Indiana Music: Mahern and friends create some new punk-pop noise

Not a supergroup as much as a teaming of Bloomington’s flagbearers of intelligent post-punk pop music, Paul Mahern, David England and Scott Kellogg, along with drummer Alex Jarvis, have come together to form *ask. The band has released a two-song single+ just ahead of a New Year’s Eve gig at Radio Radio with four other bands, including Toxic Reasons.

Like Kellogg’s most recent effort, Silver in Their Veins (also produced by Mahern), the music on the single-plus-b-side favors the same “The Edge-style guitar razors and echo”. Mahern’s clean, minimalistic production polishes the eclectic, guitar-based pop, while letting the oddness shine. “Painted Hole” is the A-side, and builds a base upon a repeated and echoing guitar riff, before the song jumps into a melencholy power chord hook, with some pop sweetness in the chorus. Think a U2 b-side from the Joshua Tree album, with some Achtung Baby! glam.

With this release, it feels like *ask is a band that, if they desire, could produce some studio gems.

Mahern, also revered as the former frontman for Indianapolis’ legendary punk band The Zero Boys, is the compass of the band – the line that connects the dots. He previously teamed up with England on the latter’s 2009 excellent pop/rock album Little Death. Mahern produced, engineered, mixed, and added harmony vocals and percussion to that album. The two also worked together on England’s first solo record Almost True.

The second cut here, “Best Friends,” turns to a chunky punk buzz, adding a Clash attitude to the song’s sound. The cut swirls guitars around the vocals, and digs deeper into the U2 resemblence, with a flash of the Unforgettable Fire. That influence is the piece of the puzzle that grabs the listener’s ear, allowing the uniqueness of the band to follow.

Hear the music.

Indiana Music: Thom Daugherty slings guitar with The Band Perry as they collect awards

When country music’s The Band Perry earned a trio of awards at the recent  Country Music Association awards, Hoosier guitarist Thom Daugherty was right there with them, on stage and off. The former guitar player for The Elms caught on with the Perry siblings last year and has toured nearly non-stop since.

As the band won trophies for Song of the Year and Single of the Year for the tune “If I Die Young” and for Best New Artist, Daughtery played at the nationally-televised event, and hung backstage with some of the biggest names in country music.

I caught up with the guitarist after the show, and he talked of another tour, working on a new solo album for his former Elms partner Owen Thomas, and sharing a dressing room with Kenny Loggins.

ROB: You were at CMA Awards for your band’s big night. What did that feel like?
Thomas Daugherty: I might be wrong about this, but I think we also played the CMAs last year. We’ve played several award shows in the past 12 months – the CMAs, the ACMs, the ACAs, possibly a few others made up out of a some combination of the letters A, C, and M – I can’t keep them all straight.

They’re always extremely organized; everything runs down to the minute.

And the vibe at the award shows is always fantastic, like a reunion. You get to see all of your friends from other bands that you played shows with all year. We shared a dressing room with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Kenny Loggins last night, and since we toured all summer with Luke Bryan’s band on the Tim McGraw tour, the room felt like home.

ROB: Run into heroes? How were some of them treating you?
TD: There are so many fantastic guitar players in Country music – it’s mind-blowing. Guys who’ve done it for years and represent the best of our craft. Being a hired gun still feels like a new experience for me, so I’m always inquisitive, and they don’t seem to mind pointing the way and letting me benefit from their experiences. I’m always wondering what I can do to go next level in my playing, so who better to ask than them?

Also, being as interested in sonics and production as I am, I think the coolest thing has been getting access to guys like Justin Niebank and Niko Bolas, to name a few. Hearing them explain how they like to mic guitar cabs, or EQ a snare drum.

ROB: What do you like about performing with The Band Perry and where does it go from here?
TD: The Perry’s have been great to work for, and it’s wild that with as great of a year as they’ve had, they’re still growing. Getting to be a part of that has given me the chance to do some stuff I thought I’d never get to do. My girlfriend jokes that she gets to see me on TV more than she gets to see me in person.

I think the greatest perk about all of this for me though is the people – the Perrys, the other guys in the band (Boone, Fitz, and Andy), and all of the other players that we run into on the road. The people involved are usually my favorite thing about anything.

This year was pretty busy, but I think 2012 looks like it’ll be even busier. In January, we start several months of touring with Brad Paisley.

