After playing the June CD release party for But a Breath (Independent), Ellipsis' debut album, the band hit the road for a 30-day road trip that started in Arkansas and headed west. It has also done a few week and a half stints traveling around the Southeast, but tours of that length are new for the quartet. Up until recently, Ellipsis did weekends out of town because the members were all in university -- guitarist John Michael Rouchell, drummer Eric Heigle and singer-guitarist Craig Paddock were all students in Loyola's music business program, and bassist Mark Schlackman was at University of New Orleans "for business or engineering," Rouchell says.
In the car on the way to a gig in Birmingham, Ala., Rouchell recalls, "The thing about the weekends was we'd leave Friday morning right after class just to get to the gig, and sometimes we'd have gigs Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we'd be driving. We'd be out the whole weekend and literally drive to our classes, so it was a bit taxing as far as a lack of sleep. It's easier on all of us because we're not worried about the whole juggling act of music, school, family, girlfriends."
As Ellipsis becomes a touring act, the band is learning to deal with subtle changes, one of which involves rehearsal. When gigs come once a month, it's easy to spend time practicing, but now, Rouchell says, "we're practicing on stage and messing with things." In some cases, that means improvising. "We played one song, 'Moon Rocks on Easy Street,' somewhere in Colorado, and it was a five-and-a-half, six-minute tune, kind of jamming it. We played it in San Diego, and it turned into a 15-minute, long-ass (song), just really crazy, going in and out of songs within the song. We were trying to experiment and push ourselves on stage, not just in the confines of your practice space."
On But a Breath, the song doesn't obviously loan itself to such a treatment. Like many songs on the album, "Moon Rocks on Easy Street" is a pop song developed around a shimmering guitar pattern and dynamics, as it moves not so much from the verse to the chorus as from the quieter part to the crunchier, heavier part. The movement from part to part is tight enough that a jam seems unlikely until a breakdown three or so minutes in provides an opening.
The band isn't really a jam band, though. "That stuff's great in a live setting, but it really comes down to the tunes, and that's the main focus of the band," Rouchell says. "The thing about our band is we're doing this now in 2004, but by no means are we a quote-unquote modern rock band," Rouchell says. "What we're trying to do is look backwards to look forward, looking at the bands that came before us like Led Zeppelin, the Police, the Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, the Beatles, Incubus, etc." Some of these influences are easily spotted and some -- particularly Zeppelin -- are pretty superficial, singers who can hit the high notes being the main similarity.
"We have a lot of confidence in this record we put out and we really have confidence in the songs we're writing right now," Rouchell says. "We feel good that this is something we're going to be doing for a long time. This is the year the period's going to get put at the end of the sentence, whatever sentence it may be, whether it's 'I need to go back to school' or 'This is what I'm doing for the rest of my life.'"
Applications to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference and Festival March 16-20, 2005, are now being accepted. Musicians interested in performing at this music industry showcase should send a package including a CD of original materials (at least 3 songs), a photo, biography and a press kit to SXSW Music Festival, P. O. Box 4999, Austin, Texas, 78765. The early application deadline is Oct. 8, 2004, with an application fee of $10 online or $20 for a hardcopy, mail-in application. The late application deadline is Nov. 8 with a fee of $20 online or $30 mailed in. For more information, visit www.sxsw.com, e-mail email@example.com or call (512) 467-7979.
When Harrah's opened the Earl Turner Theatre this spring, many local musicians thought they should have been playing the theater (see "Leaving Las Vegas," June 8). That is finally happening Sunday as The New Orleans All Star Blues Revue plays the first of three dates at Harrah's (Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 are the next two). Marva Wright, Luther Kent and Henry Butler, the show's musical director, headline the show. The band includes Bennie Turner on bass, Earl Smith on drums, Tracy Griffin on trumpet, Anthony Brown on guitar, Brian "Breeze" Cayolle on sax, and Chucky "C" on sax.
For reviews of recent CDs by Ashlee Simpson, Van Halen, X and more, click here.
- Before Ellipsis' members took a year off from university, John Michael Rouchell says, "We'd be out the whole weekend and literally drive to our classes."