Story by Annie Bohling | Courtesy Photo by Jeremy Dreier
Powers is a local band comprised of Lincolnites Dave Arredondo (vocals and guitar), Kelly Houchen (vocals and guitar), Jason Morris (bass) and Jordan Elfers (drums). The four band members recently sat down with Seeds to discuss their self-titled debut album as well as their sound, processes, passions and challenges of making music together as Powers.
The band can be summed up as a rock band, as it is, but their casual yet accurate online description of their music as “crunchy, riffy, stonery rock and roll” is slightly more interesting. The band members also refer to their music as thrashy. It’s all of these things. Powers’ sound is whatever they feel inspired it to be in the writing processes as long as they feel that it sounds good and works.
October brought the release of the band’s first official album (celebrated by their CD release party during Lincoln Calling at Duffy’s), self-titled and full of seven solid tracks that hit the listener with strong, fast, fluid and loud movement, force and volume. The tracks are clean, sharp and very listenable: They feature carefully laid out guitar riffs that are woven with Elfer’s drumming and strung together with Morris’s bass. Arredondo’s howling, pleading vocals with the help of Houchen’s furtherly ties things together and gives the band an extra form of identity. The product is one that leaves the listener wanting more (as any good short album should do) and that obviously comes from a lot of practice, talent and cohesiveness.
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Powers originally had this album mostly recorded within two days back in January of this year. “We did the basis of it in two days,” said Elfers. “We had some of the vocals done and we were going to go back and finish them up and then the hard drive that had the vocals on it crashed so we had to go back in and re-do all of it and it took us six months to get back in there and re-do it because everybody was like–he was finishing up school and we were all just working all the time. The one day we had set, there was a blizzard. So we got in there [in the early summer,] we finished it, and we had to wait for everything else to happen.”
During those months, the band was creating instead of simply waiting. “So we had those seven going into it and I think we’ve at least doubled our tracks since then,” said Arredondo. The band plays shows fairly regularly at local venues and tends to play these newer, fresher songs, rather than the songs that are on the album. However, the album tracks are not a far cry from what they sound like live. “We definitely tried to make it so that anything we put on the album we could duplicate live. So there’s not a lot of crazy overdubbing,” said Houchen of the recordings.
And despite the logistics of meeting, the members of Powers currently make it a point to meet Sunday nights for about four hours of practicing and creating. “This has been our thing for at least year and a half,” said Arredondo of the practices. “Sunday night, it happens. We hash it out.” Arredondo went on to say that even if one of the guys is sick or out of town, the rest of the band will collaborate and likely have a song written by the time the missing band member comes back.
The band members mutually speak of the practices as being productive, creative and fun. “Once we all get here, it happens,” said Elfers. He goes on to compare the nature of the Powers practices to that of the other band he plays in. “This one is a lot easier because I write in this band and get to create and have fun. And in the other band I play in, I come and play drums to a background track. And it’s super fun and I love playing shows, don’t get me wrong, but that hour of that practice is practice whereas here, it’s like, ‘Ya know, I don’t want to play anymore of our songs today. Let’s make a new one.’”
The creative processes are certainly not confined to the hours set aside for practicing. Often, the guys individually think of ideas for songs in their own time, bring them to the table and collectively play with them. The ideas are fairly abundant and varied in nature. “We stay busy writing. We’re always trying to do new stuff,” said Arredondo. Arredondo and Houchen are guitarists and vocalists in the band and help write songs by starting with their roles.
Houchen expands on the writing processes. “It’s pretty easy when the two of us are writing riffs and comparing and combining things and figuring out new ways to make things sound more like a fusion,” said Houchen. Arredondo was quick to point out that the products of this band very much derive from group efforts. “It’s not like it’s two and two. It’s very much four people all contributing to this song,” said Arredondo. “And as we keep going, I think we keep finding our sound together because it is definitely four of us [with] everybody contributing.”
The interview brought to light each of the band mate’s modesty despite their individual and group talent as well as supportiveness they convey of each other and of what they are doing as a whole.
