of course! One of the owners, Corey, is a TCOT alum. So proud of that guy! Aside from that, Jack in the Box Tacos. What I like most about St. Louis is... it's pretty cheap to live here - that's pretty awesome. Plus, there is a lot of cool crap happening around town right now. My 2 favorite things happening musically in St. Louis right now are: Physics Punks Pedals and Tritone Guitars. Thanks to Dave at Tritone, the guitarists of St. Louis now know what it means to have a properly set up guitar. Gerald with Physics Punk Pedals is practically giving away amazing pedals. I mean, you have a freak'n rocket scientist who quit his job to make us pedals - How lucky are we? In 2014, I am looking forward to... recording an EP next month. I'm pretty excited about that!
Matt Basler (drums)
I play music because... I'm scared of making too much money. Also, it's a pretty good time.
I have learned the most from... Tonetta. He is a Canadian performer who has uploaded hundreds of songs to Youtube and Vimeo, although I believe he has been making these videos long before there was an outlet to present them to the world. Sometimes he dresses in bizarre homemade outfits. Sometimes he dresses like a lady. Sometimes he doesn't wear anything at all. He writes songs about pizza, sexual deviance, lost love, drugs and whatever else he seems to be thinking of at the time. He's taught me to be prolific. Put everything out there and do what you love. Maybe do it naked. Right now, I'm listening to a lot of... Two of the guys from Superdrag started a project called the Lees of Memory. There's only a two song 45 released so far, but I got to hear the demos and been listening to those a lot. The latest releases from Brotherfather and Pirate Signal are just starting to leave my constant rotation, so I'm ready for new stuff from those guys.
The best post-show food in St. Louis is... I ate at Uncle Bills in the day time recently. Whether it's the best post-show food is debatable, but I can safely say it is improved by night time and being tired and worn out.
What I like most about St. Louis is... It's really easy to try and do whatever weird thing you want to do. One time we wanted to do this "Museum of Obsolete Tactile Experiences." The idea was there'd be all these things on a table you'd interact with that people don't use anymore. You could wind a camera, type on a typewriter or push a VHS tape into a VCR. It was just weird. But the Firebird was into and we did it.
In 2014, I am looking forward to... I just want to do more. Make more stuff. More music, more videos, more everything.
Click through for more questions with Michelle Maguire and David Mahew. Michelle Maguire (bass)
I play music because... it looks cool. No, that's not right. Actually, because it feels cool.
I have learned the most from... Musically? My band mates... duh.
Right now, I'm listening to a lot of... The Decemberists, Cursive, a bit of Water Liars.
The best post-show food in St. Louis is... I usually stick with a diner. Courtesy or City.
The worst experience I ever had playing a show was... circa 2006 The Red Sea on Delmar. Needless to say, that establishment is closed down. I was playing in a band called Virginia Reel at the time. We booked a show there with our friends, Target Market. The venue was in the basement. When we got there, they had raised the price from a free show to $7 or $8, and it was suddenly no longer all ages. When we questioned this, the owner yelled at us. Also, they had a free reggae band playing in the upstairs area that was very loud in basement even. It was all very unpleasant.
What I like most about St. Louis is... how it's a big city, but it still has a homey feel. Maybe that's because my home is here.
In 2014, I am looking forward to... summertime. This snow bullshit is out of control.
David Mahew (guitar)
I make music because... I bought some nice stuff last year. Ya know, when you buy nice stuff, Michelle keeps playing music.
I have learned the most from... wholehearted indifference. Man, take that Pink Sock!
The best post-show food in St. Louis is... I don't eat before or after I play. I've heard a lot about the food at Schlafly Tap Room. If i were going to eat, it would be the Grilled Salmon Salad at the Tap Room. Keep the dressing on the side.
What I like most about St. Louis... Jason Hippo and lazy cops.
Do you know a project or band that should be considered for this series? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously from our Fill in the Blank series: - Eric Hall - Pink Sock - Scrub - Pet Rock the Musical - The Glass Cavalry - The Blu Skies - Animal Teeth - Popular Mechanics - Brotherfather - Bad Dates - Beauty Pageant - Pillow Talk - The Tennis Lesson - The Funs - Brothers Lazaroff - Quaere Verum - MME - Sarah Bollinger - Little Big Bangs - Everything Went Black - Lions Eat Grass - Kevin Harris - Laika - Heavy Horse - Barely Free Partial Prisoners - The Defeated County - Lizzie Weber - Kenshiro's - B.E.L.L.A. - Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship - Humdrum - The Blind Eyes