This isn't the first opportunity to get acquainted with Many Series. The group, which is composed of former members of seminal indie-rock bands Giant's Chair, Quitter's Club, and Black Calvin, formed three years ago. Since then, Many Series has played scattered shows, following an erratic schedule partly necessitated by guitarist Scott Hobart's touring schedule (with Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys).
"As far as bands that I've been in, this is the closest one to nonexistence," Hobart says. "But in the meantime, I think we did some good work."
While the members' previous bands covered uncharted territory with their often jarring melody structures and unorthodox time signatures, with Aerialist, Many Series moves to new extremes, playing droning instrumental dirges that alternately pulse with noisy intensity and lightly pummel with persistent percussive ambience. At times, the group will pound away on the same plodding riffs for minutes at a time, which Hobart describes as an attempt at establishing "timelessness."
"We're blurring time by repetition," he explains. "There's a certain type of hypnosis and loss of objectivity that takes place after a certain amount of time, meaning it takes X amount of repetitions for someone to forget how long the song's been going on. I'm interested in finding out when that occurs and if it occurs at different times for different people."
This experiment has inspired mixed feelings from those who have attended the band's shows. Some have been moved by the intricate dual-guitar interaction and the building intensity of its compositions, while others have been driven to distraction by redundancy. Both camps, Hobart says, appreciated the songs on some level.
"Some people liked the music and some people didn't, but the people who didn't like it liked the fact that it was so absurd that it just kept going, and that was something we were definitely interested in," he says. "We're all interested in absurdity."
Although Many Series won't be creating any new tunes, the absurdity is far from over. Hobart sees the band heading in an even stranger direction.
"We are interested in staying together just for the sake of ideas," he says. "We're kind of interested in releasing research papers about new ideas that we might have. We like being in a band, but we don't want to write or play music in this context anymore, so we're going to try to maintain the facade of bandhood as long as we can without actually doing anything. We'll just release a paper from time to time that says if we were making music, this is what it would be about right now. It's all about the surface at that point. We would still have an image, and we're interested in imagery for sure, but we just want to experiment with the languages associated with being in a band that aren't necessarily musical."
Judging by the band's bio, which explains the symbolic meaning of the name Many Series in great detail (revealing, among other insights, that the "M" stands for money and the "S" for sex and that the play on "miniseries" is intended to "challenge the relationship between two fairly common words"), such papers should be eminently more readable than the average academic output. Hobart says they'll include various visual aids, such as band photos, for further aesthetic enhancement. "It seemed like we ended up spending a lot more time taking band photos towards the end than we did actually writing or practicing," he admits.
Some of these pictures, along with artifacts from the band's shows (which involved mimes, musicians, slide shows, and costumes), will be on display at the Dirt Gallery on August 11 at 7 p.m. Dubbed an "endtrospective," this event will offer a listening booth for those eager to check out Aerialist and glimpses of such obscure items as "green turtlenecks and stuff that we wore." Many Series' final concert is slated for 3 p.m. the following day at Recycled Sounds, where the band plans to supplement its performance with a press conference. And for the Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys fans who might be concerned about the future of that ensemble, Hobart says a new album will arrive in September, and not in research-paper form.
Unfortunately for local music lovers who are now deep in lament, crying "Many Series, we hardly knew ye," the bad news doesn't end with the disbanding of Hobart's intriguing outfit. Lushbox, winners of the 1999 Best New Band Klammy and one of the area's most consistent draws, is also calling it quits, citing the ever-popular irreconcilable creative and personal differences. Worsening matters is the fact that unlike Many Series and this week's feature subjects, Annie on My Mind, Lushbox isn't leaving sobbing fans with a new CD to cuddle up with, even though it has an EP that's fully recorded and mastered.
"This is making me so sad, because the new album, some of the songs on it, I just loved so much, and they had just come together so well," singer/guitarist Brianne Grimmer says before unleashing a powerful sigh. "Now they just have to sit there, never to come out, never to be heard." About releasing a posthumous disc, a trend that seems to be all the rage, Grimmer says simply, "That's not us."
Along with Frogpond's breakup earlier this year, Lushbox's exit from the scene creates a disturbing paucity in the once-plentiful power-pop category. Grimmer says she's eager to start a new project but that "everyone who plays the style of music I want to do is already very busy." Nonetheless, she's preparing plenty of new material just in case opportunity knocks.
"I'm inspired again," she says. "I find myself writing songs instead of going out."
Perhaps area scenesters have also decided to start writing songs instead of going out, but for whatever reason, attendance at shows by such bands as Lushbox has been lagging. Although groups such as The Casket Lottery, Coalesce, The Anniversary, and The Get Up Kids have amassed sizable national followings, selling out local venues remains a struggle.