“Yeah, it’s great how we all work together and problem solve and then figure it all out and figure out transitions, figure out structure,” said Houchen, agreeing with Arredondo. “It’s all of our different tastes combined.” Elfers went on to expand on the different tastes of the four band members.
“Our music choices are all across the board,” said Elfers. “If you get into anybody’s car, it’s going to be a different album, a different band way off the spectrum.” Houchen chimed in about what this can present to their music as a whole. “Sometimes making a unified sound with us is difficult because we’ll just go on these tangents where it’s just like, ‘Let’s make make a dub song!’ It just goes all over the place,” said Houchen. The band joked about reaching in extreme directions (exaggerating in naming Nordic black metal and Mexicali sounds) that are so different than their released music, which does span across styles but is still safely classified as ‘rock.’
Arredondo relates to this general phenomenon of various tastes appearing in their music. “Oh we’ve probably written like four or five songs maybe that we’ve gotten pretty much done and then we’re like, ‘That just doesn’t work. We’re not going to play that.’ Maybe we’ll play that at a house show or something and unleash it [because] it’s just sort of bizarre,” said Arredondo.
The band says that they do not make a conscious effort to stick to a certain sound. “Most of the ones that sound similar just end up that way,” said Elfers.
“Yeah, like Dave said, we drop a lot,” said Houchen.
“I think if anything, if we keep playing more, I think we’ll be trying to push ourselves and our sound and our song-writing to go new places,” said Arredondo. “I don’t think we have any mind to pigeon hole ourselves into sounding just like we do now. I think we’re into growth.”
The band also seems to be on the same page in keeping things going for the foreseeable future. The band is looking forward to but being patient about getting back into Fuse Recording Studio and as Elfers put it, it will be “As soon as we can solidify like a week of time that we can all take off. We’ll try to do like five days instead of two since we’re doing more songs and hopefully we’ll have a little more time to marinate on it while we’re there.” Powers’ hope is to release another album by this coming summer and as they already have many new tracks as it is, the goal is plenty reasonable.
I asked the guys what their motivation was for not only playing and making music but for recording and releasing it.
“It’s really selfish,” started Jordan. “I want to hear it. I feel like you should like what you make. We just have a lot friends and we want them to be able to enjoy what we’re enjoying, if that makes any sense. That’s my take on it, anyway. Whatever happens happens. I keep doing this because I have fun doing it.”
“I think we’re all on the same page as far as playing music for the love of playing music,” said Houchen. “People hear it [your music] and it’s always just a huge rush I think. A big audience watching you play your music on stage…”
“I love the writing process and the creating process,” said Arredondo. “When you get something nailed down and you get up to play it…I love playing live because it’s almost cathartic. Like get it all out.”
“Yeah, it’s a good stress reliever,” adds Houchen.
I also asked each of Powers what the most rewarding part of making music as a band is for him.
“I’d say the noise. We’re all kind of tone junkies,” said Arredondo. “The loud noises are very satisfying to me.” He says the band puts a lot of time, energy and money for equipment to achieve certain volume, tones and noises that they all love hearing.
“I’d kind of agree. Even if we’re playing a singer-songwriter song or a loud, thrashy song, either way it’s like, there’s still a level of crunch to it, and we all love hearing the different kinds of tone. Especially the ones where we’re connecting… He’ll be fuzzed out, he’ll be making a hum, and I’ll be doing nothing and it sounds awesome.” [Laughter.]
“For me, it’s almost like blacking out while you’re playing,” said Elfers. “I mean I don’t have a dog but my dog could probably die and I could go play drums and not think about it.” (The other guys laugh and give him a hard time about this, but we understand the point he is making.) “You just kind of forget about shit while you’re playing and it’s kind of cool. It’s one task,” said Elfers.
“I’ve never played in a loud, thrashy band like this, if you will,” said Morris. “I just like playing different styles of music and these guys actually switch their styles. Every band I’ve ever played in before that always stuck with the same thing.”
You can see Powers perform this Friday the 13th at Vega (a six-band bill for only six dollars). The band plays shows when they can and encourages people to attend. At the shows, you can buy a copy of their newly released CD. Otherwise, add them on Facebook and find them on Bandcamp where their CD download is also available.