Monday, December 15, 2014

Grant's Tomb: The Forming (And Reforming) of Panthallasa

Forming a band can be one of the most stressful experiences to go through. A bold statement maybe, but I've found it to be true nonetheless. Finding the right people with the right chemistry, even though individual tastes may differ significantly, takes a lot of patience. I am not a patient person.

In 2012 I had sworn off playing in a band ever again. Past experiences had left a bitter taste in my mouth, some of it my own doing, others not so much, but I was content to close the chapter and move on with my life. I was engaged, had a steady job and was happy enough. Its funny, looking back, how routine and “normal” my life became. All of that changed in an instant.

I’ve always looked to music as a way to vent and exercise whatever was troubling me, be it playing music or just listening. One tragic event and everything that I had taken for granted had been ripped away. Where do you turn when something like that happens? I picked up the guitar.

I’ve always been a bass player, my fingers were too fat and too short to play a guitar and any time I tried people would smile and shake their heads. Better luck next time. At the suggestion of a close friend and former band mate, he said I should play guitar in a project I had been discussing starting up. At that point it was all talk, mostly over several cans of PBR, but once the idea had been planted I couldn't shake it. I was going to have to go back on my word and form a band.

Now, how does one go about forming a band when they have a reputation for quitting or getting fired from every other project they've been a part of? How do they convince other people to spend their time (and money) on something that the person asking them to do it might not even see through to the end? 

Fortunately enough, I already had a couple people on board, a bassist, and another guitarist.

The earliest rehearsals were without a drummer. Just the guitars working on half-baked riffs I had been compiling over the last few months. During one of those rehearsals, the singer and guitarist from the band No One (we were sharing a rehearsal space with them) stopped by. He came in to the room, looked around and immediately asked if he could sing. Sure. Crazy thing was, it fit. It was raw and visceral but still carried enough melodic undertones to keep it interesting. One down, one to go.

Our initial drummer try-outs were not the greatest. One guy barely had a kit, another guy showed up for an audition, told us he didn’t like metal and never called us back. The third guy who showed up had a full kit and a good attitude but couldn’t seem to play in any time signature beyond 4/4, which was going to be a huge problem. Things seemed pretty depressing, but I had an idea. I contacted an old band member who I knew could play and he agreed to check it out. 

Things… didn't work out.

Finally, Shane Mills settled in as Panthallasa's drummer.
(Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
After nearly 6 months of looking, we finally convinced No Ones drummer to play with us, the rationale being “Hey, we share a rehearsal space, we already have your singer, we like you, you like us, lets boogie.” 

A few line-up changes later and we were ready to start playing shows. We had already recorded three songs with Griffin Landa at his Establishment recording studios to offer up as singles/demos for people to come check us out and to say “Yeah, we’re serious.”

With several shows under our belts, the time to record a proper release was at hand. We initially wrote four songs to record an EP’s worth of material with Griffin at the helm again, but in the 11th hour I sprung a fifth track on the guys, thereby increasing the cost of the recording sessions.

When you release a song, you’re making a statement. Not just this is who we are as a band, but this is who I am as an individual. Every person who contributes towards a recording is putting their name on it, be it the engineer, the bassist or the guy doing the artwork. “I am proud of this.” But what if people aren’t getting what you’re putting down? What if the reception is weak? What if they can’t neatly classify you as this genre or that? What if they think you suck? Yeah.

One thing I’m very fond of is sharing my opinions. On everything, but especially music; I have no problem telling someone why their favorite band is garbage or how much better the music I listen to is. I guess that makes me a jerk, but I think the intentions are good. When someone tells me about their new favorite hardcore band, I’ll suggest someone similar who (in my mind at least) delivers a better experience. 

When someone asks if I've caught the last episode of a program like “The Voice” or “American Idol” I’m quick to tell them they shouldn’t support that corporate waste and instead invest their time and listening into a band kicking it in the local circuit. Different strokes I suppose.

So, what happens now? What if every negative thing I’ve ever said about another band gets said about mine? “Yeah, the music is okay, but the singer is awful,” or “I don’t know, they sound pretty generic, I’m sure I’ve heard that guitar part somewhere else before.” 

It’s a scary thought and it makes you sympathize a bit more with a band or group you don’t necessarily enjoy.

Panthallasa takes a break during studio work
(Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
My band is getting ready to release our EP “Care” here after the New Year and I’m anxious to the point where I feel sick about it. We’ve played most of the songs in front of an audience, but anyone who is involved with recording can easily tell you how different a studio track can sound from hearing a song live. 

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be spending a bit of time detailing the process of creating it, from the individual songs to the ideas and themes behind the lyrics and sounds that were incorporated into them. This will all be from my perspective and I am only speaking for myself, nobody else in the band. I have put my soul into these recordings. I’ve also burned some bridges with people to keep my band and ultimately my vision on the correct course, and I’m going to be as honest with you and myself about it as possible.

My goal for this is to give you a glimpse inside my thought process, and show not just the triumphs but also some of the difficult decisions that are involved while recording and releasing a body of work. I hope you enjoy it.

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