"All of the people from L.A. that were working with us said that the KC/Lawrence music scene puts them to shame and that all of the good bands are coming out of Kansas City," Grimmer reveals. "It's totally true, but it seems like nobody who lives here recognizes it. The music here is phenomenal, but it just doesn't get very much support from its home."
Given these sentiments, it's perhaps unsurprising that Grimmer is willing to relocate to a number of other cities, including Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Omaha, to pursue her musical career. Lushbox's manic drummer, Wil Plunkett, is also weighing out-of-town options, including offers from a New Jersey band. And guitarist Rob O'Toole is staying close to home for now, gigging with the pop-punk juggernaut Fifteen Minutes Fast.
In the meantime, Grimmer has made a jovial attempt to join another pop powerhouse. "I think Ultimate Fakebook needs me in their band," Grimmer says of the latest local crew to become major-label darlings. "I was trying to talk them into thinking that was a good idea the other night." Some might try to talk Grimmer into thinking it's a good idea to join the excellent three-fourths-female group Sister Mary Rotten Crotch, but, she replies with a laugh, "I wore my Catholic schoolgirl skirt when I was in the Main Street Saints (as the drummer), and I wore it out."
This One's for the Children
Happily, plenty of groups in the area are still going strong. One of these is Slanted Plant, a fledgling funk band that will showcase its new material August 9 at the Granada and August 12 at a daylong benefit show at Shawnee Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Both are free all-ages shows, which singer/guitarist Brian Isbell raves are his favorite type of concert to play. "Wow, thank you very much," he says, recalling his reaction when he learned that Slanted Plant had been added to the Granada bill. "I was dumbfounded." Then again, it's hard to imagine any type of show Isbell wouldn't like to play; in one brief conversation he repeatedly extols the virtues of "playing out."
Going along with Isbell's self-proclaimed "We'll play anywhere with anyone" credo, Slanted Plant often ends up sharing the stage with what Isbell describes as "death-metal-up-your-ass bands." This week's shows are no exception. The Granada show includes such hard-rocking bands as Six Percent and Eight Degrees, while the benefit, which is known as Crunch Fest (though not to Isbell or other sources interviewed for this piece, who admitted they'd never heard that name used for the concert), stars Six Percent and Canvas. Although Slanted Plant can't always make headbangers move their groove thangs, the band usually manages to soothe the savage beasts, although on one occasion the metal act that followed it was none too appreciative of the funksters and their booty-shakin' fans.
"Right after we got done playing, the next band went up on stage and basically started talking shit because all of our fans left, and they were basically like, 'Fuck Slanted Plant, fuck this, fuck that.'And we were like, 'Well, why?'" Isbell says. "But that's about the only thing negative thing that's ever happened. We attract a lot of people of different generations, because the older people like the funkiness and the younger people like the harder edge."
For those in the harder-edge crowd, Isbell says the band's new tunes, which now incorporate a DJ named Planet J, are heavier than its earlier work, and that crowd participation has become more of a factor in its live shows. Such audience involvement is a necessity for these gig-mongers, and, to Slanted Plant's credit, a fair number of the shows it plays are not-for-profit affairs. A January concert at The Bottleneck with the eponymous Six Percent raised more than $1,000 for the American Cancer Society, and the upcoming Crunch Fest will donate proceeds to The Missing Children Awareness Foundation.
"Anytime we can play, we'll play, anywhere, for whatever," Isbell says, repeating his mantra for one last time. "And if it happens to be for a charity, great, more power to it. We're totally in support of any kind of charities."
Sharing a similar view -- and the charity bill -- but playing a much different brand of music is Canvas, the dean of local rap/metal. In addition to shopping its new five-song demo to labels and playing Crunch Fest, Canvas is preparing for its third appearance at Battle of the Bands at America's Pub on August 16. Unfortunately for the noisier bands in the competition, this is also the same night as OZZfest, a conflict vocalist/guitarist Pauly C describes as "kind of a bummer," given that it might cost the groups valuable points in the "crowd response" category. Pauly C says his hard-hitting crew definitely has what it takes to win, but if it doesn't, he won't be "going 'Nam" on the club, as some might expect given his lyrics.
"We're good sports," he says, although he adds that there was some cussing and projectile tossing by other members of his band after last year's unexpected loss. Regardless of the outcome of this competition, Pauly C says all is going well with the band, which recently moved into a new practice space and continues to gel with its new lineup. To keep up to date on the group's changes, shows, and upcoming output, as well as to check out a message board that's packed with staunch defenders shouting down player-haters, go to www.rockinkc.com/canvas.
Send local music information to Andrew Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.