Take a Spin with the Valley's Slow Season
Jul 27, 2015 04:50PM
By Brandi Barnett
Slow SeasonAugust 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Jacki Potorke
It’s come out of the woodwork, loudly, unpredictably, breaking up the year’s cycle with the release of its second full-length album, Mountains – fresh as spring, hot as summer, familiar as fall and wild as any winter should be. That Slow Season seemingly came out of nowhere is both shocking and appropriate: with a throwback sound, reminiscent of late ‘60s and early ‘70s garage rock, its music is nothing new, but then it’s never been done before, either. But how Slow Season has remained relatively unknown until now is puzzling, since its tracks are like echoes from rock ‘n’ roll’s past.
Authentic, true roots rock ‘n’ roll: there’s no simpler way to describe the band’s sound. Call them “classic” if you will, but when most thusly-defined rockers were making music however many years ago, these four dudes hadn’t even been born.
Maybe Slow Season members Daniel Rice, David Kent, Hayden Doyel and Cody Tarbell went unnoticed because they’d been hiding these past 40 years, writing, watching, waiting for their season to come back around.
Nope, says Rice, dismantling this theory of cryogenic rock preservation. “We didn’t really play locally a whole lot. I just don’t think our music connected with people in the area,” he says. They’ve been playing since 2012, but Rice suggests Slow Season doesn’t jive with the current musical zeitgeist.
That doesn’t mean the band has gone completely unnoticed, or that its sound hasn’t connected with fans outside the Valley. During recent tours, Slow Season discovered (or was discovered by) fans in Oklahoma and Texas. “People really connect with our music there,” says Doyel, Slow Season’s bassist.
These rockers are like cartographers, drawing lines and borders between genres, tracing the course of musical history from influence to influence, connecting trade-routes between different sounds, like psychedelic rock and American hip-hop.
Don’t you know, the Americans landed in England long before the British Invasion? Soul, R&B, “James Brown, Aretha, they actually influenced most ‘70s hard rockers,” says Rice. Obviously, Doyel adds, “You don’t just listen to your influence. You listen to the influence of your influences.” And so the conversation, like vinyl, keeps on spinning.
Slow Season doesn’t just talk the rock ‘n’ roll talk, though. They walk it, too. On the heels of a nearly four-week tour, Slow Season hit the road on July 3 for yet another 10,000-mile, month-long excursion. Call them rockers, call them road warriors, but when Slow Season takes the stage, they look like they’ve crawled from the ‘70s just as much from a tour van.
“I think we’re starting to pull off the look now that we’re more road-worn. The more we go, it’s kinda just happening,” says Doyel, referring to the gnarly mustaches and turquoise jewelry, long hair, paisley shirts, leather vests and boots – a look to match their sound. They look the part, they sound the part, but Slow Season isn’t putting on airs, either.
“There’s no board meetings about what we’re doing,” explains Doyel. “We want to sound like we’re from back in the day, the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it’s not like we have to do this.”
“There’s no master plan,” Rice agrees. “We kind of know what we want to do, and it happens to be in line with each other.”
In line and common ground. Distill Slow Season’s interests and musical tastes and you’ve got its purist influence: “the common ground is Zeppelin,” Rice says. Of course, every band wants to make its own way in the musical word, to create its own sound, but there’s no better comparison than to those legendary rockers from London.
From its first track, Mountains displays that influence through repeating guitar riffs punctuated by a snapping high-hat, and tied together by a blues-driven bass line. Tracks like Sixty-Eight and King City display Rice’s powerful range, reverberating vocals hitting high notes and low, hauntingly rolling vowels, siren-like, blending the best of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.
But any comparison misses the mark, and even Slow Season strains to describe its sound. “Well, we say rock ‘n’ roll a lot, but people don’t seem satisfied with that,” says Rice. Doyel raises the ante, “Yeah, but what kind of rock and roll? Bluesy, riffy, ‘70s?”
“Guitar rock?” asks Rice. “No,” he concedes. “I don’t know man, what do you think?”
While Rice admits their music reaches a certain “type,” the gray hairs and bikers, he calls them, Slow Season also reaches a wider audience, which only reflects the diverse tastes and backgrounds of its members.
“Cody grew up on the rodeo circuit,” says Rice. “His dad was a bull rider, so ‘90s country was his bread and butter. When he wanted to rebel as a kid he got into Wu-Tang Clan.4
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“We didn’t grow up in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he continues. “I was around rap and ‘90s rock and I grew up Church of Christ, which was all four-part harmonies, a cappella,” which, Rice adds, “is cool common ground with the Beach Boys.”
And through a thick mustache, Doyel says, “I’m younger so I grew up throughout the Backstreet Boys,” though “Neil Young was tops growing up. He’s one of my favorites.”
Good music is good music, and “it’s not like we forget what we listened to as kids or anything,” Doyel adds. “You can find something good in every genre or time period.”
By drawing from that bottomless well of musical experience and influence, Slow Season refuses to duplicate any one kind of sound, get niched, become a musical relic. They’re adapting, growing as musicians, and already working on a new album with a sound different from the last. They’re dabbling with organ and mellotron, writing with mandolin.
All successful bands develop by degrees to stay ahead of the times. But what would that mean for a band like Slow Season? Moving forward, will moogs replace their mellotrons, and ‘80s new-wave synth-pop wash away ‘70s rock riffs? Will Slow Season become some kind of chronological musical experiment, moving through the decades until it collides with the current zeitgeist?
Doyel laughs: “That’s kind of actually how it’s progressing so far. Our music has kind of gone from ’69 to like ’71.”
“The new album is gonna be early ‘70s, touches of prog, and you know eventually we’ll end up doing Kenny Loggins,” Rice jokes – at least, through the thick of the mustache, it’s hard to tell.
Slow Season’s progression won’t be limited to its chords. Their music proves they’re not afraid to tackle different genres, and certainly not afraid to walk down a road long ago paved by rock ‘n’ roll greats. Anyway, like the name suggests, time’s a relative thing. However slowly, seasons still cycle, and eventually the really good stuff always comes back around. Who knows, maybe Slow Season has been ahead of the game, and everyone else behind the times. If so, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. What better way to start than with a record and some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll?
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