ROB: How did you get this gig?
TD: I’ve known Kimberly for a few years now. She and Reid used to come see The Elms play anytime we were in Nashville. After The Elms final show last year, they asked if I’d be interested in filling in with them for a few months. Then one night after a show in Florida, their dad called to say, “We’ve auditioned about 15 other guitar players, and we just wanted to know if you’d be interested in sticking around and being our guy?”

ROB: Any other stories from closer to home I need to relay to Indiana
TD: I’m excited, and relieved, that The Elms released “The Last Band On Earth” DVD. I think I was worried that, with everybody else working on it as hard as they were, I was going to be the one guy who screwed things up and held back its release. Not being home that often, I just sorta resolved that the only way I’d get my part of it done would be to work on it from the road. Every spare minute I had out here the past couple of months, I worked on it. And now it’s done, it came out November 25th, and I hope people will check it out. Owen and I poured a lot of heart into it.

I also spent the past year producing a record for my buddy Jason Aaron Coons, and we’re almost finished with that as well. Jason’s got an incredible voice, made a killer record, and it looks like a lot of people are lining up to help him out. Really proud of him and hoping I can do my part to get him heard.

And, I’m really excited that Owen and I will start making his solo record in December. He’s been killing it on the filmmaking front this year, but he’s a tunesmith, and really needs to be making music. If for no other reason, I need something new and good to listen to.

Gentlemen Hall: Midwest electro-pop from some Boston boys

Upon bestowing the “Best New Band” award in 2010 to Gentleman Hall, the Boston Phoenix wrote that “These songs sizzle and pop with resuscitated beats, bass lines and laser-booty synths that argue the last 20 years should be stricken from the record.”

The band that came back to Indianapolis for the WZPL Jingle Jam with Matt Nathenson and Christina Perri on December 3 at the Egyptian Room, is touring behind their new record When We All Disappear, and effectively mixing retro grooves with pop radio friendly production. Sort of like OK Go, without all the stunt videos.

Meeting at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the gang of synth-pop rockers has crafted tunes that recall the ’80s – maybe a little Controversy-era Prince-and thump with an electronic backbeat that melds club-happy bottom end with a familiar grooves. Nuevo Duran Duran? Cars for the newbies? Some hidden Hall and Oates influence from their last big record (Big Bam Boom)? All of that.

I wanted to know more about the band, so I talked with singer/guitarist Gavin McDevitt, who had flute player Seth Hachen (from Indiana, by the way) at his side, helping with the answers.

ROB: There’s distinct ’80s flavor to what you do. Talk about where your sound comes from.
Gavin: We were never as big into the ’80s musically as we are into the ’80s as far as gear and instrumentation. A lot of our sound comes from a vintage analog synthesizer called the Juno 106 which was most prevalent in the 80s. But we try to keep as modern of an approach as possible!

ROB: Any influences from your city that you hear in your music. I hear the Cars…
G: We are a Boston band with deep roots in the Midwest. We believe all the great music being made in Boston creates strong vibrations and energy that go directly into our music. The current Boston music scene is amazing. We feel like this scene is something similar to the Seattle grunge scene in the ’90s. Bands are very supportive of each other, but are writing very unique music that is very now.

ROB: What has been the track of your career? Openers? Clubs? Writing more than playing? What has worked for you?
G: We definitely weigh all as equal. As many irons in the fire as possible, man! Although we do really believe a band will be remembered 100 years from now for one thing… The song. We write a lot. LOT.

ROB: You’ve played with some long-active bands and at some larger venues. Any moments that have seemed like a nice turning point for your progress?
G: It seems like in today’s day and age, it’s simply all about making real fans one at a time. The momentum has been building but there has been no “break,” if that makes sense. A lot of exposure may have given you a big record deal in the past, but today we just try to make fans and not be forgotten.

ROB: Ever been to Indianapolis?
G: Indianapolis is one of our fondest memories as a band. We opened for Muse at the Verizon Center. This was probably the most fans we’ve made at one show. Sold out of CDs and T’s. And Muse put on one of the best shows we’ve seen in a long time.

ROB: Anyone in the band have Midwest roots?
G: We wear our [Midwestern influence] with pride. Two of us are from Cleveland, one from Minneapolis, one (Seth) is a South Bender, not too far from you.

ROB: Anything I missed that you want to add? Shameless plugs or smart-ass remarks?
G: Big shout out to Boston’s beloved model @LoVeSeXnGIA. She is a taste maker in the city and we are lucky to be shooting our music video for the single “Gravity Will Break Our Bones” with her in a key role.