Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 50

The Subject was Alex Rose

"Crescit eundo," our state motto, a Latin phrase which translates as "It grows as it goes." could also apply to a slew of talented musicians who've fled our fair state. It's no secret, if you're going to “make it” you've got to get out the hell outta Dodge. Episode #49 touched on a pair of such musicians (Amy Linton-Henry's Dress and Lucia Garcia-Electric Grandma) This time around the focus is on Santa Fe's own Alex Rose... the musician behind noteworthy Santa Fe / Albuquerque bands Mistletoe and The Bum Out Patrol. Simultaneous to his role as front man for the aforementioned bands, Alex also made a name for himself both in Santa Fe and Albuquerque due to his work as a studio engineer and producer. This led to his moving to Seattle in pursuit of a career in music production.

Mistletoe was a project formed by high school friends Alex Rose, Javier Romero and Mark Heyman. This version of the band recorded an album 'Sorry It's Been So Long' in 1999... Self released, well realized.... bold ideas delivered via adequate resources. Seven intelligently infectious songs about girls and other hazards. The lyrics exhibited an underlying bitterness and yearning beneath a sweet exterior while focusing on the emotional fallout of missed opportunities and unrequited attraction. The musical similarities between early Mistletoe and early Weezer are glaring, but keep in mind that in 1999 it was de rigueur among the rock & roll set to draw on River Cuomo for inspiration. Mistletoe worked that formula. Oh! Ranger aping Weezer was good for three decent albums. Starsky did it to good effect.

Mistletoe's stock shot up with the addition of Westin Glass on drums and Brian Rains on bass. A move that allowed Alex Rose to switch from drums to guitar. This totally changed the dynamics and fortunes of the band in ways they never would've imagined. “The band started to develop a bigger, more rock sound as we became a tighter live band and started touring a lot,” says Rose. “That was really fun, but I also wanted to do something smaller.” This growth spurt led to Mistletoe appearing on the same bill as The Breeders, Superdrag, The Shins, Pedro The Lion (just to name a few) Another change that took place was a move to Albuquerque. Cracking the 'Burque scene gave Alex Rose an opportunity to showcase his studio skills by working on a number of recordings with local bands. 

Alex and Westin began honing their songwriting skills “I usually walk around with songs in my head that don’t exist yet.” said Rose. “I finally started capturing a handful of them around this time.” Some songs didn't quite fit the Mistletoe mold. This led to the formation of The Bum Out Patrol. Alex and Westin shared front-man duties with one singing and playing guitar while the other played drums and vice versa. B.O.P. grew beyond being a mere side project, performing shows with Enon, Limbeck, The Decemberists and The Frogs. More of a live band, Bum Out Patrol's recorded output was sparse. Three hard to find demo tracks released online is all you'll find (Through the Windshield, Until the Summer, Before You Drive Away... which was later included on the Model Photographer album)
Mistletoe 2.0 released 'This Is Evidence' in 2003. The new album went a step beyond “Sorry It's Been So Long” the growth and maturity evident from the opening track. Driven by muscular guitars, adorned with a few subtle unexpected chord-progression shifts and keyboard textures, the combination of which packed a marvelous rock 'n' roll punch. It's a triumph of musically pleasant, lyrically fascinating songs, tight and vibrantly on the emotional money with the band demonstrating an instrumental expansiveness comparable to the acts that influenced them. (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Death Cab for Cutie, Big Star etc.) If a mash-up of 1970s influenced power pop, indie alt-rock, shoegaze and emo is what you’re buying, “This is Evidence” was an easy sell.

In retrospect “This is Evidence” was a platform for Alex Rose to show off his production and recording skills. The added depth of production makes the album a sweeping local epic. That being said, this is not the type of album that’s trying to change your life. It somehow manages to achieve a seamless time warp that reflects brilliantly on the past, the present and all concerned. Adventurous yet familiar. “Towards the end of three years in Albuquerque, Rose had two thriving bands and had become a sought-after recording engineer, making records with many of his favorite local bands. Despite this success and the admittedly charming southwest locale, there remained a growing desire to escape the home state for the greener pastures of the Pacific Northwest” 

Relocating to Seattle in early 2004, Alex Rose began working on a solo act that included songs from The Bum Out Patrol's repertoire as well as newer songs that would later turn up on “Model Photographer” (“We Stayed Home,” “Cassette Tape” and “Don’t Be A Moper.”)“Most of the songs were written right before or after I moved from Albuquerque to Seattle,” says Rose. “I was thinking about the future a lot, but I often felt unable to escape the past.” Alex soon found himself playing guitar for Heather Duby and keyboards with Minus the Bear (having worked on their album, Menos El Oso) A reunion with Westin Glass (who also relocated to Seattle) and the addition of bass player John Bagley, proved to be the impetus that led to Alex's solo act evolving into Model Photographer.

