Local Band Finds|
An Alternative Sound
by Spencer Cramer, Editor
(McLeansboro Times-Leader - March 25, 1998)
April 3, 1998
In an area dominated by country music, four area teenagers are carving out their own alternative sound.
The band is Front, made up of Jeremy Smith, 16, of McLeansboro, DeAnna Ripperden, 16, of McLeansboro, Zach Kemp, 18, of Enfield, and Ryan Lydick, 18, of Enfield.
The band has been around for three years, with Ripperden the newest member. The bass player, she has been with the group since October of last year.
"She's lived up the road from me for like two years and we didn't know she played," Smith said.
"Yeah, me and him we're sitting out front one day talking, and were like, 'Man wouldn't it be cool if we could find a chick bass that lived right across the street?' " Lydick recalled. "And a week later, Jeremy comes up to me and says, 'Man! I found a chick bass player that lives right across the
"I knew she played, I didn't know how good she was," Smith said. "Anyway, I was trying to sell her a bass one day." Then he asked if she would come and play with the band. She played the same songs they did, so Ripperden was in.
Front practices Sunday afternoons at Smith's Used Cars, setting up their equipment each time, like they were going to play a gig, then tearing it down before business resumes Monday. It's a pain, but on the other hand, they've got setups down to a science. Practices go with easy humor of Lydick and Kemp, then when they start playing, they become more business-like.
Smith has been playing guitar for four years. "I'd been wanting one for a long time, and my parents got me one," he said. "It was for my birthday." He cites James Hetfield of Metallica and Jimi Hendrix as influences. "I like odd people, people mostly unheard of. I like Junior Brown."
Ripperden has been playing bass guitar on and off since she was 10 or 11. "I don't really have very many (musical Influences)," she said. "Les Claypool of Primus, he's my main man."
Kemp, the drummer, cites John Bonham of Led Zeppelin as well as drummers in newer alternative bands in the 1990s as his influences. "In the '80s, the drummer was in the back, he didn't do anything," Kemp said. "They had one beat. In the early '90s, these guys brought drumming to a new level."
Lydick, the singer, cites Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bomb as two influences, along with "probably every singer I listen to."
"Louie Armstrong?" Kemp joked.
They described their repertoire as new alternative rock and original songs. They have 20 original songs, and might play 10 or 12 of them at gig. Cover songs include material from material from Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Metallica.
The band has played somewhere between 20 and 30 gigs at local festivals and other places. In late February, Front knows it's going to have gigs at Lakeside and the Getaway in Harrisburg, though the dates hadn't been set. Front will play in the auditorium at Southeastern Illinois College this Friday at 7 p.m.
It has been hard though, to get booked because of the kind of music the band plays. "Usually we don't book; we let people call us," Smith said. The band is planning to start actively booking this summer.
Unlike most bands, all of the members Of Front can trade instruments and still play a song. They trade off once or twice at a gig to get people's attention.
Front took there equipment to a home studio in Norris City last summer. Their first experence in a studio went well, Smith said, with songs only needing two takes.
They recorded four songs, three of which can be heard on WVJC 89.1 FM out of Mt. Carmel.
"Ryan knows a guy from WVJC, he's a DJ up there," Kemp said. It was right after we recorded (our first song). He gave him the tape. Wes listened to it, and he liked it. So he took it up there the next day ... and played it on his show, and everybody really liked it. They kept on playing it, and after we recorded another song, we took it up there and they played it, and so on and so on."
The band has gotten a lot of positive response to their songs.
"Even my mom likes it," Ripperden said. "She loves our music ... she's not the kind of person who likes this kind of music, but she likes this."
Front is planning to record some more at Blue Earth Studios on the other side of Harrisburg in the next couple of weeks and produce a CD sometime this year.
"Somebody will come in here with an idea, and we'll just work on it," Smith said in describing how Front writes songs.
"Sometimes we can throw one together in an hour, sometimes it, takes us about a week," Kemp said. "The one we're working on right now, we've been working on a couple of weeks."
That song, not yet titled in February, is different than their other material because it features Lydick playing an Australian didgeridoo (pronounced dig-er-eedoo), a four-foot cylinder that is played like a trumpet and produces a wavering bass note.
"He had it about three days before he brought it up here, and we wrote a song that night with it," Smith said. "It was a hit."
Lydick, who had wanted a didgeridoo for years, got one for Christmas.
"I just kind of taught myself how to play it in a couple of days," he said. "I thought it sounded neat.... What it's actually made for is to mimic animals I'm just not good enough to do it yet. I can halfway do a dog. You're supposed to be able to mimic a dingo and stuff like that, be able to talk through it, only not using your vocal cords to talk, just the air and the moving of your mouth."
The key to playing the instrument is circular breathing, where you exhale out your mouth and breathe in your nose at the same time. Lydick demonstrated circular breathing, and it sounded like someone clearing their sinuses.
"You squeeze the air out of your cheeks and breathe in your nose," he said. "That's pretty much all there is to it, except you get light-headed after a while."
Lydick, a music major who plays tenor sax at Southeastern Illinois College, wants to master various unusual instruments, such as a djimbe (pronounced jim-by)a multi-pitched African bongo. "I just like things that sound different than people are used to hearing," he said. It's just a matter of being able to afford to buy things like bagpipes.
"I'm trying to figure out different things and rhythms and integrate them-into the rock," he said. "I just got to get better at it."
Front hasn't used the tenor sax in a song.
Concerning unusual instruments, Smith said he might get a sitar, a droning Indian stringed instrument made popular by Ravi Shankar.
FRONT - Ryan Lydick, singer for the McLeansboro-based band Front, with an Australian didgeridoo.
(All photos by Spencer Cramer)
Front'sound is based on the quiet part/heavy part style formed by Led Zeppelin and continued by hundreds of bands since then.
"These Wounds" starts quietly, with the guitar playing clean notes, then goes to distorted guitars with slabs of bass over kinetic, frenetic drums.
"Napalm" is Front's gig-ending song, partly because the shredding vocal lines are hard to sing. Kemp downs some Mountain Dew to charge up for playing it.
The untitled song, as they played it then, starts with ringing, clean notes from the guitar. The didgeridoo melds with the lower frequencies of the bass and drums. After a verse, Lydick returns for an interlude with the didgeridoo. The heavy part comes, with Smith bending the neck of his guitar to bend the notes, but later than you expect it. After the lead guitar break, the song drops to the bass, Kemp's hi-hat, the didg and some feedback from Smith. It slowly builds,back up, Smith adding sustained and bent notes until the heavy part is back. The song fades out with the bass, hi-hat and didgeridoo.
(04/03/98 - Posted by Project Deep Thought - Whitney Lapington)