The local quartet Theodore excels at writing heart-rending folk songs and deconstructing them to their breaking points. Last year's Songs for the Weary introduced the band members as musicians adept at swapping instruments and genres, while their live shows meld austere acoustic strains and peals of electric feedback. This week Theodore celebrates the release of its new album Defeated, TN on vinyl (which includes a free download of the MP3 files) with a show at Off Broadway. The band sat down to discuss the origins of the new album and the need for releasing it on an antiquated format.
B-Sides: Why did you go vinyl-only for the new release?
Andy Lashier: I think it had a lot to do with how we recorded it, which was at Penny Studios and all-analog. I think we wanted it to be an older-sounding record.
J.J. Hamon: It was supposed to be a seven-inch, maybe three songs, and then it turned into a full-length.
Jason Torbitzky: I always thought it had to be on vinyl from the first because we just found a whole bunch of records in the house that these songs are based on.
Justin Kinkel-Schuster: There wasn't any choice from the beginning. I don't think anyone doubted that it would be on vinyl for the reason of the material, but also since we all just love vinyl and the sound of it.
How were these songs written?
Kinkel-Schuster: In January of '07, we went on our first tour, and we had an off day and were driving through Tennessee. And it was pretty early in the morning, and Jason was driving and a couple of us were asleep, and we kept seeing all these abandoned buildings. Someone thought of the idea of stopping and poking around. And after a couple of hours of driving, we just happened to be driving past this house and we decided to stop.
The house was completely abandoned and decrepit, and we can see all the possessions just strewn everywhere as if the family left yesterday. We started poking around and looking through the debris of this family's house. And then we came upon a little cardboard box full of letters and cards and all this correspondence. And reading it, it was some of the most intensely moving things, written mostly from a husband and father to his wife and kids, mostly from jail. It was like, "What are the odds?" It was pretty incredible. I think we were pretty stunned for a while — we couldn't believe what we found. It was just a treasure trove of human misery and suffering that had been poured out and forgotten. It was like reading real-life country songs.
Hamon: I always thought of Justin's songs as being like walking down the street and finding a Polaroid in the mud, and this is like finding someone's half-full photo album and trying to write that song.
Kinkel-Schuster: The odds of finding that stuff and being in that place at that time — to get a glimpse and snapshot into this human struggle — it's a privilege, really. I guess we were just trying to honor it, in a way.— Christian Schaeffer
8 p.m. Saturday, June 21. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $7. 314-773-3363.Theodore: "I always thought of Justin's songs as finding a Polaroid in the mud."
Singles Going Steady
Elusive local power-pop/'60s-rock aficionados Tight Pants Syndrome have finally been captured on disc with Singles. As its name implies, the album collects tunes written and recorded between 2004 and 2007 with several different lineups. Unlike many odds-and-ends compilations, though, Singles is incredibly cohesive — from the Sloan-like power-pop of "Cool Bad Cherry" to the '80s indie-rock shambling of "John's Niece is Very Pretty" and drowsy harmonies of jangle-psych gem "Your Buzz Is Safe With Me." Now settled in as a quintet, Tight Pants Syndrome recently played its first out-of-town shows, which included an appearance at International Pop Overthrow Chicago. Vocalist/bassist Brian McClelland — a member of the band since 2005 — checked in with B-Sides on the eve of Singles' release.
B-Sides: How does it feel to finally hold a CD in your hands after all this time?
Brian McClelland: Of the fourteen songs on the record, I'm involved in the last five or six. The first batch of tunes I think is from 2005? 2004? I was such a big fan of those guys, I always wanted them to compile their stuff even before I was a band member. I think everyone's really excited about it. We've already started recording the next batch of songs, an actual record where everything is being made at the same time, instead of over a five-year period.
I bet that's a very different feeling.
This lineup has really been fun so far. Our live show is so much improved, I think — just a lot more vocals.
Erin [Hogan] is the newest member, right?
We basically have three lead singers; Tim [McAvin] and I and Erin [Hogan] are all doing lead. Tim actually found Erin on Craigslist, which I thought was a very modern way of [finding her]. [Laughs] She is a locally based actress. Most people, when they get a new member, you want them to feel like they're being a part of the creative process, so you try to let them shape their own parts. But she comes in and says, "Tell me exactly what you want to do, and I'll do it, no problem." She likes to be directed. We tell her exactly what we need, and she makes it sound great.
What struck me about listening to the collection, was how cohesive everything is, despite being written over so many years with so many different people. I was impressed by that.
A big part of that is Tom Stephens. Basically, the band is Tom Stephens. He has recycled the entire lineup since he did "Your Buzz Is Safe With Me" — everyone's new except for Tom. He just lends a very distinct slant to his pop songs. Tom is such a great songwriter.
Tights Pants Syndrome did some out-of-town stuff recently, right?
We did some Champaign and Chicago stuff over the last month or two. It was a blast; I never had that much fun being out of town with a band before. They're just the goofiest people I've ever known in my life — and that's in the best way, they're really fun. I'm on the midnight shift, [and] we left early in the morning, I tried to sleep the entire way up to Chicago — we had a day show [there] and a night show that same night in Champaign — and these guys were so goofy, yelling and screaming the whole time. I was exhausted, but they were having so much fun, I couldn't tell 'em, "Guys, can you keep it down?" Because that enthusiasm was so, I don't know...It makes everything so much more exciting and fun. — Annie Zaleski
9 p.m. Saturday, June 21. Schlafly Tap Room, 2100 Locust. Free. 314-241-2337.