Buzz: Rock, rattle, roll: Latest from 6 Day Bender frontman a sure thing
For local music aficionados, it's lucky that local blues rocker Luke Nutting has a short attention span. As the front man for a favorite rollicking local bluegrass–- sometimes, they prefer "mountain rock"–- band, 6 Day Bender, Nutting found himself listless and bored during some scheduled downtime. Unable to sit still without an instrument to strum or a lyric to yell, the guitarist began fiddling with melodies, loops, ideas. On a whim, he asked friend and drummer David Jacobs to join him during a solo show–- and Red Rattles was born.
"I don't like the aesthetic of the quiet, singer-songwriter in the corner," Nutting says. "But I get down if I don't play shows. I get ornery."
There's nothing singer-songwriter about Red Rattles. While distracting himself from the boredom of life off the road, Nutting began experimenting with gospel and rock, creating a "Pentecostal punk, hard gospel" aesthetic for the Rattles. How exactly does that play out? A mixture of Southern sticky-sweet blues with loud, rowdy garage rock.
"Somber fury," he grins. "The dualities of Black soul music and white banjo music–- back when gospel and blues were still bedfellows. I took that era and plugged it in, turned it loud, put it through an Iggy Pop lens."
The first release from the duo reflects those dualities seamlessly. Sure Thing contains five songs, and all need to be played at eardrum breaking levels to be best appreciated. The base of the songs were recorded by Nutting and Jacobs during an impromptu rehearsal in Nutting's basement, with one microphone pointed towards the ceiling with the duo playing through the songs as loud as they could. Nutting went back over the tracks individually and added in all other instruments (banjo, upright bass and organ, among at least a dozen) and vocals overtop those original guitar and drum recordings–- and the result is sultry, loud, messy rock. "You can fake a band with two people convincingly," he says.
The album efficiently flows, but never ebbs. Energy seeps throughout the entire 17 minutes and 53 seconds, and it's incredible to hear Nutting's voice reach ever higher pitches in the overlapping layers of vocals. Most songs can be analyzed as relationship quandaries– "Take Me Home" details "good old-fashioned loving"–- although issues of "institutional infallibility" and "the difficulties of circumstance" are overriding themes as well. The duo is, in this reviewer's opinion, strongest on the first and final tracks, "It's a Shame," and "Sure Thing," wrapping the album into a neat package of gospel rage, all sex appeal and grunge. Perhaps the glory of the EP lies in its whimsy–- every song has a different reincarnation when played live, and Nutting plans to keep it that way.
"For better or worse, [Red Rattles] can totally follow whims–- it's a total blank slate," he says. "I can be whoever, the song can be written however, there's nothing to be a sequel to."
If Nutting's solution to boredom is to create exhilarating, devil-may-care musical projects, the local music scene may be just a bit rowdier, even when his main band goes on a well-deserved hiatus.
Red Rattles releases Sure Thing online Sunday, June 13, then playing two release shows Monday, June 14, one at Sidetracks and one at The Box. The Sidetracks show starts at 5pm, The Box show at 10pm and tickets to both are free.