Sonicbids bio: “It is an album of honest and direct songs that give the listener a glimpse into the internal world of a musician entering his mid-twenties”One would be tempted to say that “Model Photographer” was either Mistletoe's third album or The Bum Out Patrol album that we never got. Either way, it wouldn't be a far fetched assessment. The album was well executed, the result of Alex Rose having meticulously tweaked the tracks over the course of two years. Completed in 2007, the album was initially released for free online prior to its proper release on June Records. “When I was young and discovering music, I wanted to believe my favorite songs were about real experiences” said Alex Rose. “Since I began writing songs, I have always wanted them to feel like that.”

Versus Magazine wrote: “Sans braces and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, Model Photographer was much like my first date: young, talented, nervous, and about to steal my heart ... With melodies that promenade hand in hand with sultry vocals, each tune was sweet and sour with tales of almost love” Sonicbids bio: “Much like the contradictory conditions during which they were written, the songs themselves display a certain duality: they are both expansive and intimate, bold and delicate, detached and eager. Rose’s bittersweet vocals and fuzzy guitars blend dreamily with the propulsion of John Bagley’s bass, Westin Glass’ drums and the occasional keyboard overdub.” Due to circumstances, a follow-up album slated for release in 2008 never came to fruition and Model Photographer fell by the wayside.

Alex jumped at a chance to become a full time member of Minus the Bear, a Seattle based indie rock band he joined in 2007, replacing keyboard player Matt Bayles. Having worked with the band on “Menos el Oso” in 2005, Alex contributed to “Planet of Ice” in 2007 and all their subsequent album releases. He eventually took on a more prominent role in the composition process, even taking over lead vocals on a few songs. Minus the Bear's sound is described by Paste as "Pele-esque guitar-taps, atmospheric keyboard textures, quirky odd-time signatures and electronics with sophisticated time signature composition. It’s fresh, frantic, uproariously fun stuff - and ferociously well-played” I'm not sure if “Pele-esque” refers to the Brazilian soccer legend.

In 2006, Westin Glass formed The Reformation which primarily consisted of Westin (playing all the instruments) though it came to include ex-Model Photographer bassist John Bagley and drummer Patrick Huerta. This resulted in two albums “Floral War” in 2007 and “Living the Dream” in 2008. Drawing on influences ranging from late-90 s post-punk to shameless alternative radio hits both drew comparisons to The Foo Fighters, Nada Surf and Kings of Convenience. Concurrently, Glass was also tour drummer for Say Hi To Your Mom. Based in Seattle, Say Hi is Eric Elbogen, who records at home playing all of the instruments and providing vocals. Since 2008, Westin Glass has been a member of Portland based indie band The Thermals, a band formed in 2002 by Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster.

Minus the Bear is still going strong after sixteen years having just released a new album “Voids” Alex Rose is currently taking time off in London. Affording him time to work on his solo project, Nghtblnd (a reference to retinitis pigmentosa, an affliction that renders him blind at night) “It’s rare, and nobody really knows about it. As a kid, it caused me some turmoil. I grew up in Santa Fe, NM. A lot of my friends liked to go on night hikes in the woods, but I couldn’t do it. There were no street lights in a lot of areas; it was pitch black and I couldn’t see” Alex has posted a handful of Nghtblnd demos on Soundcloud as well as tracks he's worked on including: Slowbirdband, Minus the Bear, Rusty Maples, Nouela and there's even a remix of Britney Spears “I Wanna Go” Click play and enjoy.

The shiny roadsters of today will fill the junkyards of tomorrow”

Alive ~ Constant Harmony
Arsonist ~ Manuka Piglet
Don't Be a Moper ~ Model Photographer
Lordymine ~ The Haptics
Patty Mayonnaise ~ Mistletoe
Brighton ~ Firstone
Lipbiter ~ Pancakes
Gold ~ Electric Grandma
Through the Windshield ~ Bum Out Patrol
Hollywood Happy ~ Hurdle
Rise and Shine ~ Pilot to Bombardier
Hover ~ Mistletoe
Gone ~ Model Photographer
Loveless ~ Constant Harmony
What the Wonders ~ Electric Grandma
Until the Summer ~ Bum Out Patrol
Radio On ~ Full Speed Veronica