Six-plus is the new two. Forget minimalist rock duos'there’s power in numbers. Of course, that’s not to say Salt Lake City’s Vile Blue Shades are any more musically complex than Meg, Jack, or that Death From Above 1979 couple. In fact, the voluminous local band rarely plays anything with more than one or two parts. Three at most.
Four is the number of Vile members looking slightly out of place today in a glitzy, Gateway sports bar. Bassist Shane Asbridge slings drinks while Dan Rose, Ryan Jensen (aka Ron Johnson) and Chris Murphy compete with the sound of myriad big-screen TVs.
“I enjoy places that are awkward,” Jensen says. “Those are the places that you meet people you’d normally never meet.”
The Shades encountered all sorts of characters on a recent West Coast tour, starting in Phoenix where they shared a stage with these emo-core rockers who insisted that, “You can’t describe our sound, man'it’s just music.”
Rose, one of the band’s founding members and unofficial spokesman, has no trouble explaining the Shades’ musical philosophy: Keep it rhythmic. Increase heavy percussion. Write your own parts and record before writing. Keep it rhythmic. Bring the 8-track, the beer and the weed. Stay loose. Keep it rhythmic.
Last week at Kilby, each Shade stayed true to form, figures jerking and hands frantically strumming or pounding on bass, guitar, tambourine, maracas, snare, wall, floor … anything to elicit a palpable sonic boom. Everything culminated in a sound fitting for the words stretched across drummer Joe Guile’s shirt: “The Call of the Wild.”
The best part about a Shades gig is the communal energy set forth by a rotating crew of talented locals. In addition to Rose, Asbridge, Murphy, Jensen and Guile, Mike Torretta and Justin Wyatt contribute to the group’s massive, tribal sound. There are also several mysterious guest stars. Anyone who’s caught a couple of live shows might ask, “Is Lindsey Heath a member? Why is Dan Thomas playing tonight? How come Jeremy Smith played at the Urban Lounge but is M.I.A. at this venue?” Well, it’s simple: The more the merrier.
“We might have to limit our size at certain shows, but I want to keep adding people until it gets out of hand,” Rose says. Additional participants make for booming vocals, gritty and raw, chanting in unison or chopped into sweet solos.
The Shades try to capture that intensity in studio, priding themselves on top-notch, raw recordings'“we purposefully skip records to play sort of a joke on the listener”'released through their label, Croak Frog Records (free demos, info and such available at Myspace.com/CroakFrogRecords). Their rough approach shines through on Bottle of Pain, an EP soaked in primal urgency. The ambitious group has more full-lengths on deck, We’re Here, We’re High (slated for release through Alpine label Exumbrella Records) and John Thursday: California Adventure, an homage to Henry Miller.
The Shades also contributed a track, “Under Watchful Eye,” to SLUG Magazine’s upcoming Death By Salt II compilation. The Shades have also been recording material for I Am Electric, Chubby Bunny and awesome female-fronted newcomers The C--ted.
It’s all part of the group’s focus on all things communal'not in a dirtkicker, Liberty Park-drum circle sort of way. Think instant karma. The Shades are quick to give props to anyone furthering their success: Will Sartain for booking an eventful debut tour (complete with sold-out merchandise, sketchy motels, and a van decked out in “Support Our Troops” paraphernalia), Andrew Callis for painting live-show backdrops, Doug Gross for his handy 8-track and Wyatt, whose customized amps keep the band humming.
Hopefully, the wheel of fortune will keep on spinning. The Shades recently lost their practice space. “We need something downtown'somewhere that allows smoking,” Rose says. Something big enough for six-plus.
VILE BLUE SHADESUrban Lounge241 S. 500 EastWednesday, June 2210 p.m.746-0558