It's hard to find many local artists who are prolific record releasers. This isn't a complaint; it's merely an observation. A to Z understands that not every group can be like Robert Pollard or Ryan Adams and release two or three albums a year, but it's strangely rare to find a St. Louis band with the songs not to mention time, money and inclination to produce music for public consumption on a consistent basis.
Miles of Wire is an exception to this rule. The local quartet released the full-length Can You Feel It? not long after releasing its debut, All There Is; pre-production for album number three is well in the works. Oh, and according to guitarist-keyboardist Shawn T. Bell, that's not all that's left in the vaults.
"Some of my favorite Miles of Wire recordings were done before our first CD," says Bell. "We've got 23 other songs that nobody's ever really heard. They were just crude versions we did off the cuff."
Bell says vocalist-lyricist Raphael Maurice isn't too keen to revisit the old material, which consists of the first songs he ever wrote. Bell says they're perfectly passable.
Still, quality control is evident on Feel, whose raucous barnstorming riffs often give way to somber acoustic moments without sounding jarring or awkward. A good touchstone is Drive-By Truckers (Maurice's ragged, yearning voice often resembles that of Trucker Patterson Hood, especially on "Frustrated Mess") and Wilco's loosey-goosey live album, Kicking Television.
Feel grows a little monotonous toward the end, but the hooks are subtle, and Maurice's lived-in delivery and lyrical storytelling especially on the world-weary "Belleville, IL" ("It's bringing me down") and simple but heartbroken "Marriage" ("You've been running around with someone else") deserve to be deciphered.
"This is Raphael's bread and butter," bassist Randall Eickmeyer says of the songwriting. "He writes the songs and comes up with the song structures acoustically. He brings it to us, and between Adam, Shawn and I, we fill in our parts and all decide as a band what goes where. We just doctor it up."
Bell and Maurice started Miles of Wire about two years ago, with drummer Adam Anglin and Eickmeyer joining in 2005. None of the band members were strangers to music (in fact, Anglin and Eickmeyer have been playing together for years, and Maurice knew Anglin in high school), but the 32-year-old Bell's past he picked up the guitar before he could drive is particularly checkered.
"The first song I ever learned on guitar was a Dokken song," he says. "I just wanted to rock. I have pictures of when I had hair to prove it. I was in a really bad metal band in high school. We went all out. We were men of our time."
Bell has transcended his hesher past and so has Miles of Wire, which is turning heads outside of St. Louis, too. In 2004 the band entered an unsigned band contest sponsored by the Grammy association. They didn't win, but when the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis decided to promote unsigned acts through donating after-hours studio time, Miles of Wire got the call.
"They rented us a hotel room for the weekend and let us record," Bell says. "We did do a short mixing session during hours, that was kind of funny. In the main room they were giving a tour. There's people in there thinking we're mixing Elvis or something."
Miles of Wire headlines at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue; 314-773-3363) at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 21. Tickets are $7. One of the nicest things about St. Louis show-going is how few shows sell out. And when one does like, say, the Panic! at the Disco/Dresden Dolls/Hush Sound triple threat at the Pageant on Thursday, July 20 there's usually an in-store (the Hush Sound's at Vintage Vinyl [6610 Delmar Boulevard; 314-721-4096] at 5:30 p.m. that day) or, say, a film event presented by the Dresden Dolls (see Night & Day page 27 for more information) to satiate fans.
On a more intimate tip, bid a fond farewell to Radio Cherokee (3227 Cherokee Street; no phone) on Sunday, July 23, as the DIY venue holds its last show. Fittingly, it's with perennial faves Bunnygrunt, along with Poison Control, Emperor X and Airport Elementary School.
The venue's second-to-last show was Grand Ulena and Zs on Wednesday, July 19, although fans jonesing for some more noise from this pair can head to the Ground Floor Club (215 East Main Street, Belleville; 618-277-1026) on Thursday, July 20, to catch the groups playing for an unprecedented second night in a row.
And finally, locals Ludo and So They Say are playing at Warped Tour (see the main music feature this week for a preview) on Tuesday, July 25 the night before buzz band Rats and People play the Way Out Club (2525 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-664-7638). Annie Zaleski